For the Karen, rice is essential. This is the harvest.  ´                       Rice and cash crop terraces.               Courgette cultivation for selling.


The Karen (Pgaz K`Nyau) in northern Thailand



A minority in Thailand


The Karen represent the largest minority in Thailand with about 1,000,000 people and live predominantly in small villages of 300 to 1000 inhabitants in the northwestern Thai highlands. The Karen call themselves and their language Pgaz K`Nyau, which is pronounced more or less "Bra gie nijo". They immigrated from Burma (probably originating in Tibet) about 200 to 300 years ago - even before the Thai - to their present settlement area. The majority of the people still depend on subsistence rice farming, but increasingly also on the cultivation of market fruits (cash crops: vegetables, flowers, etc.) and, regrettably, very low-paid manual labour. The Karen are a people in transition, living between traditions and modern age. They acknowledge the dangers and opportunities of contemporary life and try to balance traditional and modern ways of life. Most villagers would like to see their houses equipped with " the latest" electricity supplies. Many Karen see the importance of increasing connections to Thai society, but nevertheless want to keep their culture, language and identity as Karen. The most serious problems of the Karen are poverty and all the disadvantages that can be related to it (malnutrition, insufficient health care, poor education, etc.), and a scarcity of land (many Karen do not hold official land titles) in addition to discrimination by the Thai population and authorities.