Padaung Kayan in Thailand

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge


The Padaung people live in the thick forests west of the Salween River and around the Pekon Hills, in Kayah State and southern Shan State of eastern Myanmar.


Their traditional homeland is north-west of Loikaw town. Today they are concentrated in seven villages centred around their biggest village, Bangpe. Five hundred Padaung also live in Thailand, inhabiting three villages within Muang District of Mae Hong Son Province, very near the border with Myanmar. The Padaung first arrived in Thailand in 1988 when they fled fighting between Burmese troops and ethnic minorities in Kayah State.

In their own language the Padaung call themselves Kakaung, which means 'people who live on the hilltops '. The Padaung language is closely related to that of the Lahta tribe in Myanmar. It is part of the Karen branch of the Tibeto-Burman family.


For centuries the Padaung women have been a source of curiosity because of their custom of wearing up to 32 gold-coloured brass neck coils. Once they were even brought to the court in Mandalay for official inspection. In the past girls adopted their neck rings on their fifth birthday and added one more coil each year until they were married. These days the custom is fading in Myanmar. Women in only three villages reportedly still practise it.

In Thailand, however, many Padaung women have continued the practice out of economic necessity. After their tribe moved into the country from Myanmar they settled along the border, but they were prohibited from cultivating the land because they were not Thai citizens. Tourist agencies saw an opportunity to make money from the strange-looking Padaung women. Hordes of camera-clicking tourists have flocked on pre-arranged visits to photograph the 'long neck' women, as they have come to be known.

There are several theories surrounding the origins of the custom. Some say it was to protect the women from tiger attacks in the jungle, as tigers usually attack humans by biting their throats. Others claim that the Padaung are descended from swans, so they elongate their necks in a bid to look like their ancestors. 'Another tale records that the Padaung tribe was originally called Lae Khoe, and ruled over the Burmese people. Later, the Burmese and ethnic groups joined forces to fight against the Lae Khoe and drove them off their land. During the war a young Lae Khoe princess escaped. She wrapped the tribe's sacred gold-coloured Padaung plant around her neck and declared that if the Lae Khoe failed to regain their land, she would never take it off. Since then, the Lha Khoe have been known as the Padaung. '


The Padaung's religious beliefs are a curious mix. One source says, 'The majority of the Padaung are Buddhists, but their religion is tempered with animist beliefs and practices.


Due to the existence of a Roman Catholic mission for about 100 years in their homeland in Myanmar, some of the Padaung are Christians. '

Prayer Points

Scripture Prayers for the Kayan, Padaung in Thailand.

Profile Source:   Peoples of the Buddhist World, Asia Harvest  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  

The Long-Neck Padaung

Source:  Asia Harvest      Download

People Name General Kayan, Padaung
People Name in Country Kayan, Padaung
Natural Name Padaung Kayan
Alternate Names Karen; Kayan; Kayan Lae Kur; Kayang; Lee Kur; Long-Neck Karen; Padaung; Padong
Population this Country 2,900
Population all Countries 149,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 4
Unreached No
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 6  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed
People ID 14250
ROP3 Code 107734
ROP25 Code 303732
ROP25 Name Karen
Country Thailand
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Maehongson   Source:  Ethnologue 2010
Country Thailand
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Maehongson.   Source:  Ethnologue 2010

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Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religion Percent
20.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 2.50 %)
25.00 %
Ethnic Religions
55.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Kayan (Myanmar) (2,900 speakers)
Language Code pdu   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Kayan (Myanmar) (2,900 speakers)
Language Code pdu   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Kayan (Myanmar)

Primary Language:  Kayan (Myanmar)

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (2009-2015)
Bible-New Testament No
Bible-Complete No
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Kayan Jesus Film Project
Film / Video World Christian Videos World Christian Videos
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
Photo Source Anonymous 
Video Source Asia Harvest
Profile Source Peoples of the Buddhist World, Asia Harvest  Copyrighted ©  Used with permission 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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