Myanmar ethnic groups

Karen or Kayin (ဗမာကရင်)

Name: U Nanda

Age: 64

From: Kyaiktiyo

Job: Abad of the monastery of Dat Paund Su


Population: approx. 7 millions and about 400.000 in Thailand.

Religion: Buddhism and Christians. They were animist in the past.

History: Karen legends refer to a ‘river of running sand’ which ancestors reputedly crossed. Many Karen think that this refers to the Gobi Desert, although they have lived in Burma for centuries. The Karen constitutes the third biggest ethnic population in Burma, after the Bamars and Shans. The term “Karen” is an umbrella term that refers to a heterogeneous lot of ethnic groups that do not share a common language, culture, religion or material characteristics.

“Karen” is an anglicization of the Burmese word “Kayin” which was originally a derogatory term referring to non-Buddhist ethnic groups, it may have come from the Mon language.

The Karen people live mostly in the hills bordering the eastern mountainous region and Irrawaddy delta of Burma, primarily in Karen State, with some in Kayah State, southern Shan State, Ayeryawady region, Tanintharyi region, Bago division and in western Thailand.

The group of Karen people includes 11 different subgroups.