The Fifth Long Journey

Yunnan- Kaw Lah (Burma)… (1128 B.C-1040 A.D)

The First Influx into “Kaw Lah”

“Not to know is bad, not to wish to know is worse.” Nigerian Proverbs...

“The travels, travails and the trials of our ancestors made our generation dared, discerned and distinct in facing all the facts of life. With this priceless legacy in our possession we shall prevail.” Saw Loh Doh                                                           

The first wave of Karens which comprised of 99 families left Yunnan in 1128 B.C. There was no record of how big the size of each family. They forked to follow three routes and after three adventurous years probably in 1125 B.C, the Karen were scattered through out the new land which they named it Kaw Lah, and are now realized as Burma/Myanmar.  The first group followed the course of Mekong River and moved south to stay temporarily at Tongkhai and its vicinities. After that, they crossed many lands to find safe haven for their posterity. The same thing happened to other races. They all seek migration for their survival. The lands the Karen had covered at that time became the nations, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Tailand. After a few years, some of Tai races who moved down the same route clashed with the Karen many times. To avoid conflict the Karen moved further until they reached the south China Sea Coast. Tai races also followed the same course and pushed the Karen further.

When the Karen were faced with the open sea, they stopped and turned back to follow the course of another river, Mae Nam. Up stream at a certain point they found out that many Tai races from China continued their influx into the land. The Karen changed direction and followed the course of another river, Ping, and built a city-state, to defend themselves. The Karen named their city Kee Mai which is now widely known as Chiang Mai, the northern capital of Thailand. The city had been a refuge for many wandering Karen tribes who lost their lands and had to flee from their enemies. The Karen gathered at Kee Mai, increased in number and became stronger. They fought many battles with belligerent races, in which they sometimes won and sometimes lost. The many reasons why the Karen lost the battles are narrated in htars, legends and folklores.

In one of the decisive battles, the Karen were totally overwhelmed and vanquished by their enemies. So they fled to nearby mountains and jungles to hide and stay there. Some fled far away from destruction into south and west direction and settled down in many parts of Thailand until this day. Some even dared cross the sea to find refuge in Borneo Island.

The second group left Yunnan and followed the river called Mae Oo (Shewli) and entered the land now known as Myanmar. They found that the place was already occupied by some of the Tai races, so they skirted it and took the course of another river which they called, Khai Wah, after the name of their leader in this expedition. They started building a city-state and extended it bit by bit. The river on which they set up the city on its bank was later called Irrawaddy and the city state was known as Ta Gaung. As their number increased, some families explored the land and moved further south along the bank of Irrawaddy. They arrived at a certain place and one of their leaders suggested that all the Karen tribes should build their own city and rule it. This group was from Pwo tribe and they build a city on the bank of the river which they rightly named it “Pwo Way (Pwo’s city)” according to the name of their tribe. The city was later seized and ruled by different races and is now known as Prome. Some of the Sgaw tribe ventured westward and reached the land now known as Arakan State. They built a city and called it “Sgaw Way (Sgaw’s city)” after the name of their tribe. The other races who migrated into this city could not pronounced the name correctly and they called it to the nearest of their dialect. Therefore the city is now called “Sandoway” or “Sandway (Than dway)”.

The third group followed the Salween River and moved south bit by bit and settled down at the place which is now the northern Shan State. But after a few years some of the Tai races in China moved to the same place and tried to dominate the Karen. In order to avoid battles, the Karen divided themselves into two groups. The first group who were mainly of the Bwe tribe moved down along the Salween River and formed themselves into local administrative region which became now known as Karenni or Kayah. The second group comprised mainly of Pwo and Sgaw moved further south until they nearly reached the mouth of the river. The group settled in Doo Yaw which is at the foot of Kwe Ka Baw Lay and its vicinities along the bank of the river. Some spread out to other places like Doo Pla Yah (Maulmein), Tavoy and Mergui. Kwe Ka Baw became the center for Karen People and they came here to make a living, built villages and towns. It is also the center of Karen cultural, education and social affairs. The Karen State was materialized in the year 1952 and Kwe Ka Baw became its capital. Until now it is known by a less popular name “Pa-an”. The sub-tribes of these main Karen tribes always stayed along side with the main branch through thick and thin.

“The Beauty and The Beast”. Diversity adorned with individual identity is Beauty where as total identity with no tolerance for any diversity is Beast.

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