Karen


After the Shan, the Karen are, with 7 % of the total population, the second largest ethnic minority of Myanmar, although only half of the people of the Karen live on Burmese territory; the other half resides in Thailand. When during World War II the Burmese had been siding with the Japanese to drive the British colonial forces out of the country, the Karen fought on the side of the allies.

The Karen had been expecting to be granted a sovereign state of their own, when the British released the colony Burma into independence. But this dream was not realized, and so since World War II the Karen are still fighting for their own sovereign state. The Karen National Liberation Army has for many years been commanded by its heavyweight leader Bo Mya.

Traditionally the capital of the Karen had been Manerplaw at the ThaiBurmese border, about 300 kilometers east of Yangon. But in the beginning of 1995 the town was captured by the Burmese army. The main settlement area of the Karen stretches for more than 1,000 kilometers along the ThaiBurmese borderline as well as over parts of the Ayeyarwaddy delta.

The prevalent world religion among the Karen is Christianity, which, besides different ethnography and language, is another factor differentiating this group from the Buddhist Burmans.

A subgroup of the Karen are the Padaung, who are famous owing to the peculiar decoration their women wear being metal rings around the neck, which wear down on and deform the shoulders, thus creating the impression of a very long neck. In former times literature they were therefore picturesquely mentioned Giraffe women.

Burmans Shan Chin and Naga
Mon Karen Rohingyas
Kachin
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