In Pictures: Myanmar's neck ring women

Among the Kayan tribe the ancient custom of wearing neck rings for life is on the decline.


Pan Pat, Myanmar - Women of the Kayan tribe in Myanmar are well known for wearing brass coils around their necks their entire lives in order to lengthen it. The belief is the longer the neck, the more beautiful the woman.

The cultural practice does have its drawbacks. The brass coils can weigh up to 20 kilogrammes, making work in the fields extremely painful and difficult.

Curiously, the Kayan say this custom was originally established to make women less attractive, thereby protecting them from being kidnapped by rival tribes. Nowadays, they are worn to preserve cultural tradition.

Girls begin to wear rings around their shins and necks at the age of five or six, but it largely depends on the wealth of the family. Traditionally, the rings are expensive and not every family can afford it. Sixty-years ago, the price could reach 20 kyatts (2 US cents), but now it costs as much as 250,000 kyatts ($250).

Today, most younger women in the villages of Kayah state choose not to wear the rings, saying it as an antiquated practice. Across the border in northern Thailand, however, the neck rings have recently surged in popularity, attracting curious tourists and revenue for villagers.