The Tribes of Burma/Salons

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The Selungs or Salons, the sea-gypsies of the Mergui Archipelago, are of Malay stock and do not belong directly to any of the three main ethnical families dealt with above, though the researches of Messrs. Skeat and Blagden tend to the view[1] that there may, in the remote past, have been some kind of connection between them and the Mon Khmer communities in the south of Indo-China. This view is based on the assumption that the Salons are, as appears to be the case, connected with the Orang Laut or Sea Jakun of the Malay Peninsula. Of the Jakun and the Orang Laut Messrs. Skeat and Blagden say[2] "it seems safe to conclude that both are branches of a Mongoloid stock which probably inhabited the Peninsula before the irruption of the more civilized Malays." Whatever their origin may have been the Salons now talk a language that has been placed in the Malay family. They are a timid, backward race, living for the most part in boats and avoiding civilized haunts and comparatively little has as yet been ascertained about them. The main authorities on the Salons are given in the bibliographical note on page 106. The total of Salons at the 1901 Census was 1,325, all enumerated in the Mergui District. This was somewhat below the 1891 total, but there seems reason to believe that the tribe is not—as at one time was thought—steadily dying out, The Salons call themselves Mawkhen. The name they ate now ordinarily known by is one that has been given them by the Burmans. Its precise origin is not known, but one naturally connects it with Salang or Junk Seylon, an island south of the Mergui Archipelago and Selangor between Penang and Singapore.

The Malays call the Salons Orang Besim; which suggests Besisi or Orang Resisi, the name for certain Jakun sea tribes of the Selangor and Malacca coast.

  1. Vide page 462 of Volume II, "Pagan races of the Malay Peninsula." Skeat and Blagden, London, 1906.
  2. Ibid. Volume I, page 91.