Friday, October 23, 2009

Burma's Ethnic Minorities(缅甸民族)

Burma (or Myanmar) is an ethnically diverse nation with 135 distinct ethnic groups officially recognized by the Burmese government. These are grouped into eight "major national ethnic races":

1. Kachin/Jingpo(克钦族)
2. Kayah(克耶族)
3. Kayin(克伦族), 7% of the population
4. Chin(钦族)
5. Mon(孟族),2% of the population
6. Bamar(缅族), the majority, estimated 68% of the population
7. Rakhine(若开族), 4% of the population
8. Shan(掸族), 10% of the population

The "major national ethnic races" are grouped primarily according to region rather than linguistic or ethnic affiliation, as for example the Shan Major National Ethnic Race includes 33 ethnic groups speaking languages in at least four widely differing language families.

Many unrecognised ethnic groups exist, the largest being the Burmese Chinese(缅甸华人),including Panthay or Hui, Yunan Chinese and other Chinese(but exclude Kokang Chinese), who together form 3% of the population, Burmese Indians(缅甸印度人), who form 2% of the population, Anglo-Burmese((Eurasians of mixed Burmese and European,though not necessarily British ancestry), and Rohingya(罗兴亚人), a Muslim ethnic group of the Northern Arakan State of Western Burma/Myanmar. There are no official statistics regarding the population of the latter two groups, although unofficial estimates place around 52,000 Anglo-Burmese in Burma with around 1.6 million outside of the country.



* 克钦族群,主要分布在克钦邦,分12个民族,包括克钦族。
* 克耶族群,主要分布在克耶邦,分9个民族,包括克耶族。
* 克伦族群,主要分布在克伦邦,分11个民族,包括克伦族。
* 钦族群,主要分布在钦邦,分53个民族,包括钦族。
* 缅族群,主要分布在缅甸的七个省,分9个民族,包括缅族。
* 孟族群,主要分布在孟邦,只有1个民族——孟族。
* 若开族群,主要分布在若开邦,分7个民族,包括若开族。
* 掸族群,主要分布在掸邦,分33个民族,包括掸族。



Burma’s mainly Sunni Muslims constitute 4 per cent of the population and live mostly in the Rakhine State (also known as Arakan) as well as urban areas of lower Burma. Muslims in the north Rakhine State are generally known as ‘Rohingya’. Their language (Rohingya) is derived from the Bengali language and is similar to the Chittagonian dialect spoken in Bangladesh.
Other Muslims in the Rakhine State are referred to as Arakanese Muslims. They speak the same language as the majority Rakhine population, who are mostly Buddhists and whose dialect is related to the Burmese language. The Rakhine also have a long history of distinctive culture and identity, and ethnic grievance and tensions with the central government have continued until the present day.

Rohingya are a Muslim group that has been refused citizenship by the Burmese government by the Burmese government since 1982 when the junta implemented a citizenship law. As a consequence, the stateless Rohingya, who number around 800,000 in western Burma and physically resemble Bengalis, are prime targets for forced-labor drives by the junta. Since the military took power in 1962, hundreds of thousands have fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand, where their illegal-immigrant status makes them vulnerable to labor abuses.

The human rights situation of the Muslims has especially deteriorated since Burma’s independence. Citizenship restrictions on the Rohingya population in the Bangladesh borders have deepened their exclusion from employment and other opportunities. Delays on marriage permits have led to a backlog of applications, and the requirement of passes to travel from villages has disproportionately affected the Rohingya population, even for day trips to health clinics.

The army continues to be guilty of imposing forced labour on Rohingya villagers and children. Forced labour is used for construction and maintenance of military camps, shrimp farms and plantations, portering, and the establishment of model villages.
Human rights violations such as land confiscations, discriminatory restrictions on employment, education, access to forest resources and arable land, together with tighter controls of local economies, and arbitrary taxes, has created problems of poverty and food insecurity.

Clustered in the northeastern hills of Burma, the Buddhist Shan were accorded a measure of self-rule by British colonialists. When Burma became independent in 1948, they agreed to join the fledgling nation in return for autonomy. But the promise, say Shan opposition groups, was never kept — and several militias were soon formed to fight against the Burmese army. Although a ceasefire was signed in the mid-90s by most Shan groups, the minority's resistance is still active in pockets. Over the past decade, forced relocations by the Burmese military of tens of thousands of Shan, who are thought in total to number at least 5 million, have garnered condemnation by international human-rights organizations.


