Huey Pu Keang Village

Huey Pu Keang

Kayan woman weaving. Slideshow»

A Temporary Refuge

Huey Pu Keng Village, in the province of Mae Hon Son, is the temporary refuge of approximately 800 displaced Burmese refugees. For the Thai government and tourists, however, Huey Pu Keng is known by a different name: long neck village.

It is so called, because many of the women in the village wear about their necks a collection of brass rings. Extending from the clavicle to the chin, the rings elongate the necks far beyond what would naturally occur. Tourists from all over the world travel to the village to glimpse these exotic looking women.

In order to encourage the custom, the Thai government pays each woman a small stipend to wear the rings, and the women make a marginal income from selling their back strap weaving. Many in the younger generation desire a different way of life; they wish to remove their rings and earn money to support their families through other work. Yet there is currently no opportunity. And the men do not have any work at all. This is due to the extreme isolation of the village. To reach it, one must cross a river and follow a track leading to an unsurfaced road. At times during the rainy season, the river is impassable, and there are drownings.

Huey Pu Keng is a paradox. A tourist attraction. A village that was created by an invitation issued from the government. And a community with widespread depression and neglect, a place ravaged by malaria, separated by a hazardous river from essential supplies and medical care, in which the people feel helpless to enter into the stream of contemporary life.

Solutions

In collaboration with another NGO, Link Hands has begun to chip away at the helplessness and isolation. We have provided rice to feed seventeen desperate families for a year and mosquito nets for the Kayan community. In addition, we have established a full service medical clinic that provides malaria diagnosis and treatment, prenatal and birthing care, as well as general emergency medicine. To promote long-term stability, we have linked our efforts with a local Thai government clinic. This clinic possesses the basic infrastructure to serve the community but requires an additional building to accommodate more Kayan patients. Link Hands is currently raising money to build this building. Our goal is 3000 USD.

A second initiative has been a land development project. Link Hands purchased approximately 3 acres for 10 families where they are able to farm and receive tourists on their own terms. It is our hope to replicate this model for other families from Kayan villages.

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