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Pandemic worsens plight of Thailand's 'long-necked' women

Myanmar refugees suffer as tourism dries up

Mae Prae, 32, stands near the gate of Mae Rim Long Neck Village, a privately owned village in northern Thailand where women from the Red Karen hill tribe earn money from tourists eager to see their elongated, brass-ringed necks. With the pandemic, however, tourism money has dried up. (Vincenzo Floramo)

MAE RIM, Thailand -- In the lush countryside of Mae Rim, a 30-minute drive north of Chiang Mai, Thailand's second-biggest city, lies a hamlet with a sign at its entrance reading "Karen Village." A second sign on a bamboo ticket booth displays an entry fee: 500 baht ($15.90) per visitor.

This is one of several privately owned ethnic villages in northern Thailand that are home to migrants from the Karenni or Red Karen hill tribe in Myanmar's Kayah State, formerly known as Karenni State. Until March, the village was a popular tourist attraction, with visitors queuing to see the elongated, brass-ringed necks of the Red Karen women, made famous since they were first pictured in monochrome in 1930 by the French photographer Albert Harlingue.

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