Tribes of Myanmar Part 2


Karenni also known as kayahli (meaning red humans) is a Sino-Tibetan tribe of Myanmar living mostly in the Kayah state of Burma. The states of Karenni were independent, with feudal ties to Burma. It was a group of states located south of the Federated Shan States and east of British Burma. Most of the Kayah people traditionally follow animism or spiritualism. The name “Red Karen” is derived from the main color in their traditional costumes and bearing some resemblance to the costumes of ethnic Kayin (Karen). Less than 1% of Kayahs occupy Myanmar and majority of them live by farming and other agricultural activities. A larger part of the population is settled in Mae Hong Son Province of Northern Thailand. They live in military occupied towns and villages and along rebel borderlands near Thailand as IDPs (Internally Displaced People). Large numbers of Kayah people started fleeing Myanmar in the early 1990s, escaping abuse and atrocities in the war between the Burmese military and the Karenni National Progressive Party.


The Mon people are highly cultured Buddhist ethnic group from Burma (Myanmar) living mostly in Mon State, Bago Region, the Irrawaddy Delta and along the southern border of Thailand and Burma. They are one of the first people to have arrived in Burma and are responsible for the spread of Theravada Buddhism in the country. They speak the Mon language and share origin with the Nyah Kur people of Thailand. The Eatsern Mon people associate themselves to the royal family of Thailand and keep their Mon heritage alive. The western Mom people have be absorbed by the Barmar society but continue to fight to preserve their roots and ancestry.  The Mon were heavily influenced by Indian Hindu culture and Asoka Buddhist kingdom in India. They speak a Mon-Khmer language called Mon. Their houses are similar to Thai homes, except that they are always situated east and west. Mon families are not particularly patrilineal (male-dominated), except when dealing with the “house spirit.”


The Rakhine people formerly known as the Arakanese people live in southeastern   parts  of  Bangladesh , especially in Chittagong and Divisions. Arakanese descendants spread as far north as  state in India, where their presence dates back to the ascent of the Arakanese kingdom when Tripura was ruled by Arakanese kings. In northeast India, these Arakanese people are referred to as the Mog, while in Bengali, the Marma (the ethnic Arakanese descendants in Bangladesh) and other Arakanese people are referred to as the Magh people. They practice Theravada Buddhism and there culture while more Burmese dominant have traces of Indian influence. Their language is also closely related to Burmese. In Arakan antiquities Buddhism seems to have last settled down, at the last Kingdom of independent Arakan. Most Arakanese speak an unusual variety of the Burmese language that includes significant differences from Burmese pronunciation and vocabulary.


The Shan are a Tai ethnic tribe of Myanmar. They live in the Shan state of Burma but also inhabit parts of Mandalay, Kayin and Kachin State. Some of these groups in fact speak Tibeto-Burman and Mon-Khmer languages, although they are assimilated into Shan society. The majority of the Shan people are Theravada Buddhists and are believed to have migrated from Yunnan in China. They have the most fascinating history of any of the indigenous tribes in Myanmar. They have lived in the Shan state of Burma for over a thousand years. They have come a long way from being dominant rulers of the “Shan States” in now Laos, China and Thailand to losing being an Independent Shan State and being under the rule of Burma. They make their living out of farming cash crops such as rice and tropical and sub-tropical fruits. Tea is also an important cash crop for them and they are often reported to make their living from growing opium poppy. There has been emergence of the area as a major opium growing and trafficking base, thwarted the emergence of a truly independent Shan State.