Dr U Nyi Win : Myanmar ethnic groups and their migration into Myanmar

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SOURCE: Article of Dr U Nyi Win,Myanmar ethnic groups and their migration into Myanmar” published in his FB notes

I learned in middle school history class that there are 3 main ethnic groups in Myanmar. The Tibeto-Burmans, Mon-Khmers and the Shan and they all came into Myanmar from the north / north-east, current Yunnan province of China.

I also read about articles written by Myanmars who went abroad and were greeted by Indonesians, Malaysians and Fillipinos mistakenly as their countrymen but most Indonesians I noticed have Indian / Arabic features.

Later, when I saw photos of Suharto, Megawatti and many Indonesians who do not have Indian / Arabic features, but look like Myanmars, I thought they might be those of the forefront of Tibeto-Burman migration who went ahead and reached Malaysia and Indonesia and settled there in front of the Bamars who came later and settled in Myanmar. When I explainrd to a friend about it when he mentioned how Bamar-like Suahrto looks, he remarked: those early Tibeto-Burmans are lucky to reach and settle in free Indonesia, whereas, we, the late comers are born and held captive in Myanmar under present conditions.

But I learned later that I was mistaken and that the people in Indonesia are not Tibeto Burmans but actually part of the Austronesians_a seafaring group of people who migrated from current day Taiwan across the seas to settle in the Phillipines, Indonesia, Pacific islands and Malaysia, some even reaching India and Magadasca on the African coast. Some of their group reached Myanmar and are the Salones, a subgroup of the Moken / Sea gypsies that also live in Thailand, Malaysia and the Phillipines.

Humans have lived in Myanmar for 750,000 years, from the Anyathian to the present day Myanmar ethnic groups.





40 million year B.P.

Pondaungia cottelia (Poundaung Primate) Live in Pondaung area in Lower Chindwin district


40-42 million years B.P.

Mogaungensis (Amphipothecus Primate) live in Mogaung village, Pale township in Sagaing Division and in Bahin village, Myaing township in Magwe Division.


750,000- 275,000 years B.P.

Lower Palaeolithic men (early Anyathian) live alone; the bank of the Ayeyawaddy river.


275,000-25,000 years B.P.

Lower Palaeolithic men (late Anyathian) live along the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy river and central Myanmar


11,000 years B.P.

Upper Palaeolithic men live in Badahlin caves which situated in Ywagan township in southern Shan States.


7,000 – 2,000 B.C.

Neolithic men live in central Myanmar Kachin State, Shan States, Mon State, Taninthayi Division, and along the bank of the Chindwin and Ayeyarwaddy rivers.


1,000- 800 B. C.

Bronze Age Culture


600 – 500 B.C.

Iron Age Culture




Ages http://www.geocities.com/resats/paleolithic.html http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/gerald_larue/otll/chap6.html


Lower Paleolithic

300,000-70,000 BC

Old Stone Age


Middle Paleolithic

70,000-12,000 BC


Upper Paleolithic

35,000-12,000 BC



12,000-10,000 BC

Middle Stone Age




10,000-4500 BC

New Stone Age




4500-3000 BC

Copper Stone Age



Bronze Age

3,000-2,500 BC

Early Bronze Age


2,500-2,000 BC

Middle Bronze Age


2,000-1,200 BC

Late Bronze Age


History of mankind in Myanmar will not be complete if the Pondaungia cottelia (Poundaung Primate), Mogaungensis (Amphipothecus Primate) and Bahinia pondaungensis are left out. Although it has been claimed that “Lu Tharr AhSa Myanmar Ka / mankind originate in Myanmar” the Pondaungia cottelia (Poundaung Primate), Mogaungensis (Amphipothecus Primate) and Bahinia pondaungensis are actually preanthropoid primates and they existed 40 m years ago and are far distant in the evolutionary stage from the hominids of the biological family Hominidae which includes not only the human genus Homo but also the genus Australopithecus (our distant ancestors) and the genus Paranthropus. All 3 genera are bipedal and habitually upright in posture.

All humans_ Homo erectus and Homo sapiens_evolved in Africa and migrated all over the world in several Out of Africa migrations.

