About Tai(Shan)

Sao Sur Khan Fa
King Sao Sur Khan Fa of Mao Kingdom

The Shan who call themselves the Tai are found primarily the Shan State of Burma. The Burmese word "Shan" (referring to the Tai) is variously spelled Syam, Syaam, and Syan in the inscriptions of the Pagan period (1044-1334) and in old Burmese texts. In modern Burma the Tai people are called Shan, as are various other branches of the Tai people of Shan state in Burma.
The Shan are a branch of the Tai race. Historical accounts maintain that Upper Burma was the place of the Pyu and the Shan before the establishment of the Pagan kingdom by Anawratha (1044-1077). In Yunnan the Mao kingdom of the Shan existed until it was subdued by the Ming court. From that base they often sent forays into Upper Burma and Assam. Later they had Shan colonies in some parts of southern and northern Shan state, Kachin state, and Sagaing Division in Upper Burma, and all these colonies were under the suzerainty of a Mao chief. Eventually the Shans also controlled almost all Upper Burma. This Shan period of Burmese history lasted from about 1300 until 1540. The Shan of Yunnan, however, were subdued by the Chinese after three successive wars (1441-1448). The final destruction of Shan power in Yunnan occurred in 1604 when the Chinese troops swooped down on Mongmao. After the collapse of the Mao kingdom in Yunnan, the power of the Shan in Burma also weakened and the group finally disintegrated into many small Shan principalities. The development of the Shan in Burma depended much upon the political history of Burma which eventually divided the Shan into such groups as:

a. the Khamti Shan (the Tai in the Khamti region of Sagaing division in Upper Burma)
b. the Mao Shan (the Tai in the Mao River valley in northern Shan state)
c. the Tai Leng (the Red Tai in Kachin state)
d. the Gum Shan (the Tai Hkun in the Kengtung district of eastern Shan state)

The Shan (Tai) are spread throughout Burma, in Shan state, Kachin state, and Sagaing division. The states and divisions in Burma were fixed during the British administration period (1885-1948). In the time of the Burmese kings, the Shan (Tai) areas were named "Saint Taing," "Kambawza Taing," "Haripunza Taing," "Khemawara Taing," etc. In the British administration period (1885-1948), Burma was reorganized into states, divisions, and hill tracts. The present Shan state was formed during the British period, becoming the "Federated Shan States" in 1922. The rest of the Shan areas in Burma were put into Sagaing division, Myitkyina, Bhamo, and Putao districts. The geographical barriers, difficulties in communication, and the system of administration since the times of the Burmese kings separated the Shan from each other, resulting in each group developing its own way of culture and tradition. Thus, those Shan who settled in the Khamti region are called Khamti Shan, those in the Mao River valley are Mao Shan, and those in eastern Shan state are the Hkuns.

A Brief History of Tai(Shan)

“Shan” comes from the Burmese rendering of  “Siam” or “Siem” the name by which the ancient Khmer or Cambodians call the Tai or Thai People. The Shan are members of the Tai Speaking Peoples who today live in northeastern India, Burma & the Federated Shan States, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and south & southwestern China. In 1957, Premier Chou-en-lai said that there are over 100 million Tai or Dai Speaking Peoples in the People’s Republic of China.

Historically Shan or Tai Kingdoms & Principalities have stretched from northeast India through Southeast Asia and into south & southwestern China and the Shan today are linguistically and culturally closely related to modern Thailand and Laos.

In the late 19th century the Shan Principalities on the Shan Plateau were annexed by the British following their conquest of the Burmese kingdom of Mandalay and British Burma then consisted of the Shan States, “Burma Proper” and the Frontier Areas.

Administratively, the Shan States as a Protectorate ruled themselves & had autonomy in internal affairs separate from “Burma Proper” which was governed directly by the British Governor in Rangoon – and indeed Banknotes of British Burma were inscribed in English, Shan & Burmese.

After the end of WWII the Shan Princes & Representatives in 1946 convened the First Panglong Conference in the Shan States attended also by Leaders & Representatives of the British Burma Frontier Areas. A second Conference was called in 1947 to which the Burmese came as Observers and it was at this second Conference that General Aung San of the Burmese tabled a proposal to include “Burma Proper” in forming a Union.  In the vote that followed, the Shan narrowly by a margin of 51:49%, voted for the Union of equal partnership and because of this decision take by the Shan, the Chin, Kachin & Karenni also ratified the Panglong Agreement which also specified the Right of Secession – a Right that is also recognized in the 1948 Union of Burma Constitution, Chapter X specifically stating the Shan State’s Right to Secede from the Union of Burma after 10 years.

Following the second Burmese military coup in 1962, the Shan State has lost all its autonomy and is now under Nazi-like occupation of the Burmese SPDC regime. In 2000, 2004 & 2006, Shan Leaders secretly and clandestinely held meetings and canvassed the people of the Se-Viengs or Counties of the Shan lands resulting in 2000 & 2004 in a 48:14 voting for independence and that majority rising to 54:8 or 87% majority for independence in 2006.

On April 17, 2005 President Prince Hso-khan-pha of Yawnghwe, under instructions from the Shan Leadership inside occupied Federated Shan States (consisting of Shan, Palaung, Pa-O, Kokang States and other ethnic communities), made a Declaration of Independence and the Shan Government is now working to fulfill its Mandate for Independence and to deliver humanitarian relief to the victims of Burmese SPDC atrocities and war crimes.

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