New Zealand agreed two years ago to accept two families of Kayan people whose women traditionally wear a number of brass rings around their unnaturally long necks as refugees, but Thai authorities will not give them exit visas.
According to a BBC report from the area in northwest Thailand on Wednesday, it is suspected that the families are being kept in Thailand because of the central role they play in the local tourism industry.
The BBC said three Kayan villages close to the Burmese border were a major lure for foreign tourists and quoted a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as saying, “It’s absolutely a human zoo.”
Kitty McKinsey said some 20,000 other Burmese refugees had recently been allowed to move to third countries, but Thailand was not letting a group of 20 Kayans who had been accepted as refugees by New Zealand and Finland leave//DPA.
The Nation 1 February 2008