The Chin (Zomi) are of Tibeto-Burman origin and inhabit a mountain chain which roughly covers western Burma through to Mizoram in north-east India and small parts of Bangladesh. They are composed of over 40 ethnic groups and dialects.
A mountain people by tradition, perhaps 80 per cent are Christians, while most of the remaining population are mainly spirit-worshippers or Buddhists.
A Chin State was created in 1974 but remains impoverished and under-developed. Tensions with the military government deteriorated from the late 1980s when armed opposition spread in the India border region. The Chin State has become increasingly militarised, with worsening reports of violations of human rights that have gone unpunished. There has been an increase in reported cases of forced labour, summary killings and arbitrary arrests against local Chins by the SPDC security forces.
The living conditions of Chin State are continuing to degrade. Land confiscations for tea and jatropha plantations controlled by the army have increased. The army continues to force Chin villagers to work against their will and often without pay on these plantations. The Chin also have difficulty in accessing state schools, and Chin advancement is also held back by restrictions on education in their own language and discriminatory employment policies. Chins also complain of restrictions on the construction of places of worship and public manifestations of religion, especially in the Chin hill areas.

Overwhelmingly Christian, the Chin live in the impoverished mountains near the India-Burma border. An armed wing of the Chin National Front, which was founded in 1988, is one of the few remaining forces waging an insurgency against the ruling junta, but it has been accused by human-rights groups of mistreating its own people. Like the Rohingya, the Chin claim the junta persecutes them in part because of their religious beliefs. Most Chin are American Baptists, having been converted by missionaries in the 19th century. Although tens of thousands of Chin are believed to have sought refuge in India since the junta came to power, the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch claimed in a report released on Jan 28 that New Delhi has forcibly repatriated many Chin, essentially handing them back to their persecutors.


The term ‘Karen’ refers to a number of ethnic groups with what are thought to be Tibetan-Central Asian origins who speak a dozen distinct but related languages (‘Karenic’). The Karens inhabit many parts of lower Burma, with the main populations in the Irrawaddy Delta and Thai borderlands. The majority of Karen are Buddhists, but as many as a third of the population have converted to Christianity since the days of British rule. Spirit-worship also continues in mountain areas.
In Thai border areas armed opposition to the SPDC continues and as such the Karen continue to suffer the brunt of extrajudicial executions, forced labour, forced relocation and confiscation of land, human minesweeping and the burning of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as discrimination by state authorities in areas such as language use and education. In 2006 alone 27,000 people in eastern Burma became IDPs. In the past two decades many others have fled across the border to Thailand where there are over 100,000 refugees in official camps and many more working as migrants outside.

The second-largest ethnic group after the Burmans, the Karen have also waged a long rebellion against the Burmese junta seeking either self-determination or even independence, depending on which insurgence group. Both Christian and Buddhist, the Karen have been plagued by internal strife between rival factions over the past couple of decades. A general ceasefire framework with the central government is in place but occasional flashpoints of fighting still occur. Karen villagers, who tend to live in the Irrawaddy Delta and in the border region between Burma and Thailand, have been victims of forced relocation and labor programs run by the Burmese military.

Mostly Christians, the Kachin live in northern Burma and were famous during colonial times for their battle skills. Although they, too, waged a decades-long armed struggle against the Burman-dominated regime, the Kachin signed a ceasefire with the government in 1994. Despite a boom in forestry and casinos in Kachin State, quality of life for many Kachin remains poor, with forced-labor campaigns common, along with human-trafficking to nearby China.
The Kachin encompass a number of related ethnic groups who are linked by clan systems and speak a dozen dialects belonging to the Tibeto-Burman linguistic family. They live in northern Burma on the border with China and India, mainly in the Kachin State.
There are no reliable statistics on the Kachin population, but estimates suggest there are over one million. The Kachin are one of the largest Christian minorities with around 10 percent following Buddhist practices, with some elements of spirit worship still continuing in the hills.
Since the 1990s ceasefires have existed between the military government and armed ethnic opposition groups. The state, however, remains highly militarized, with continuing reports of human rights violations including land confiscations, forced labour and sexual violence. Grievance has also grown due to rampant deforestation, gold-mining and plans for hydro-electric dams that further marginalize the local people. Ethnic Burmans still dominate in state administrative positions, and many young Kachin women have been driven by poverty into the sex trade, including into China.
Christianity continues to spread, but in some areas local communities have reported pressures to convert to Buddhism, including exemption from forced labour, lower prices for basic foodstuffs and free schooling for those that send their children to Buddhist monasteries.


