The Bamar people are the dominant ethnic group in Myanmar. Bamar people live primarily in the Irrawaddy River basin and speak the Burmese language. Bamar customs and identity are closely intertwined with the broader Burmese culture. The Bamar people are often imprecisely called “Burmese”, though this term in contemporary usage can refer to any citizen of Myanmar, regardless of ethnicity. Their cuisine consists of stir frying technique and curries and the diet consists of fish, rice, salads and noodles. They traditionally wear sarongs, known as longyi and women wear a sarong named htamain. Their arts, literature, music, dance and theatre is manifested in Theravada Buddhism. Barmar people practice the basic Five Precepts of Buddhism and charity, morality and meditation.
The Chin people are the other ethnic minority in Burma. The Chin people are believed to have come to Burma via the Chindwin Valley. The major group of Chin people are Zomi; however, there are six other groups and several tribes and clans among the Chin people. The seven major groups are: Asho, K’cho, Kuki, Lai, Lushai, and Mro/Khumi.
The Chin people practice oral traditions, and do not have written historical records. The Chin language has approximately 40 to 45 dialects. Of these, the most widely spoken are: Tedim among Northern Chin; Hakha and Falam among Central Chin; and Mindat Cho among Southern Chin. Chin State is located in the southern part of northwestern Burma (Myanmar), bordered by Bangladesh and India to the west, Rakhine State to the south, and Magwe and Sagaing Divisions to the east. Alcohol & tobacco abuse is common among male Chin. In the Chin Hills, the traditional alcohol, zu, is seen as a status symbol and is not as easily accessible. Chins practice christiantiny and traditional Chins practice animism.
Kachin (also known as Jingpo people)
The Jingpo people, who in Burma are a subset of the Kachin people, are an ethnic group who largely inhabit the Kachin Hills in northern Burma’s Kachin State and neighbouring areas of China and India. The Jingpo people are an ethnic affinity of several tribal groups, known for their fierce independence, disciplined fighting skills, complex clan inter-relations, embrace Christianity, craftsmanship, herbal healing and jungle survival skills. The Kachins claim that the term Kachin is not from their language. Therefore, many of the Kachins only want to use the term “Jinghpaw Wunpawng” to mean all the Kachins ethnics. The Jigno folk people worship various Gods as well as the spirits of their ancestors. The Jingpo ancestors lived on the Tibetan plateau and migrated gradually towards the south. They wear shields made from buffalo hide, many of them can be as long as four feet. They also have helmets that are made from either buffalo hide or rattan-work, and vanished black and decorated with the boar’s tusks. The tribesmen are known to be addicted to opium.
The Kayin or the Karen people are Sino-Tibetan language speaking ethnic group and primarily reside in Karen State. A large number of Karen people have migrated to Thailand and are commonly known for their ring wearing practice around their neck. Karen people mostly live in the Irrawady delta of Myanmar and Karen legends refer to a ‘river of running sand’ which ancestors reputedly crossed. Karen languages are mostly Tibeto-Burman languages and is influenced by neighboring Mon and Tai. Karens practice Christianity, Buddhism and Animism. Since the Christian Karens have faced persecution in a predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, they have migrated and moved to settle in the northern hills of Thailand. Most Karen people are subsistence farmers, living in small mountain villages, and growing rice and vegetables and raising animals.