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The Karen People In Central Thailand

  • The Karen refers to an ethno-linguistic minority in Thailand who are Karen speakers. The majority of Karen live in Myanmar in a region bordering Thailand called the Karen State. There are major divisions within the Karen and these classify the various tribes. In Thailand there are 2 major groups of Karen [ tribes ]. In North Thailand are Sgaw Karen who inhabit the Provinces of Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Tak, Lampang and Lamphun. This tribe number in excess of 250,000 in Thailand. The Pagayaw and Pwo inhabit 3 Provinces in the North, Chiang Mai, Tak, Mae Hong Son and Lampang as well as Kanchanaburi, Ratchburi, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan. They number in excess of 110,000 in Thailand. They have similar dialects but they are not intelligible to each other. The 2 groups can also be differentiated both their woman's clothing.
  • The Karen are significant in Myanmar and have their own State, often at conflict with the Military dictatorship. They are famous for their relationships with elephants and are often seen as the mahouts who work with elephants.




Karen Mahouts Working Elephants


Essential Karen Characteristics In Thailand Are:
  • A common Tibeto-Karen language
  • An animistic religious tradition which is common to the Tai and Austro-Asiatic speakers.
The Karen people believe plants and animals possess a vital spirit essence. Humans are believed to possess some 33 spirits. [ The Tai Yuan have a similar concept but with 32 khwan spirits and there are locality spirits such as the spirits who own land.]