2007 US State Department statistics estimate the Mon population at being just below 1 million. Mon leaders however, contest this figure believing that their numbers are much higher, at around 4 million. The vast majority of Mon are Theravada Buddhists and are the descendants of one of the early civilizations in southeast Asia. Mon language is from the Mon-Khmer group of Austro-Asiatic languages, but the use of spoken Mon has greatly declined during the past 150 years. Today most Mon speakers live in the Mon State, with Thailand to its east and Andaman coast to its west.
Since 1995 the New Mon State Party has had a ceasefire with the military government. But in areas where ceasefire agreements have not held, the Burmese army has continued to conduct occasional raids, causing severe human rights violations, including enforced labour, displacement, rape, murder, and land confiscation. As a result, the displacement and migration of Mon villagers to Thailand have continued. The Mon State remains heavily militarised and this has hampered efforts to redress the number of IDPs. UN and international agencies based in Rangoon have very limited access to Mon cease-fire areas.
As with other minority languages, the Mon language is not used beyond fourth grade in government schools, and Mon people continue to be under-represented in state institutions due to discriminatory practices which favour ethnic Burmans.

Kokang Chinese果敢族
The Kokang originally came from China, first arriving in Burma in the 17th century. Supporters of the Ming emperors, they fled for exile as that Chinese dynasty disintegrated in 1644. Kokang was regarded as part of Yunnan during the Qing Dynasty.
In 1896 the British colonial government redrew the Myanmar-Sino boundary and put Kokang under Myanmar. Kokang, then known as Malipa, was already well-known for its opium poppies which grew well in hilly terrains under subtropical climate.
Under British rule, yearly opium fairs were held in Kokang where buyers from the east and west bid for Malipa opium, dubbed the world’s best. After Burma gained independence from the colonial British, Kokang territory was under the control of Burmese communists, who for decades waged an insurgency against the central government and were among the military regime's most persistent foes.

Wa people(佤族)

People from Wa State (佤邦)is an unrecognised state in Myanmar/Burma,and is currently subsumed under the official Wa Special Region 2 of the Northern Shan State. The administrative capital is Bangkang (Chinese: 邦康;formerly known as Panghsang 邦桑). The name Wa derives from an ethnic group, who speaks a language in the Austroasiatic family of languages. Wa State has a population of an estimated 558,000. Wa State is an undefined area that encloses eastern Shan State.

The Lisu people ( 傈僳族:Thai: ลีสู่) are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group who inhabit the mountainous regions of Burma (Myanmar), Southwest China, Thailand, and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

About 730,000 live in Lijiang, Baoshan, Nujiang, Diqing and Dehong prefectures in Yunnan Province, China. The Lisu form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. In Burma, the Lisu are known as one of the seven Kachin minority groups and an estimated population of 350,000. Lisu live in Kachin and Shan State in Burma. Approximately 55,000 live in Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes.

Christian Lisu in Arunachal Pradesh, India are believed to have migrated from the Patkai Hills. Part of the population was believed to have migrated from China to Burma, fleeing the Communists, and then were ordered to leave Burma by the government at the time; this group also settled in Arunachal Pradesh. In Arunachal Pradesh, they are primarily concentrated in Changlang District and Tirap district


The Lahu people (Chinese: 拉祜族; Ladhulsi or Kawzhawd; Vietnamese: La Hủ) are an ethnic group of Southeast Asia and China.

They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, where about 450,000 live in Yunnan province. An estimated 150,000 live in Burma. In Thailand Lahu are one of the six main hill tribes, and their population is estimated at around 100,000. The Tai often refer to them by the exonym "Mussur", meaning hunter. About 10,000 live in Laos. They are one of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam, where about 1,500 of them live in Lai Chau province.

拉祜族主要居住在云南省澜沧江拉祜族自治县和孟连、双江自治县,在思茅、临沧地区及西双版纳等地也有分布,人口约为45.3万(2000年)。拉祜族在缅甸掸邦有约25万人,并有其政党组织。泰国有8万6千人,老挝亦有1萬6千人。越南54个民族之一的拉祜族(越南文:La Hủ)实际是苦聪人,人口6874(1999年普查)

The Military Junta are having wars with some minority, with poor human right records. There were IDP in Burma, refugee at Thai-Burma border, there are many stateless minorities where the minorities were not recognized and provided with citizenship,many crossed the border as illegal immigrant in Thailand, Malaysia, the lucky one has refugee status granted by UNHCR. Due to the persecution of the ethnic Karen, Karenni and other minority populations in Burma (Myanmar) significant numbers of refugees live along the Thai border in camps of up to 100,000 people. Muslim ethnic groups from Burma, the Rohingya and other Arakanese have been living in camps in Bangladesh since the 1990s.

Under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country.The concept of a refugee was expanded by the Convention's 1967 Protocol and by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country.

Internally Displaced Persons(IDP)
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people forced to flee their homes but who, unlike refugees, remain within their country's borders. United Nations report, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement uses the definition:

"Internally displaced persons are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border"

The IDP due to war or political conflicts, being unable to escape, and still remain in the country are frequently subject to more serious human right violation.


1. A Closer Look at Burma's Ethnic Minorities, By Hannah Beech / Bangkok Friday, Jan. 30, 2009
2. wikipedia
3. UNHCR official website:
4. IDMC(Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre), official web-

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