Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Karen of Thailand

Karen are one of the hill tribes living in Thailand and are found in the hilly terrains of Northern Thailand. This tribe also inhabits certain parts of Myanmar. The Karen people moved to Thailand in the 17th century. There are two main sub-groups in Karen, namely the Skaw and Pwo. There are approximately 280,000 Karen living in the hills of Thailand.

The Karen live in bamboo houses raised on stilts and beneath which they raise domestic animals like pigs, buffaloes and chickens. They practice swidden agriculture and irrigate paddy fields. All the family members of Karen live together under a single roof. The parents with their unmarried as well as the married children may also live together. The village priest is given the highest authority to run the village along with the elders.

The Karen women are noted for their skills in weaving. They wear clothes that are hand-woven on back strap looms. Each group has its own style of dressing. Unmarried girls wear loose white vee necked blouses while married women wear blouses and skirts in bold colors, usually blue and red. The Karen men produce musical instruments and tobacco pipes and sell them in the lowland towns.

Most of Karen people are animists who believe in supernatural elements. They perform rituals to gods of land and water. They also believe that spirits live in rocks, tree, and mountains. The Karen try to live in harmony with nature and they believe that the guardian spirits help them in leading harmonious lives.