Pa'O people

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Pa-Oh people
Pa O Tribe Kalaw Shan Myanmar.jpg
A Pa'O woman near Kalaw, Southern Shan State
Total population
Total: 600,000 (2010 est.); 600,000 in Shan State
Regions with significant populations
Pa'O, Burmese, Shan
Theravada Buddhism

The Pa-O (Burmese: ပအိုဝ့်လူမျိုး or တောင်သူ [pəo̰]; Shan: ပဢူဝ်း are the seventh largest ethnic nationality in the Union of Burma with a population of approximately 600,000[1]- 1,800,000.[2]

They are the second largest ethnic group in Shan State, and also live in Kayin State, Kayah State, Mon State and Bago Division. They are believed to be of Tibeto-Burman stock, and are ethnolinguistically related to the Karen. Migrant workers and people fleeing ongoing conflict inside Myanmar means many Pa-Oh people now live in Mae Hong Son Province, in Northern Thailand. The Pa-O people are two distinct groups - The Lowland, based around Thaton, and The Highland from Taunggyi and its surrounds. However, there may be as many as twenty-four Pa-O subgroups. [3]

Pa'O women selling vegetables


The Pa'O settled in the Thaton region of present-day Myanmar around 1000 B.C. Historically, the Pa'O wore colorful clothing, until King Anawratha defeated the Mon King Makuta, of Thaton. The Pa'O were enslaved, and forced to wear indigo-dyed clothing, to signify their status.


The Pa'O predominantly engage in agriculture, cultivating the leaves of the Thanapet tree (Cordia dichotoma) and mustard leaves,as well as onion, garlic, chill, potato, rice, peanuts, beans, sesame seeds and green tea.

Famous Pa-Oh[edit]

Daw Kyaing Kyaing,[4] Than Shwe's wife, Nang Khin Zay Yar, Miss Myanmar International-2012,khun aung soe win, future leader for Pa Oh tribe.


The Fire Rocket Festival[edit]

The “Pway Lu-Phaing” or fire rocket festival is celebrated during the months of April to July. The aim is to bring good rains during the planting season. Pa-oh people believe that the rockets will help the clouds make rain. It also shows the unity and friendship of different villages as they gather together for one week. “Pway” means festival, “Lue” means donation and “Phaing” means to remove ours sins". The size of rocket depends on the village headman. The largest rockets can contain up to 20 kilograms of gunpowder and they can travel 5–6 miles. The rocket used to be made from bamboo but nowadays iron is used. Before the rocket is fired, it is carried on someone's shoulder around the local temple one time. [5]

Pa'O National Day[edit]

Pa'O National Day or " Den See Lar Bway" is celebrated on "Tarbaung full day" which falls in March.[6] The National Day is a day to remember ancestors, such as King Thuriyasanda, whose birthday is also celebrated on National Day, and past leaders. There is a grand parade through Taunggyi followed by a festival. [7]

Pa'O Religious Beliefs[edit]

The majority of Pa'O people follow Buddhism. Some are Christian and some maintain Animist beliefs. Most of their festivals are based on Buddhism. Poy Sang Long (Burmese: ?)celebrates the initiation of young boys as novice monks. On reaching adulthood being ordained as a monk is a family celebration. During Buddhist Lent, from August to October Pa'O youth participate in the Pwe Lip May Bo (Burmese: မီးၾကာလွည္႔ပြဲ) ceremony. On Full-moon Night, New Moon Night and both Half Moon Nights, they surround their local temple with lanterns which are suspended on string raised by supporting bamboo stands. The bamboo stands are used to carry the lanterns around the temple three times, the candles being lit as they are carried, as a show of respect to Buddha.

Origins Belief[edit]

The Pa'O origin story believed that they are derived from Zawgyi and dragon. Zawgyi is male and the dragon is female.


Pa-O woman harvesting chilies

The Pa'O people of upper Myanmar wear black or navy blue, For men, the traditional outfit consists of a turban, a white shirt, black or navy jacket and long black trousers. For women, their tradition outfit comprises five pieces; a blouse, a jacket, a longyi, that covers the knees, a turban and two (large conical shaped) hair pins. Both men and women pin a Pa'O flag badge on to their jacket. It represents the Zawgyi and Dragon from their origin belief. Men use a large red sling bag to carry knives, hoes or long choppers. Women use a cane or bamboo sling basket. Those from lower Myanmar wear Burmese style clothing.


