Thursday July 10, 2008 Bangkok Post
Korean businessman ‘lured Padaung’
MAE HONG SON : A Korean businessman and a provincial official who was reportedly bribed with three million baht are allegedly involved in the disappearance of 11 long-necked Padaung hilltribe people from the northern province of Mae Hong Son.
A source close to the investigation panel appointed by Mae Hong Son governor Thongchai Wongrieanthong said it found that a Korean investor who had opened a new tourist attraction in the South hired men in uniform to smuggle the Karenni people away from their villages on board an official vehicle.
The Padaung tribe are a group of the Karenni people. Traditionally, Padaung women wear multiple brass rings which elongate the neck.
Deputy governor Wanchai Suthiworachai said the businessman and his associates would be charged with human trafficking if there is sound evidence against them.
Authorities would improve assistance packages for the tribespeople, he said.
Karenni leader Laodu, 39, brushed aside Friday’s alleged abduction, saying poverty might have driven the 11 missing people to work elsewhere.
He said: ”Each family got only 1,500 baht a month from a supervisor. They might have run away with an investor for a better life.”
The missing Padaung disappeared from Huay Sua Tao and Huay Pukaeng villages, key tourist attractions, in Muang district of Mae Hong Son last Friday.
Seven are adults and four are children.
Tourism operators have filed a petition to police and the provincial governor, demanding they find the missing people.
Karenni people from the Padaung tribe are refugees who fled heavy fighting in Burma and are required to stay at designated locations.