The Tribes of Burma/Other Mon Khmer

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Other Mon Khmer Tribes: Kamus, Yaos, Miaotzus, Danaws

Reference may be made here to three tribes of Mon Khtner extraction whose habitat lies outside Burma but close to the Burma border and a few of whom have come to settle within British territory. The first of these, the Kamus, Kamets or Lamets (described at pages 521—523 of the Upper Burma Gazetteer, Part I, Volume I) are evidently closely connected with the Was. They inhabit Siamese and French territory, but 141 of them (probably timber coolies and mahouts) were found within the limits of the Province at the 1901 Census, mostly in the Thaton and Amherst Districts. The Yaos and the Miaotzus, the other two of the three tribes aforesaid, are residents of China. Descriptions of the Miaotzu (Hmeng [1]) are given at page 597 and of the Yaos at page 601 of the Upper Burma Gazetteer. They have been classified as Mon Khmers by Major Davies, and there seems but little reason to doubt the correctness of his classification. Both are widely spread through South-Western China. The 1901 Census returns showed no Yaos or Miaotzus, but it is certain that up till recently at any rate there were two or three Yao villages in Kengtung. Such Miaotzu villages as there are in British territory are in the extreme north-eastern corner of the Northern Shan States, in areas which were either omitted from the census operations or "estimated" only. The main feature of the Miaotzu women's dress are the pleated kilt and the jacket with what resembles a sailor collar. The Yao are remarkable for their female coiffure, which has been compared loan " exaggerated mortar board."

A tribe which for want of more specific data the present writer has placed in the Mon Khmer category is that of the Danaws, a now almost extinct community found in the north-western portion of the Southern Shan States (vide page 562 of the Upper Burma Gazetteer, Part I, Volume I). They are not to be confused with the Danus—though possibly, like the latter, they are only hybrids—and their language is somewhat amorphous. It, however, contains a not inconsiderable number of Mon Khmer words, and it is on the strength of this element in its composition that the Danaws (who in 1901 numbered 635 in all) have been classed provisionally with the Palaungs, the Riangs and the Was of the Shan States, There is nothing in the outward appearance of the Danaws to distinguish them from the Shans among whom they live. It is stated that the women used formerly to wear a short thindaing and petticoat like the Taungthus and Taungyos. This is not a usual form of Mon Khmer dress, but the Yanghseks afford an example of its adoption by a tribe of Mon Khmer origin, and there is nothing intrinsically improbable in the statement. There seems no likelihood of the Danaws' origin being ever finally established now.

  1. * The Meos or Man Mèos of French observers (vide, e.g., Mission Pavie, Paris, 19O2, Volume V, page 218, and Volume III, page 39, and "Deux ans dansle Haut. Tonkin." A. Billet, Lille, 1896—98, page 127).