The Kayan Lawi are a sub-community from Kayah State on Myanmar’s eastern border with Thailand, recognised for the tradition of wearing brass coils around their necks and knees (and the origin of the shameful moniker ‘giraffe-necks’). Despite their presence in Kayah State, the KLCC is actually headquartered in Pekhon, Southern Shan State. A legacy of the colonial redrawing of the map which splintered ethnic communities from ancestral lands and placed them in administrative divisions of which they have little connection with.
Similar to the Kayah, their language was split between three scripts based on Burmese, Pali and Romanic alphabets. Seeing this as another way to weaken and divide their community, the KLCC was formed on Kayah National Day, April 1st 2000 to elect a single script and to promote this script through education and publications. A variation of the Romanic script was chosen and taught in after school clubs. In 2005 they produced their first story book for children. A dictionary followed later with teacher training courses for Kayan literature and language.
To read more about the Kayan Lawi, their censored literature and my travels with them, take a look at my award-shortlisted political travel book, ‘The People Elsewhere: Unbound Journeys with the Storytellers of Myanmar’.