PHUKET TOWN: The provincial government has banned businesses from bringing long-necked Karen people to stay in the province following reports that a well-known local businessman was planning to use the refugees to make money in the tourism industry. Lertkiat Vongpuaphan, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Governor’s Office, told the Gazette yesterday that existing regulations make it impossible to employ long-necked Karen in Phuket. He said the refugees could only travel outside Mae Hong Son Province with permission from the provincial governor there. Such permission is unlikely to be granted. The long-neck tribeswomen, who are few in number, are Mae Hong Son’s best-known tourism attraction. “The Governor of Mae Hong Son sent us a letter asking for cooperation in checking to see if there are any long-necked Karens in Phuket,” K. Lertkiat said. “If we find any, they will be sent back to Mae Hong Son,” he added. “The businessman [whose name he would not disclose] wanted to gather various ethnic groups and put them on display in Phuket. “He had an idea to employ long-necked Karens as a way to show their way of life. But now we have explained to him that this is illegal.” K. Lertkiat added that if any long-necked Karens were found here, Immigration police would arrest them and send them back to Mae Hong Son. He added that any businessmen who brought the Karens into the province would be charged.
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