In Myanmar, the pygmies that time forgot

June 13th, 2012 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Yangon, June 13 (IANS) A group of pygmies, forgotten by time, lived among treacherous mountains in the region bordering Myanmar and Tibet till they were ‘found’ and written on by a wildlife conservationist.

In 1997, wildlife conservationist Alan Rabinowitz travelled to a mountainous secluded village after meeting a very short man who had come down from there after a month’s walk. There he was astounded to find a group of pygmies, known as Tarons.

And, as has often been seen, the exotic is being traded and advertised to lure in tourists.

A section of the travel industry in Myanmar, still opening its doors to the world, is actually helping in arranging trips to the remote area, about 1,000 km from Myanmar’s main city Yangon, where the rapidly diminishing community still lives.

Tai Star Travel proudly says on its website, “The last Pygmies of Myanmar”.

“Meet the Last Myanmar Pygmies on The Last Village Trekking to DaHonDam in Myanmar Himalaya,” it adds.

Another, SS Tours, displays a series of photographs of a Westerner who visited the Taron. The photographs were uploaded as late as April 3, 2011.

Alan Rabinowitz writes in his book, “Beyond the Last Village”, that by the time he reached there were only 12 pure Taron left in existence.

He quoted a Taron called Dawi as saying that “for many years the Taron only marry each other”.

“But when we have babies, the babies have small brains and small bodies. It was no good,” the Taron said.

“We don’t want Taron babies any more,” Dawi added.

Pygmy is described as member of any human group whose adult males grow to less than 150 cm in average height.

The best-known pygmy groups and those to whom the term is most commonly applied are the pygmies of Africa, according to britannica.com

The rampant exploitation of the unsuspecting people is not new to the region. In India, there was outrage after an expose that shows women of the Jarawa tribe being made to dance for tourists in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

In January this year, footage of Jarawa women in their traditional attire appeared in the electronic media on the basis of a news report in a British newspaper. Jarawas are an aboriginal tribe protected from any external interference and interaction under Indian laws.

(Rahul Dass can be contacted at rahul.d@ians.in)

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