But with its exploitation. As far back as the 1800s, when Burma was ruled by the British, the coiled necked women of the Padaung were seen as a tourist attraction. Khoo Thwe’s own grandmother went on a journey to England to be exhibited in a kind of human zoo/freak show.
Women have also been captured, stolen, kidnapped or otherwise exploited. During the larger rebellions of Karenni people, Padaung women were put on display to draw tourist dollars to the rebels. They were captured in the past by their own government to be loaned out to other countries, like Thailand, where they were exhibited at events like fairs.
At the same time, the coils have made Padaung women some of the most recognizable people on Earth. They’ve used this fame to build schools in their villages, and to bring international attention to human rights violations in Burma.
Some folks in the Padaung tribes feel like it’s time for the practice to die out, a relic of the old world. Some folks disagree and want to continue it as part of their traditions, and as a form of beauty. Like any form of body modification, I feel like Padaung women should get to make their own choices, and not be limited to the Western Press’s view of what they should and shouldn’t be doing.