Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Karen (ethnic group)
The Karen, also known in Thailand as the Yang or Kariang, are an ethnic group in Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. The Karen live mostly in the hilly eastern border region of Myanmar, primarily in Karen State, with some Karen in Kayah State and southern Shan State and in western Thailand. The total number of Karen is difficult to estimate; most estimates are of approximately 3 million Karen in Myanmar, with approximately 400,000 more in Thailand, where they are by far the largest of the hill tribes.
The Karen are agriculturalists. Most are Buddhists, mixing that tradition with animism, although a sizeable group has converted to Christianity. The Karen language is poorly understood by linguists, and the large number of dialects may actually consist of up to twenty distinct but closely related languages. The Karen language closely related to the language or languages of the neighborhing Kayah .
Although known historically for their friendliness and hospitality, the Karen have become part of the strife and struggle that surrounds their homeland. A decades-long civil war for an independent Karen state, called Kawtoolei, ended in January of 2004 with a cease-fire between the military government of Myanmar and the Karen National Union, the major Karen rebel group. The civil war caused an estimated 125,000 Karen to flee to refugee camps in Thailand, and perhaps 200,000 Karen have been internally displaced within Myanmar.
- Karenpeople.org, a not-for-profit gateway to information and resources on the Karen peoples of Burma, Thailand, and elsewhere
- Karen Emergency Relief Fund, Helping the Karen People of Burma
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