The southernmost islands of the Mergui Archipelago (also Myeik Archipelago) is home to the Moken people, a nomadic ethnic minority related to the Malays. There are also some dispersed Malay and Malay related Muslims from the northernmost states of Malaysia and Southern Thailand. Some of the Moken and the Muslims in these southernmost islands speak a dialect of Malay. The Malays are believed to be of Kedahan Malay descent, although the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa makes no mention whatsoever of the Mergui Archipelago.
In 1865, an Arab-Malay group led by Nayuda Ahmed, traveling and collecting sea products around Mergui Archipelago settled down in Victoria Point Bay, which is now located in modern-day Kawthaung. The Burmese Malays mainly live in Bokpyin Township and a few islands in the southern part of the Mergui Archipelago.
The Malay influence is clearly visible in the names of certain settlements near Kawthaung - the words Kampong, Ulu, Telok, Tengah and Pulau (Malay words for village, remote, bay, central and island respectively) appear in a handful of settlement names. However, these names do not prove the demographics of the settlements.
Language, culture and religion
The Malays living in Southern Burma are related to the Kedahan Malay. They speak Burmese and Kedah-Perlis dialect. Some of these Malays can also read the Jawi script which was the old Arabic-derived script used in the Malay Peninsula.
Many of the Malays are adherents of the Shafi Madhab sect of Sunni Islam. Due to their historical presence and geographic location, some have been assimilated into the dominant Mon and Bamar identities and practice Buddhism.
The Mokens, although related to the Malays, have their own Austronesian languages and a separate cultural, societal and religious identity.
- Malays (ethnic group), the ethnic group located primarily in the Malay peninsula, and parts of Sumatra and Borneo
- Malay race, a racial category encompassing the people of South East Asia and sometimes the Pacific Islands
- Overseas Malays, people of Malay ancestry living outside Malaysia and neighbouring ethnic Malay home areas
- Islam in Myanmar