The oldest Homo erectus date to 1.8 m years ago in East Africa and this suggests that the Homo erectus originated there. 1.7 m yr old fossil human skulls found in Dmanisi, Georgia may represent the ones that first migrated out of Africa.

There is fossil evidence that by the time the individuals the Dmanisi skulls belonged to were living in Georgia, others of their species had already traveled as far east as Java in southeast Asia. Being close to the boundary between Europe and Asia, Georgia might have been a crossroads of dispersal to the west in Europe as well as to southern and eastern Asia.

The evolution from early man Homo erectus into modern man Homo sapiens sapiens did not occur in Myanmar (Anyathian), nor in China (Peking man) and Java (Java man), but in Africa and/or the Southwest Asia.

Anatomically modern humans_Homo sapiens sapiens_ developed about 150,000 – 190,000 years ago from Homo sapiens and migrated to the Near East and then to Australasia about 60,000 years ago, to Europe and into Asia about 40,000 years ago and to the Americas about 30,000 years ago. Some of the earliest migrants to Asia travelled by a southern route along the coasts while most travelled through the land north of the Himalayas that later became the Silk Road.


a common maternal ancestor coming out of Africa existed 50,000 years ago between the people of Ethiopia and the Arabian peninsula, and India. Matches were not found in the Middle Eastern populations.


In another earlier study, it was found that an earlier migration occurred, pegged at 100,000 years ago, involving a common maternal ancestor coming out of Africa by a northern route, settling in the Mediterranean and in Greece.

According to the available archeological record, anatomically modern humans began to move out of Africa/Eurasia at least 60,000 calendar years ago.

Scientists have now identified the human lineages of the world descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of Eve. This ancestral human population lived in Africa and started to split up 144,000 years ago. This time period is when both the mitochondrial and Y chromosome trees first branch out.

Recent DNA tests had provided clues that the Chinese males’ genes do share one similar feature with the Africans, proving that mankind did come out of Africa.

Did the 2 groups_ the modern man Homo sapiens and the earlier Homo erectus, the Anyathian_intermarry and merge into the current Myanmar population? Or did the earlier Homo erectus_the Anyathian_ become extinct?

As archaeologists and anthropologists pointed out, modern men did not come from homo erectus, nor homo sapiens (80-200 thousand years ago), but homo sapiens sapiens (20-70 thousand years ago), instead.

Recent research into mitochondrial DNA, paleoclimate, and archealogical sites help to further clarify the most recent human migration, which began at least 120,000 years ago. The mitochondrial DNA links all modern humans to a common ancestor, known as “Eve,” who lived in Africa 150,000 years ago.

Current data suggest that Homo sapiens sapiens very likely evolved from archaic Homo sapiens relatively rapidly in Africa and/or the Southwest Asia. They have been dated to 115,000-96,000 years ago at Qafzeh Cave in Israel. In South Africa, they have been found at Klasses River Mouth and Border Cave sites dating to 120,000-100,000 years ago. Since these time ranges overlap, it is not clear which area was the earliest to have modern people. However, it was not until 50,000-40,000 years ago that they began to appear in Europe and East Asia. This was during a short temperate period in the midst of the last ice age. It would seem from these dates that the location of initial modern human evolution and the direction of their dispersion from that area is obvious. That is not the case. Since the early 1980’s, there have been two leading contradictory models that attempt to explain Homo sapiens sapiens evolution–the <span>replacement model</span> and the <span>regional continuity model</span>.

Research by Oxford University and collaborators has shed new light on the last 100,000 years of human migration from Africa into Asia. The new genetic study confirms that some of the earliest migrants travelled into Asia by a southern route, possibly along the coasts of what are now Pakistan and India. The researchers identified a genetic marker in museum samples of inaccessible populations from the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. This allowed them to re-interpret previous genetic studies from the Indian sub-continent. The Andaman Islanders have been an enigma since the early days of Victorian anthropology due to their distinctive physical appearance. They have a very short stature, dark pigmentation and tight curly hair which contrasts with settled populations practising agriculture in the region. The same features link them to other isolated populations throughout Southern Asia, many of whom are hunter-gatherers. This has lead to speculation that these groups might represent the original inhabitants of the region who have either been replaced or absorbed into more recent population expansions. More fancifully, some people have speculated that they are related to African Pygmy populations. Relationships between different groups of people can be described by analysing mutations in mitochondrial DNA, a genetic component that is passed on maternally. The majority of people in Asia have been shown to carry mitochondrial DNA of a type known as haplogroup M, which has several subgroups and can be traced back 60,000 years. In the new study, the Andamans have been shown to belong to the M group, and most likely to its subgroup M2, which is around 53,000 years old. This provides evidence that the Andamanese are no more related to Africans than any of the rest of Eurasian populations, and may indeed be linked to surviving hunter-gatherer groups in mainland India who also carry the M2 marker. These groups are found at high frequency in the south of India, consistent with an original settlement of Asia by a coastal route within the last 100,000 years.


