The Karen or Kayin people refer to a number of Sino-Tibetan language speaking ethnic groups which reside primarily in southern and southeastern Burma (Myanmar). The Karen make up approximately 7 percent of the total Burmese population of approximately 50 million people. A large number of Karen also reside in Thailand, mostly on the Thai_Burmese border. The Karen are often confused with the Red Karen (or Karenni). The subgroup of the Karenni, the Padaung tribe from the border region of Burma and Thailand, are best known for the neck rings worn by the women of this group of people. Some of the Karen, led primarily by the Karen National Union (KNU), have waged a war against the central government since early 1949. The aim of the KNU at first was independence. Since 1976 the armed group has called for a federal system rather than an independent Karen State. Karen legends refer to a 'river of running sand' which ancestors reputedly crossed.
Contributions by Ergative rlt, Wagaung, and Hintha.