Burmese Malays

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Burmese Malays
Melayu Myanmar/ملايو ميانمار
Pashu Burma.jpg
A group of Burmese Malays in the 1950s.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Tanintharyi (mostly in Kawthaung District)
Kedah Malay · Southern Thai · Burmese
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Malays (especially Kedahan Malays and Satun Malays)

Burmese Malays (Malay: Melayu Myanmar, Jawi: ملايو ميانمار, Burmese: ပသျှူးလူမျိုး, Pashu[1]), primarily live in Tanintharyi Region in the southern part of Myanmar.

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.

Language, culture and religion[edit]

The Malays living in Southern Burma are related to the Kedahan Malay and maintain strong kinship, cultural and economic links to the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia and Southern Thailand till today. They speak Burmese and Kedah-Perlis dialect. Due to the prevalence of Islamic religious schooling among the community, many of these Malays can also read the Jawi script which was the old Arabic-derived script used in the Malay Peninsula.

Most Malays are adherents of the Shafi'i madhab of Sunni Islam. Due to their historical presence and geographic location, some may have been assimilated into the dominant Mon and Bamar identities who practice Buddhism. The Mokens, although related to the Malays, have their own Austronesian languages and a separate cultural, societal and religious identity.

See also[edit]

  • 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