Although there are still those who accept the multifocal origin of modern man, even the Chinese are now proved to share genes with Africans and accepted to have come out of Africa. Bamars and all Myanmar ethnic groups descend from the first modern humans that originated in Africa and/or the Southwest Asia and the Myanmar preanthropoid primates do not lead to the development of humans on Myanmar soil even if they do lead to the development of hominids and then to the early and modern humans elsewhere (Africa and/or the Southwest Asia).

Before the not so distant migration of the current Myanmar ethnic groups into Myanmar, eary humans were living in Myanmar since 750,000 years BP. They are the Anyathian and existed during the Lower Paleolithic age and are not modern man Homo sapiens sapiens but the earlier Homo erectus and were the counterparts of the Peking man and Java man.

Much later, modern humans Homo sapiens sapiens arrived and the first ones are the Negritos that migrated along the southern coastal route along the current Pakistan and India and also those who reached China first and then migrate south during the Upper Paleolithic age and Neolithic age. Upper Palaeolithic men live in Badahlin caves which situated in Ywagan township in southern Shan State.

Thus these 2 group of humans, the Anyarthian and current Myanmar ethnic groups arrived in Myanmar in different eras.

Of the humans that lived in Myanmar, several are no longer seen although they existed a long time ago in Myanmar and has been mentioned in Myanmar history including the inscriptions.

The earliest people who lived in Arakan were Negritos who are mentioned in the chronicles as Bilus (cannibals). They appear to have been the direct neolithic descendents of the Arakanese soil.

There is mention of Rakhites / YetKhas / Bilus / ogres in Myanmar and Rakhine chronicles including the Bilus / ogres mentioned in the myth of the origin of the MaNoke Thiha in Suvannabumi and also in the BuddhaWin and the Indian, Sri Lankan and Thai cultures. Who are they? They are said to be different from humans and ugly. Are the Bilus / ogres the Homo erectus which has now become extinct? Are they the relatives of the KatPaLis / Negritos that now exist only in the Andaman islands but must have lived along the coastal areas of the Indian ocean? Are the KatPaLis / Negritos that live in the Andaman islands the descendents of the Homo erectus? Current mitochondrial DNA evidence points to their being Homo sapiens sapiens and not Homo erectus. It seems that the KatPaLis / Negritos are the remaining descendents of the earliest human arrivals to Myanmar (and India too), the Rakhites / YetKhas / Bilus / ogres who migrated along the coast after coming out of Africa and reach Myanmar earlier than those who migrated along the Silk road to reach China and then entered Myanmar from the north.


Tibeto-Burmans, arrive 2nd into Burma. They came from eastern Tibet along Bramaputra river to Assam and Burma. They are of 3 groups: Pyu, Kanyan and Thet

A group of people known as the Pyu, who spoke a Tibeto-Burman language, began establishing city-kingdoms in northern Myanmar between the 1st century BC and AD 800.

The Pyu first settled around the Ayeyarwaddy from Tagaung to Pyay, built the first walled cities of Tagaung, Binnaka, Mongamo, Sriksetra / ThaRayKhittayar and Halingyi in Myanmar and later established the first Myanmar Empire controlling lower Myanmar including the ThaNinTharYi I / Tenessarim. The Pyus are said to be Tibeto Burmans and their language is similar to Burmese.

