The Tribes of Burma/Hybrid Chin

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The Tribes of Burma by Cecil Champain Lowis
Hybrid Chin Tribes (Chaungthas, Taungthas, Saks)

Hybrid Chin Tribes: The Chaungthas, The Taungthas, The Saks.

Reference may here be made to a few scattered communities who, judging by their language, their characteristics, and their habitat are clearly the result of an admixture of the Chins with the Burmese and Arakanese plain dwellers in their vicinity. They are the Chaungthas, the Taungthas, and the Saks or Thets.

The Chaungthas (who have been described in the British Burma Gazetteer, Volume I, page 151, and in Hughes' " Hill Tracts of Arakan ") are found in the valley of the Kaladan in the Akyab and Northern Arakan Districts to the west of the Central Chin uplands. Whether they are Arakanese who have amalgamated with their Chin neighbours or a tribe of Chins which has adopted the dress, religion and speech of the Arakanese is doubtful, but it is clear that there are elements of both Chin and Arakanese in their composition. They numbered 1,349 in all in 1901.

The Taungthas of the Pakôkku District to the east of the Central Chin uplands are undoubtedly Chins who have adopted Buddhism and have absorbed some of the blood of the low-landers. They speak a Chin dialect, but their women have a dress of their own. It is neither Burmese nor Chin but is described as a white petticoat with a blue or dark coloured cotton shawl folded cross ways and tied round the body above the breasts with the corners hanging down over the petticoat to one side.[1] The fullest description of the Taungthas published up to date will be found at page 723 of Part II, Volume II of the Upper Burma Gazetteer. The total of Taungthas returned at the 1901 Census was 5,704. Like the Chaungthas they are a quiet, law-abiding community. The term " Taungtha " has been applied to some of the Chin Hill tribes in Arakan, but there it simply means " hill dwellers."

The Saks or Thets of the Akyab District have practically disappeared, absorbed, presumably, for the most part, into the surrounding Arakanese population. There are very early references to the Saks in the annals of Burma [2] and it is possible that at one time the term Sak was applied indiscriminately to all the Chins who occupied the hills to the west of Burma proper. Mr. Houghton infers from a comparison of a Sak with a Kadu vocabulary that the Saks were not Chins, but were related to the Kachins and Nagas, but the similarity may be accounted for by the fact that there is in all probability a faint Chin element in the Kadus, and, as, geographically, the Saks are much more likely to be of Chin than of Kachin or Naga stock, it seems advisable to treat them, till more definite data are available, as an Arakanese-Chin hybrid. In all only 230 persons returned themselves as Saks or Thets in the Akyab District in 1901. An attempt was made in 1901 to get some particulars about this community, but it was unsuccessful. The Saks seem likely to disappear altogether before long.

  1. History of operations in Northern Arakan and the Yawdwin Chin Hills. Captain G. C. Rigby, 1897, page 78.
  2. Vide British Burma Gazetteer, Volume I, page 236.