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Tavoy (Myanmar)

Last modified: 2011-03-18 by ian macdonald
Keywords: tavoy | myanmar |
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[Tavoy People] image by Eugene Ipavec, 6 February 2011
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The Tavoy People

Also known as Myeik-Dawei, there are more than 1 200 000 Tavoyans, most in Myanmar, but some live also in Thailand and India. They are a people of mixed Burman, Karen, Thai and Malay background. Although related to the Burman majority of the Irrawaddy Delta, the Tavoyans consider themselves a separate nation, but it is not recognized by the military government of Myanmar. Officialy, the Tavoyans are considered a branch of the dominant Burman nation. Their dialects belong to the southern branch of the Burmish group of the Tibeto-Burman languages. The Tavoyans insist it is a separate language.

In the distant past, the Tavoy region was an autonomous entity under alternating Burman or Thai influence. In XVI Century, with the Portuguese assistance, the Burman Kingdom asserted its authority there, but the Thais reconquered it soon only to loose it to Burma again in 1767. Between 1862 and 1923, Tavoy, as a part of Tenasserim province, was under British rule and included in British India as a separate province on its own. In 1923, it was transferred to Burma, still within British India. In 1937 the Burmese British government was separated from British India and Tavoyans, in spite of pleas and demands for the separate status were included under it.

During the WW II, the Tavoyans remained loyal and fought the Japanese while most of the Burmese collaborated with them. On Burma's independence, the Tavoyan demands for autonomy were ignored and the armed struggle, supported by the Communist Party of Burma, was initiated. The insurgents, with the help of Karen and Mon rebels, managed to control some areas of Tavoy close to Thai border. In late 1990s and early 2000s, some rebel units of the leading nationalist organization, Myeik Dawei United Front, signed the peace agreements with the Myanmarese junta, but the core of MDUF remains in opposition to the junta and continues hit and run attacks on Myanmarese troops guarding the oil installations and pipelines in the area.

James B. Minahan, in his 'Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations - Ethnic and National Groups Around the World - volume IV' describes and pictures the flag of Tavoy as: "The Tavoyan national flag, the flag of the Myeik-Dawei United Front (MDUF), is the pale blue field bearing a red canton on the upper hoist charged with three gold,
five-pointed stars."
Chrystian Kretowicz, 12 April 2009