The Karen people of Thailand

The Karen people of Thailand.

            Not just only Thai people living in Thailand, but there are many other ethnic groups also have been living in this land of smile for a long time too and they are called chao khao which means the people of the mountains. There might be up to 20-25 hill tribe groups in Thailand, such as Lisu, Akha, Yao, Mhong. But, one of the largest in terms of number is Karen people, about a million or over 1% of Thailand’s population.

There are many interesting facts about these people called Karen (or Kariang). Most of them live along the border between Thailand and Myanmar, in the northern and western part of the country. Of course, there are also Karen people living in Myanmar too. The Karens are known for being the people who are humble and live harmoniously with the nature. They are not quite ambitious both toward fame or wealth but try to blend themselves as a part of the environment they are living in. In the past they only lived in the remote mountainous areas and did agricultural works. Nowadays many of them have good education which means good opportunities to get jobs in different fields. Some involve themselves with tourism industry, work as tourist guides and many of them (especially Karen men) work in the Elephant camps/ sanctuaries as the mahouts (elephant carers).

Karen people have their own tradition and culture. They have their own language which is completely different from Thai language. Also, you can tell from the traditional clothes they wear too. Over 50% of the Karen people are Christians. Missionaries came over a hundred years ago and these people accepted the religion. However, a few still practice animism like their ancestors. Rice is the main food but the dishes alongside are quite different from Thai food; they tend to be more simple and are quite vegetable based dishes.

To visit Thailand, it does not mean that one could experience only Thai cultures but there are also many other groups of people the tourists/ travelers can see and learn from too.

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