1st Tagaung Established by AbiYarzar who came from India. Succeeded by younger son KanYarzarNge. KanYarzarGyi went to KaleTaunNyo and stayed for 6 mths. During the period Pyus, Kanyans asked for king and his son Dusetta was installed in ThunarParanta / LeiKaing. KanYarzarGyi moved to Rakhine.

Myanmar chronicles mention the migration of AbiYarZar and his entourage from northern India Mizzimzadesh / Mizzima DayTha and settled in northern Myanmar establishing Tagaung and whose descendents ruled Tagaung until the Chinese (? Nanchaos) invaded and destroyed it. There was another migration of prince DaZa YarZar and his group from northern India Mizzimzadesh / Mizzima DayTha at the time of Buddha. They reached Malae and met queen NarGa Hsein who was living where after king Beindaka, the 33rd king of the AbiYarZar dynasty died following the retreat to Malae following the destruction of the 1st Tagaung by the Chinese / TaYoke (?Nanchaos as Chinese influence did not reach Yunnan at the time). They married after finding that both are of Tharki race and established the 2nd Tagaung.


Prince Gopala left Hastinapura in Ganges (north central India) and founded Tagaung after various wars with the Mlech-chlas. Inscribed stone slab 416 A.D. Tagaung. Buddha image with Gupta inscription.

17th king ThadoeMahaRaza of the DaZa YarZar dynasty had 2 sons MahaThambawa and SulaThambawa

Duddabaung, son of MahaThambawa, established SriKhittayar in 101 Buddhist year, 382 B.C. 9 kings Last king Thiririz

Who are the Pyus and why did the Pyus become extinct although they once controlled Myanmar? It is mentioned in the Chinese chronicles that over 3000 of the Pyus were taken to Yunnan when the Nanchao overran the Pyu capital in 832 AD. The Pyu were mentioned in the Bagan inscriptions, separate from the Myanmars so they are a different ethnic group, even if closely related, and was last seen in the Ava inscriptions but they are not seen anymore. The Pyu must be distinct from Bamars but as their lineage disappeared, they must be the minority although they ruled the nation during their time from their superior knowledge of life and warfare. It has been mentioned in Myanmar chronicles that when the Tharaykhittayar / Sriksetra fell, the population dispersed in 3 groups: Pyu, KanYam and Thet. The Thet that settled around ThanDwe TaungZin KhuNit KhaYaing became the southern Rakhines. There were Thets living en masse in the western foothills even in the Bagan era as it was recorded that the ThetMin KaTone rebelled and was subdued, apprehended and beheaded.

There were still Pyus up to the time of Innwa as some Ava inscriptions also mention the Pyus but they are no longer present nowadays. The Pyu nation extended the whole of Myanmar and include the Thanintharyi. There is now proof of it from recent excavations in the Thanintharyi, including those around Dawei. The Pyus must have ruled over the Bamars, Mons and all other ethnic groups present at the time.

What they are and why they have gone instinct, and whether there are some descendents left in the foothill regions of the Chin and Yaw areas is still a mystery I wonder whether there is any significant difference between the genomes of different ethnic groups in Myanmar. If so, it will be a double edged weapon as one’s race can be tested in a lab!



The Mons are traditionslly considered to be the first group of current Myanmar ethnic groups to settle in Myanmar but the Rakhites / YetKhas / Bilus / ogres arrived before them but they no longer exists. The Mons are part of the Austroasiatic Mon-Khmer group that migrated down the Mekong and Thanlwin rivers to settle around their river mouths in Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar; Khmers to the east in Cambodia and the Mons to the west in current day Thailand and Myanmar. The Khmers established the Funan, Chenla and Angkor Khmer civilizations whereas the Mons established the ancient Suvanabhumi, whose location is controversial, but is mentioned in the Maha ZaNetKa ZatTaw, one of the 10 previous human existences of Buddha / ThiekDatHta prince as the distant overseas place where ZaNetKa went to find riches and on the return journey he met a storm and was the only survivor and also the Dvaravati and Haripunjaya kingdoms in current Thailand.

