Information about the Shan

The Shan are an ethnic group of Southeast Asia. The Shan live primarily in the Shan State of Myanmar (sometimes known as Burma), and in adjacent parts of China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Shan number approximately 6 million, but a population census has not been taken.

The Shan dwell mostly on the plains of the Shan Plateau, which is drained by the Salween River. The capital of Shan state is Taunggyi, which is a small city of perhaps 150,000 people. Other main Shan cities include Kengtong and Tachileik.


Although it is widely accepted that Shan peoples have inhabited areas of Burma for a very long time, there are theories that the ethnic group may have originally migrated from the mountains of China's southern Yunnan province. The Shan immigrants into upper Burma were the oldest branch of the Tai ethnic group known as "Tai Long", that is "Great Tai". Later Shan immigrants to Laos and Thailand were called "Tai Noi" which means "Little Tai". (from Shan Human Rights Foundation).


The Shan are traditionally wet-rice cultivators, shopkeepers, and artisans. Most Shan are Theravada Buddhists and/or observe their traditional religion, which is related to animist practices.


The Shan language is part of the Tai languages group of the Tai-Kadai language family, and is related to Thai and Lao. The southern Shan use an alphabet based on the Burmese alphabet.

The ISO language code for Shan is SHN; the SIL code is SJN.


The Shan have been engaged in an intermittent civil war within Myanmar for decades. As Shan State is one of the largest in Burma, there are two main armed rebellion forces operating within it - the Shan State Army North and Shan State Army South. While there is currently a ceasefire agreement between the Burma Army and SSA-N, those groups still experience intermittent fighting and the SSA-S, which has yet to sign any agreements, is engaged in guerilla warfare against the Burma Army.

During conflicts, the Shan are often burned out of their villages and forced to flee into Thailand. There, they are not given refugee status, and often work as undocumented laborers. Their legal status in Thailand often leads to non-sustainable wages and unsafe work conditions.

Independence and Exiled Government

His Royal Highness Prince Hso Khan Pha (sometimes written as Surkhanpha in Thai) of Yawnghwe, lives in exile in Canada. He is campaigning for the government of Burma to respect the traditional culture and indigenous lands of the Shan people and he works with Shan exiles abroad helping to provide schooling for displaced Shan children because their parents are unable to provide this. He hopes to provide Shan children with some training in life skills so they can fend for themselves and their families in the future.

In addition to this, there has been some opinion in Shan State and in neighboring Thailand, and to some extent in farther-reaching exile communities in favor of the theme of "total independence for Shan State." This came to a head when, in May 2005, Shan elders in exile declared independence for the Federated Shan States.

The declaration of independence, however, was rejected by most other ethnic groups, many Shan residents of Burma, and Burma's leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite this fact however, the Burma Army has begun a crackdown on Shan civilians as a result of the declaration, and Shan people have reported an increase in restrictions on their movements, and increasing Burma Army raids on Shan villages.

The above includes excerpts from Wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia:

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