Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The People of Myanmar

Not less than 135 distinct ethnic groups are officially recognized by the Burmese government. Ethnologists see four main groups:

Tibeto-Burman: Migrants from the Tibetan Plateau. Include the Bamar, the Rakhaing, the Kachin and the Ching - all together around 78 percent of the population. The Bamar are wet-rice farmers and Theravada Buddhists. Bamar women use pale yellow powder, made from thanaka bark, to protect their faces against the sun. The Rakhaing have darker skin - a result of a long history of intermarriage with Indians. The majority of them are Buddhist, but a minority is Muslim, living in Sittwe and along the northern coast. The Chin have been animists traditionally, but most of them are converted Christians today, living in the forests close to India and along the Bangladesh border.

Picture by Dietmar Temps
The powder protects the face from the sun - a sign of Bamar women.

Picture by EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection
Kachin woman

Mon-Khmer: Include the Mon, the Wa and the Palaung. The Mon live around Mawlamyine. They are wet-rice growing and Theravada Buddhists.

Picture by European Commission DG ECHO
Wa women in traditional clothes

Picture by UN Women Asia & the Pacific
A farmer from the Palaung hill tribe in Myanmar’s Shan state separates mustard seeds from their husks.

Austro-Tai: The Shan - also called Tai Yai - count over 9 percent of Myanmar's population. The Shan are wet-rice farmers and Theravada Buddhists. They inhabit the valleys and high plains of northeast Myanmar. Shan men and married women wear turbans.

Picture by European Commission DG ECHO

Karennic: Includes the Kayin (Karen) and the Kayah. The Kayin - also Kachin - count around 7 percent of the population. Many are Christians. They Kachin are dry-rice farmers and hunters.

Picture by Michael Foley
Karen family

The Indians: A large immigrated community especially in Yangon and Mandalay.

The Chinese: Around 1.3 millions of Chinese are living in Myanmar today. A part of them came from Yunnan and lives near Yunnan. Another part arrived during the colonial era and became merchants or restaurant owners. Read about Chinese People in Burma.

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