Mon-Khmer migration came from Laos and Cambodia. The tribes include Wa, Tai, Palaung, Yao, Padaung, En, and Mon

The Mons, a people of Malayo-Indonesian stock, are related to the early inhabitants of Thailand and Cambodia who also spoke Mon-Khmer languages. The Mons who are considered to be the indigenous inhabitants of lower Burma, established their most significant capital at Thaton, strategically located for trade near the Gulf of Martaban and the Andaman Sea


Tibeto-Burmese migration came from the North. They include Kadu, Lashi, Atsi, Rakhine, Chins, Kachin, Sing-po, Lisu, Lahu, Kaw (Akha), Ako

Another group of Tibeto-Burman speakers, the Burmans, also had become established in the northern dry zone. They were centred on the small settlement of Pagan on the Irrawaddy River. By the mid-9th century, Pagan had emerged as the capital of a powerful kingdom that would unify Myanmar

Bamars, the majority of the population in Myanmar are part of the Tibeto Burman group which also include the Chins, Pyu and Thet. The Chin lived along a river, which later came to be known as Chindwin river. The Kadu probably drove them up the Chin Hills. Kadu occupied Tagaung or Thandwepyi of northern Myamamr. The Thet settled in Rakhine around ThanTwe and some parts of central Myanmar.

Are Bamars the descendents of the first human arrivals, the Anyathians who were Homo erectus and have been living in Myanmar for 750,000 years? Or are Bamars descendents of the modern man, the Homo sapiens sapiens that arrived 11,000 years ago? Or are Bamars a result of interbreeding between the Homo erectus and the Homo sapiens sapiens? Or did the Bamars arrive in Myanmar only in the 8th centuary AD when they fled from the Nanchaos? If so, why is there no record of such massive migration of a people in the not so distant past although Myanmar chronicles mention even the arrival of AhBi YarZar and his entourage from mizzimadesh in pre Buddha times and the arrival of the Tagaung prince who later became a Rathe and raised BayDarYi and later of the princes Maha Thambawa and Sula Thambawa to the area near Pyay, and then of PyuSawHti to Bagan.

About 800 A. D.. Bamar and its racial groups came into Myanmar along the Thanlwin river via the Nat Htate Valley in the south-east of Kyauk-se Township. At that time Thet and Kadu were living in the northern part of Myanmar at Tagaung , which was in the east of Ayeyawady river , ancient Rakhine were living at Vesali , Mon were residing at Thaton which was situated near the sea and Pyu were staying at Sri Kshetra which was near Hmaw Zar village near the town of  Pyi.


Myammar followed the route taken by the Kayins to enter Myanmar. They appeared only in the 9th century A.D. They preferred to live in the hot dry regions and so they took central Myanmar. Kyaukse area was their first home in Myanmar. Then they occupied the Minbu area. With center at Bagan, they consolidated their power in Central Myanmar and builts a king dom in the 11th century A.D.


The Burmans had originated in southwest China 3,000 years ago. They populated the Ayeyarewaddy river area through migration and the conquest of the original people of the valley, the Pyu in the 7th century

The Danu, Intha, Yaw, Dawei and Beik inhabitants and the Rakhines speak Bamar dialects and are part of the Bamar tribe and would have migrated together, earlier than or later than Bamars into Myanmar. They would have either gone in front of the Bamar migration or followed the Bamar migration and had to go ahead to find good pasture lands in their quest for YayKyiYar MyetNuYar / where the water is clearer and the grass is greener. However, some say that the Innthars are the group who settled in Inle when king AhLaungSithu took them from Dawei in his tour of the country.

I have a friend who was from Kalaw and I had always thought he is a Bamar until one day he mentioned that he is a Danu. I was surprised as he does not have any accent like other Myanmar ethnic groups or the Rakhines, YawThars, and the Dawei and Beik inhabitants. Another friend also told me about his experience with the Danus. He is a geologist and during his student days, he was sent to a field trip around Kalaw and stayed in a Danu village for the duration. Nearing the field trip, he asked his landlord / AinShin to teach him some Danu words. The landlord / AinShin laughed and told him that Danu is the same as Bamar language although pronounced a little different. Not long ago I heard of several Danu songs. I do not know whether they are specially pronounced in Bamar or whether they are in actual Danu, but I can understand them perfectly, unlike that of the Rakhines which is more different and the Yaw, Beik and Dawei dialects which I do not understand anything.

The Rakhines are the result of many migrations to the area.

