Hil Tribe


The Karen reckon 1983 to be their year 2722.

This means that they look to BC 739 as the year of their founding. Unfortunately they cannot remember where it was. In their legends Karen speak of coming from the land of ?Thibi Kawbi?, which some have thought may indicate Tibet and Gobi desert According to some the Karen probably originated farther to the west than the other five tribes.
No doubt there has been Karen living in Burma for many centuries. It was in the18th century that Karen began to make their way across the Salween River from Burma into Thailand. This is verified by some Karen still living in Mae Hong Son Province who can calculate the time of the first wave of Karen settlers into the area. During the last half of the 18th century and the early years of the 19th, Karen communities along the eastern border of Burma were undoubtedly caught up in the turmoil of events when Burmese and Thai armies pursued each other through their territory. They would have suffered the oppression such people endure even today when caught between hostile forces having to feed the marauding troops and serve them as porters and guides. When accompanying these armies they would have discovered vast areas of virgin forest on the Thai side where they could perhaps live in peace. There is evidence that the Karen of that period established a symbiotic relationship with the Yuan (Northern Thai), and may have moved across the river with some of them.
It was the Yuan who were at that time ruling the areas along the eastern bank of the Salween River. The Lawa(Lua?) were then moving out of certain areas in the Yuan principality(especially in the Lannathai areas of Mae Sariang and Chiang Mai), and it seems quite likely that the Yuan rulers welcomed the peace-loving Karen into the resulting vacuum.
The Lawa had not moved out of some areas, so the Karen asked for permission to live near them, or in some cases even in their villages. The Lawa who seemed at the time in no danger of being outnumbered by these relatively small groups of immigrants, graciously gave permission-only to find that in time the Karen had taken over the area and crowded them out. To this day, however, some Karen and Lawa live along side each other in Mae Hong Son Province. There is much evidence of Lawa influence in the dress, ornamentation, and implements of the Karen there.
There have been successive waves of Karen immigrants moving into Thailand since then. There is no significant immigration taking place within this generation, although there are even now groups of Karen from Burma taking temporary refuge on the Thai side of the border due to unrest in their own country.

Peoples of the Golden Triangle
by Paul and Elaine Lewis

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