June 15, 2017 | Julia Yemin
According to C.M. Enriquez, Races of Burma (1933), “Burma is peopled by so many races that truly we know not how many; nor who they are, nor whence they came. In no other area are the races so diverse, or the languages and dialects so numerous.” It is very true that Myanmar is Union of various ethnic groups; to be exact there would be more than a hundred. The nation is said to be a chief settlement area, whereby the majority of Burmese are residing along with separate minority states; Chins, Kachins, Shans, Karens, Kayahs (Red Karens), Arakanese and Mons.
The country is 54 million populated including the various migrants: Indians, Chinese, Europeans, etc.
Burmese : As being the predominant landholder, they reside almost every part of the country’s divisions.
Traditional dress – they normally wear wrap-around “longyi” or “sarong” along with yellow powder facial cosmetic “thanaka” on the cheeks. For the population, it is 68% of the country. Majority mainly uses their dialogue, “Bamar” that it is standing as the official language of the country.
Mons : They mainly dwell around the cities of Moulmein, Irrawaddy Delta, Pegu and the southern border of Thailand and Myanmar. They have their own dialogue and their state are occupied by not only with Bamars (Burmese) but with large group of Mon-Khmer races such as “the Palaungs” in the north and some of their cousins live further east on Indochinese peninsula. There is only 2% of Mons populating in Myanmar.
Shans : They nestle mostly in eastern part of Myanmar and in contagious regions of China, Lao and Thailand. Interestingly, the word “Shan” comes from the same root meaning of Shan, Siam, Assam and they define themselves as “free people”. They distinguish themselves from animistic hill people, residing by the mountaintops, valleys, high plains and steep slopes. They are said to be the second largest state next to the Kachin state and can be found throughout the nation and the population reaches 9%.
Karens : One of the majority Tibeto-Burmese speaking tribe is Karens living by their state, border by Thailand-Myanmar, Irrawaddy division around Bassein, Mon state, and Tenasserim. Based on the regions; lowland and highland, they have different small groups. They are said to have migrated from Gobi Desert region of Mongolia, about 4500 years ago, along with the legend that they call “the River of Sand.” The tribe with many faces is having the population of 7%; approximately 5 million people throughout the nation.
Kayahs : One of the least populated tribes is primarily reside as hill people, making their living with dry cultivation of rice, millet and vegetables. They are also known as “Red Karens” based on their gracious wardrobe, which has unique aspect of dressing.
Chins :The tribe speaking mutually around 44 dialects has the least population of the nation. They mostly settle mainly in their state, the Arakan Yoma, and the Magwe division while they can also be found in all the other districts. When you stop by their state, you will find their agricultural habitat among bamboo, rattan houses among seasonal tribe crops.
Arakans : Living by the coastal, the tribe has approximately 6% of the nation’s population. Due to the high humidity weather and direct exposure of monsoons compared to the inlands, the transportation system are dependent on boats and cycles by the land as some of the districts are by the rivers, creeks, channels and tidal waters. The region has 2000-year history of contact with Indian traders, sailors, Brahmin settlers and including the time of the British-India colonial era that the neighboring Bangladesh illegally migrant in the region that massive immigrant Bengalis are residing since then.