The earliest people who lived in Arakan were Negritos who are mentioned in the chronicles as Bilus (cannibals). They appear to have been the direct neolithic descendents of the Arakanese soil. Later, waves of peoples of different races came into this land from the north. Late comers were the Mros and Saks, followed by the Chins, Khamis, Daingnets and the Chaungthas.

All the Arakan Chronicles mention the coming to Arakan of Indo-Aryan peoples from the Ganges valley and the founding of the cities of Dhanyawaddy and Vesali by their kings. The Indian chiefs who came over probably ruled over the the native population, gradually impressing on them their culture and religion. (Similar to the central Myanmar basin where AbiYarzar, DaZa YarZar and Gopala settling in Tagaung).

Arakanese chronicles date the history of Arakan back to 5000 BC when 2 migratory waves from the eastern part of India coming with a group settled at Kira-brin, 16 miles north of Mrauk-U, and the other settled at Dwarawaddy (Thandway). Later on the group at Thandway dispersed and joined with Kira-brin group to establish Vesali. Local dynasty ruled Vesali up to 3325 BC.

Sakkya migration into Rakhine. 1st gr: Vasudeva_ruled Dwarawady [Thantwe]. 2nd gr: Ahzona_married daughter of local chief. [son] Marayu conquered old Vesali and founded Dhanyawaddy 3000 B.C.   55 kings

In 3327 BC, savages (Rakkhaik) overtook Vesali and rendered it without a king. A group led by Marayu an Indian prince, came down the Kaladan river and subdued the savages. He then established the first city of Dhanyawaddy on the east bank of the Kaladan and began to rule Rakhine from 3325 BC. The dynasty set up by Marayu kept the throne till 1059 BC.


According to tradition Indo-Aryan people reached Arakan from India Gangha delta and settled in Kaladan Valley at the very early time. Before migrating to Arakan, those Indo-Aryan are thought to have mixed and intermarried with a migrant Mongoloid tribe in eastern India and Arakan.


An eminent Arakanese archaeologist, U San Shwe Bu, pointed out that the Indo-Aryan came to Arakan from Majjhimadesa who were living on the bank of river Ganges.

In 1531 BC, another migratory wave from Kamarupa (Assam) under Kammaraja came and settled at Kyauk-Badaung (near Paletwa, on the Kaladan). 24 years later the king came downstream and set up the second city of Dhnyawaddy in 1483 BC.

Kyauk Padaung 1507-1483 B.C. Kanyarzargyi from Tagaung settled and married 2 daughters of last Rakhine Q. 4300 ft above sea level, 14 m E of Paletwa.


Then came Kanrazagri and his twenty eight kingly descendents. He founded the second city of Dhanyawadi.

the second Dynyawaddy (1483-580 B.C.) by King Kanrazagree;

2nd Dhanyawaddy 1483-580 B.C. KanYarzarGyi moved to old site of Dhanyawaddy. 28 kings 927 yrs


Shans are part of the Tai people of Tibeto Chinese group. They lived in Yunnan before they entered Myanmar at the Maw valley. The Shan are in Myanmar before the fall of Bagan but they came in force only after ad 1300 when the Nanchao kingdom was taken over by the Chinese.

The Shan of the Shan Plateau have little ethno-linguistic affinity with the Burmans, and their society, unlike that of the plains peoples, was less elaborately structured. The Wa and the Palaung are Mon-Khmer speakers, but, because of the smallness of their numbers and their long residency on the plateau, they are sometimes confused with the Shan.


The Tai appeared historically in the 1st century AD in the Yangtze River valley. Chinese pressures forced them south until they were spread throughout the northern part of Southeast Asia. Their cultural descendants in present-day China include the Pai-i, , and Nua in Yunnan, the Chung-chia (or Puyi) in Kweichow Province, and the Chuang-chia (or Chuang) in Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous Region. Tai cultural identity has remained strongest among the Shan of Myanmar, the Thai (or Siamese) of Thailand, and the Lao.

The Shan inhabit most of the Shan Plateau area of Myanmar, concentrated in the autonomous Shan State. Traditionally, they have been ruled by princes (saohpas, or sawbwas) with semidivine attributes, but the princes have lost most of their former autonomy.


