The villagers are in fact Burmese refugees who fled the persecution of minority groups in Burma. Instead of living in refugee camps, as many people do, the Thai government decided to create several tourism villages, to make money from the unusual ‘long necks’ of the refugee women. Many families are here, unable to leave as they are still refugees, making a small living from tourism. They cannot travel out of their designated area, and must stay in the provincial managed locations unless they had permission from their District Office. For help them, visitors are able to buy souveniors such as necklaces, clothes, and bags from the tribal people.
There are valid claims that these villages are ‘human zoos’. That said, a small decrease in the number of visitors is unlikely to change the situation and the people in the villages are reliant on visitors for income.
But villagers are working together to move away from the ‘human zoo’ tourism models that have been associated with our people in Thailand.
Life tends to be tougher for the villagers during the periods when there are few visitors.
The most important thing is that, as a visitor, you treat the place with respect as a village and not as a ‘human zoo’.