Pa an MyanmarMyanmar Pa to Myanmar
Pa-O lives in Mon State, Karen State and as far away as the Tanintharyi (formerly Tenasserim) Division on the Gulf of Martahan in the tip of Myanmar.
Another 900 Pa-O are living in Thailand and inhabit four small towns in the Muang District of Mae Hong Son Province. Pa-O in Thailand escaped from Myanmar in 1975 because of the horrific societal changes and violations of civil liberties by the Myanmar army in 1975. Pa-O are named Taungthu by the Burmese, which means "mountain people".
UK colonists named them Blacks Karen because most Pa-O ladies wore either blacks or darks. They are part of the large Karen group collections in Myanmar and Thailand, which together comprise up to five million individuals in 20 linguistic groups. However, many Pa-O do not even know of this link to the Karen and see themselves as a singular ethnic group.
They believe that their descendants escaped from the Monstadt Thaton in Lower Burma after the fall of the Moon King Manuha in the 11th c. by King Anawrahta from Pagan to the Shan State. Nowadays, the Pa-O are the second largest ethnical group in the Shan state after the Shan.
The Pa-O's religion is a crucial area in which they differ from other Karen groups. Whilst most Karen are either animalists or Christians, the Pa-O have been a powerful group of Buddhists for many hundreds of years. To some extent Buddhism has affected all Karen groups, but Buddhism has dominated every area of Pa-O life and community.
Most Pa-O settlements in Myanmar are characterised by the splendid wood shrines built on the edge of their settlements. Even though an estimation estimates the number of Pa-O Christians at about 12,000 (1.7%), most Pa-O Buddhists have decisively refused all attempts to evangelise them. There is a saying in one source: "The Pa-O peoples are buddhist.
On the first morning of the practice for novices, known as the doi, the sound of drum, gong and cymbal sounded between the mountains when young men with shaven faces were brought from their houses to the sanctuary. They still maintain animistic convictions to some degree, but much less than the Pwo and Sgaw Karen.
Spiritual sanctuaries are outside village or near a pagoda, where sacrifices can be made. In 1912 the ministers for the first time ever interpreted parts of the scriptures in Pa-O, and the Jesus movie is now available in their own languages.