Tai-Chinese (Shan) migration is the last and they came from Yunnan. They sacked Bagan 1299, and controlled upper Myanmar from 12th-15th century AD. They do not evolve into a nation and are ruled by 33 SawBwas.

Shan State is populated by 4 m people of 33 hill tribes, 35 races.

Ethnic Shans consist of 50% of Shan States. With 4 m people they are the 2nd largest ethnic group in Myanmar.

Palaungs live in the NW ranges.

Kachins in the north

Kaws (Akha) live in the extreme NE

Wa live in NE ranges

Padaungs live in the SW


Kachins are part of the Tibeto- Burmans and are the group most close to the Tibetians and entered Myanmar in about 16th century A.D. They live in northern Myanmar from the Kachin to the Shan states and also live in Yunnan. There are many Kachin tribes but the Jingphaws are the majority and also include the Rawans who settle further north around Putao.

Although the Lisu / LiShaw are considered to be part of the Kachins their culture is more closely related to Chinese and I have not read about them being included in the Tibeto- Burmans as the Kachins are.

LaWaw / MaRu are closer to Bamars and the Kachins closer to Tibetians in the Tibeto Burman group range.

The Karens have a history of migration before they reached Myanmar.

Kayins belonged to the Tibeto- Chinese family. They came into Myanmar from the north along the Salween rivers, passed the southern Shan state entered the plains of Myanmar by about the 7th century AD.

The Karen year is signifant as it was counted from 739 BC (2007 = 2745 Karen year). It is not clear what the occasion was that led to the counting of the Karen calendar that year although some took it to be the year the Karens settled in Myanmar while others hold that the Karens entered the plains of Myanmar only in the 7th century AD; if so, 739 BC might be another occasion, maybe the beginning of the Karen migration from their original homeland.

The Karen oral traditions refer to crossing a river of “running sand” as an important event in their history. There are Chinese courses which refer to the Gobi Desert as the “River of sand”, and it is probable that the Karen originated in an area bordering Tibet, crossed the Gobi Desert into China, and gradually made their way into the mountainous areas of Burma.

Historically, the Karen descends from the same ancestors as the Mongolian people. The earliest Karens settled in Htee-set Met Ywa (land of flowing sands) a land bordering the source of the Yang-Tse-Kiang River in the Gobi Desert. From there, we migrated southwards and gradually entered the land now known as Burma about 739 BC.

We were, according to most historians, the first settlers in this new land. The Karen named this land Kaw-Lah, meaning the green land. We began to peacefully clear and till our land free from all hindrances. Our labors were fruitful and we were very happy with our lot. So we changed the name of the land to Kawthoolei, a land free of all evils, famine, misery and strife: Kawthoolei, a pleasant, plentiful and peaceful country. Here we lived characteristically uneventful and peaceful lives, before the advent of the Burma.

The Pho Karen subgroup includes the Pa’O and Pwo languages in Burma and several other languages in Thailand. The Pa’O are the second most numerous ethnic group in the Shan State of Myanmar (Burma) after the Shans themselves. Both Pa’O and Pho are categorised as Southern Karen. Some 600,000 Pa’O live in the southwest of Shan State from the slopes of the mountains near Kalaw up to Thaton region at the foothills of the Bago Yoma ranges.

Kayas were the same group of Kayin, lived in the lower east of Myanmar.



Only a few thousand Danus exist and they live in Kalaw, Pindaya and Pyin-U-Lwin areas.

Their language is a dialect of Burmese.


Inthas are people living on Inle Lake.

There is a saying that they are descendents of people who fled from Dawei to escape wars during the 18th Century.

Their language closely resembles the Myanmar.

