The Huay Pa Rai Hill Tribe Village in Chiang Mai is home to thirty-some Kayan (or Karen) families from three different ethnic groups: Paduang (“long-neck”), Kayaw (“big-ear”) and Palong. Their names may vary depending on their tribe and their location. Guests are free to take photos, play with the kids, chat with the locals, and purchase their crafts, scarves, and other goods. The villagers welcome you into their home and are glad to share their knowledge and traditions.
I want people to come visit our traditional Kayan village, to meet us Kayan people, and experience what life is like here. If more people come, it will help us preserve our Kayan traditions.
Not only do we want people to come and see what we make, but we would like to share our knowledge with them in a meaningful way. Without any visitors, it would be much harder for us to make a living.
The Kayan people are in a perilous situation. They have been displaced from their homes and suffered persecution by Myanmar regimes for decades. Forced re-settlement and labor, incarceration, and denial of political or citizenship rights have led thousands of Kayan to seek refuge and a better life in Thailand.
From the Human Rights Watch World Report in 2002: “Villagers continued to be forcibly relocated, and those who were suspected of aiding guerrillas were tortured and often killed. The Myanmar army reportedly displaced some 30,000 villagers in the Karen State when it burned villages in its dry season offensive against the insurgent Karen National Union.”
Please look at the big picture…
People without a grasp of the “big picture” or knowledge of how the Kayan people feel, say these villages are “human zoos”. At Huay Pa Rai Hill Tribe Village in Chiang Mai, thirty-some families live in peace, safe from the tyranny they left behind. They are free to carry on their traditional customs of farming, weaving, and making crafts. Many Karen men in the village have decades of experience working with elephants. Many are employed as mahouts at Maetaman Elephant Adventure and at Elephant EcoValley.
These quotes on this page in white italics above and below are from Mu Tae, a Kayan woman living in a similar village—Kuay Ku Peng. She shares her feelings in the documentary film Kayan: Beyond the Rings produced by Marco Randelovic. Do yourself a favor and watch it on the web right here.
…then do the folks at Huay Pa Rai Hill Tribe Village in Chiang Mai a favor:
Come and visit them!
Most Kayan people are from Myanmar, but we had to leave our homeland to escape the civil war. We fled to many places but only found stability in Thailand.
It’s true that we face some problems here in Thailand. Our children are unable to get Thai citizenship. This really effects their future and education opportunities. If we went back to Myanmar we’d have to start all over again. We have no home or land there anymore.