Soe Zaya Tun
On Burma’s mountainous frontier with India live the Naga, a group of tribes historically known as warriors who kept the heads of enemies they killed. The Naga traditionally fish with nets, or by crushing up poisonous leaves to kill fish that float near the surface. But these days, some throw homemade explosives in the river and collect fish with their teeth. About 120,000 people live in the Naga Self-Administered Zone in Sagaing Division, where they survive mainly by subsistence farming and hunting. Many Naga communities remain impoverished and inaccessible by road. Hunters in the village will display the skulls of animals they have killed during hunting expeditions outside their homes, but some cultural practices are changing—younger men, for example, now wear trousers rather than traditional loincloths. [irrawaddy_gallery] Other practices have remained, such as harvesting opium. The opium is gathered from nearby poppy fields and is mostly kept for local consumption, although some is traded for goods such as clothing or household items. While the women do not smoke opium, most men in the area do. During hunting trips in an opium field, the Naga men will cook raw opium by spreading it on a cloth to dry and then heating it with water to create a paste.

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