First the young man’s parents go to ask the young woman’s parents for the hand of their daughter in marriage on behalf or their son. Her parents can take four or five days to discuss their daughter’s wishes. According to custom guests at the marriage ceremony tie cotton threads around the wrists of both the bridegroom and bride, joining them together whilst blessing the couple with their best wishes. Common presents include money, farmland, houses, buffaloes, male cows and household items.

Arranging a Funeral[edit]

Villagers take care of funeral arrangements. The body is kept for a couple of nights at home. Food is cooked to offer to the monks and people play card games to as a way of giving constant companionship to the departed. After 2 or 3 days the family makes merit for the person who died. Common people are buried whilst monks are cremated.


U Khun Sein Win, pen-name KanBawZa Mg Phone Yee, was born on 31 August 1948 in North Inyar village in Southern Shan State, Myanmar. Since graduating from Mandalay Arts and Science University with a B.A. he has received many awards and prizes for his novels and feature magazine articles. [8] His most famous book, I Want to Say, about Pa'O history, was published in 1985 .He has written articles for Myawaddy, Chu Ma Wa, Ngwe Taung Yee, Myatmeingalar and “Doe Kyaung Tar” magazines. Since 1993 he has chaired the Literature and Magazine Association in Taunggyi, he has worked as editor fellow for the Shan State Peaceful and Development Council monthly magazine Kanbawza New Bulletin, and he has been a member of the "Shan State Women" committee. He lives in Taunggyi, were he continues to study and write literature. He is also a renowned speaker.


Khun Thar Doon (1940-1978) was one of the early recording stars of Pa'O music. He set up the first Pa'O modern band in early 1970s. One of his famous songs is Tee Ree Ree [9] a song about Pa'O solidarity. This song is still sung at traditional festivals til today. He is on the cover of Guitars Of The Golden Triangle: Folk And Pop Music Of Myanmar (Burma) Vol. 2.[10] Some of the artists appearing on the compilation cover songs he wrote.


Political Party[edit]

U Aung Kham Hti is the leader of Pa-O National Organization (PNO). The party currently has three representatives in the People's Assembly, one in the National Assembly and six in the Local Assembly.[11] Khun San Lwin, a former member of the PNO, is currently Chairman of the Pa'O Self-Administered Zone.[12]


  1. ^ Interactive Myanmar map, retrieved 22 April 2014 
  2. ^ Pa-Oh National Organization (2010). Pyi Thoung Su Tae Ka Pa-Oh: Union of Pa-Oh (Burmese: ျပည္ေထာင္စုထဲက ပအိုဝ္း. Pa-Oh National Organization. p. 23. 
  3. ^ Pa-Oh National Organization (2010). Pyi Thoung Su Tae Ka Pa-Oh: Union of Pa-Oh (Burmese: ျပည္ေထာင္စုထဲက ပအိုဝ္း. Pa-Oh National Organization. p. 23. 
  4. ^ Than Shwe—Man in the Iron Mask
  5. ^ Ni Lu Phaing (A song about the Fire Rocket Festival), retrieved 10 April 2014 
  6. ^ Nandar Chann (May 2004). "Pa-O: The Forgotten People". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  7. ^ News report about Pa-Oh National Day, retrieved 2 April 2014 
  8. ^ Ban Maw Thin Aung (October,1978). Burmese: ကိုလိုနီေခတ္ျမန္မာ႔သမိုင္း Myanmar History of Colony Era. p. 22.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ Tee Ree Ree Cover Version, retrieved 2 April 2014 
  10. ^ Sublime Frequencies: Guitars Of The Golden Triangle: Folk And Pop Music Of Myanmar (Burma) Vol. 2., retrieved 18 April 2014 
  11. ^ Altsean, retrieved 22 April 2014 
  12. ^ Kyaw, Hsu Mon (3 June 2014). "Without Knowledge, We Can’t Attempt to Develop". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 19 June 2014.