Harry Hpone Thant

Ko Nyi,
There are some villages in the Htilin-Gantgaw area who say they are Pyus. I have not been to their villages. They are said to be in the Pondaung Pon Nya ranges but had seen them on the road when I was going to Haka from Pakokku. Ther…e is a stop on the way near a Nat shrine(I forgot the name) at the top of a steep incline and a log truck had overturned and all were stuck. There I met a group of villagers and their speech was very strange and when I asked them they told me they are Pyus and told me they are on their way to Bagan on pilgrimage.There was also one TV story/show on Myawaddy I think based on this village. I just forgot the name of the village. I had overnighted at Kyaw village twice and the people there also said there are Pyu villages nearby. Kyaw village is just before you get to the Pondaung-Ponnya Railways Tunnel under the Pondaung-Ponnya Range on the Pakokku-Gantgaw-Haka Raikways. Anyway there are some villages around on the west bank of the Chindwin near Patohlon Stream(you will know the place. It is where the MM-Chinese geologist recently found big gas deposits) and where the displaced court officials settled when they fled Mandalay in 1885.And the Chins have a saying “Chin Hman Bagan Ga”. The Chins say they fled to the west of the Ayeyarwady after a quarrel with a Bagan king and the word Popa is related to a Chin word. I got this from a Chin shaman(a nat sayar) from Mindat when I was there to document a Chin wedding for my Enchanting Myanmar magazine.
Ko Ko Gyi

TQ Mr Harry Hpone Thant for the interesting comment.
When even the famous historian Dr Than Tun’s most of the books I had read had stated that the Pyus had disappeared and assimilated with new migrant Myanmars migrated from Yunnan. It is qu…ite interesting.

As I am away from Myanmar but life is sometimes strange enough, I now have a chance to see patients from numerous ethnic minorities and from almost all the different places of Myanmar, here in KL. Recently I have seen few strange looking Myanmars with curious accent from the villahes near Taungope. They are darker and facial features are Tibeto-Burman but different from Bama, Rakhine, Chin and totally different from Chinese and Indian features. They are speaking the Myanmar language with a strange accent. I know the accents of Rakhines, Danu, Inthas, Tavoy, Mons very well. I suspect that may be they were the descendants of Pyu and asking my patients from Taungope. They told me that there were strange looking/speaking few villages on the hills near their town.
By the way when I enquire about Pashus of Myanmar, I got a very few facts only.
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5 Responses to “Dr U Nyi Win : Myanmar ethnic groups and their migration into Myanmar”

  1. nyiwin Says:

    thanks Dr. Ko Ko Gyi, for sharing this with your fans!

  2. My writings / blogs are on google search results! « Nyiwin's Blog Says:

    […] ·  Dr U Nyi Win : Myanmar ethnic groups and their migration into … […]

  3. min Says:

    quote: The evolution from early man Homo erectus into modern man Homo sapiens sapiens did not occur in Myanmar (Anyathian), nor in China (Peking man) and Java (Java man), but in Africa and/or the Southwest Asia.


    Quote: http://www.skepticfiles.org/evolut/origincr.htm
    he Homo erectus story is undoubtedly the weakest link in the whole
    human evolutionary scenario.


    No! It didn’t happen there either! Please, make clear of it. Out of Africa scenario is not realistic but only fantasy. What I agree with is humans were indeed migratory but also stationary. IMHO

  4. marirea potentei Says:

    marirea potentei…

    […]Dr U Nyi Win : Myanmar ethnic groups and their migration into Myanmar « Dr Ko Ko Gyi’s Blog[…]…

  5. Joe Tun Says:

    Dear Dr.
    Thank you for your interesting article. My interest now is the Samoan {sa.moan}-river valley extending from Pyinmana area to the north. The Proto-Irrawaddy river which ran all the way from Myintkyina {mric-kri:na:} to empty into the Gulf of Martaban was broken into 3 sections: from Myitson {mric-hsoän} to somewhere near Mandalay flowing north to south, from Mandalay to Pyinmana {pyiñ:ma.na:} forming the {sa.moan} which flows from south to north, and from Pyinmana to the Gulf of Martaban flowing from north to south.
    The area has become an interesting ecoregion, but no one has studied the geography, flora and fauna of the area. The remote villagers of Thazi speak with a fricative-sibilant accent, and {hkyak} is pronounced as {shak} — much like the speakers of Mitila in northern India. Why? Did the various groups accompanying, as family Pandits {poaN~Na:} settled as a community in the Samoan area. Please look into my websites: http://www.tuninst.net ; http://www.softguide.net.mm ; http://www.romabama.blogspot.com

    Professor U Kyaw Tun aka Joe Tun

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