Mon, Apr 04, 2011 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: Tattooed women in Myanmar lure curious travelers

AFP, PANMYAUNG, MYANMAR

The number of visitors they receive is still relatively low: Even the day-trip starting point of Mrauk U, in western Rakhine State, receives just a few thousand travelers a year.

Nevertheless, tourists’ donations have helped especially to maintain local schools, after years of neglect toward the villages by “what passes for government in Myanmar,” Richmond said.

Many have shunned Myanmar because of its undemocratic record — the army has ruled with an iron fist for almost half a century and widespread human rights abuses have been reported, particularly against minorities such as the Chin.

After a widely panned election in November last year, few signs of political change are evident in the secluded villages of the northwest, but one likely outcome is a gradual opening up of Myanmar and a rise in visitor numbers.

As one of the last to carry her tribe’s unique heritage, Ma Sein is happy to welcome all those who do venture to see it, while she still can.

“Sometimes I feel like my parents’ spirits are coming back to me through the visitors,” she said, as she waved goodbye to the latest group of tourists.

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