Shan community brims with pride


Public interest in the Shan ethnic minority, a subject some scholars say is vastly under-explored, has been given a boost by a recent seminar at Chulalongkorn University.

The seminar, a joint effort by the university’s Institute of Asian Studies and Shan arts and culture associations, has brought a huge smile to Puendam Laemthong, chairman of the Shan Cultural Association of Thailand.

He said the three-day seminar, which ended on Oct 17, was intellectually invigorating and it was useful in spreading knowledge and insights about the different perspectives of Shan cultural roots.

As a Shan, he said he felt proud that the seminar had focused attention on the ethnic minority’s heritage.

”At least some people in this world have taken the interest to study, research and document our ethnic culture,” Mr Puendam said.

The seminar brought together large groups of people from the political, economic and social sectors as well as historians and non-governmental and civic organisations.

Discussion panels stirred constructive and thought-provoking exchanges of views from experts which left many wondering why the Shan ethnicity, which shares many cultural features with people in the Asean region, has not been given more attention in academic circles.

The seminar included an intermission during which a rare Shan traditional dance was performed while Shan delicacies were offered to attendees.
Mr Puendam said many Shan ethnic people living in Thailand as migrant workers were not able to attend the forum. Some were thought to have entered the country illegally and did not wish to be identified.

He estimated that people of Shan descent make up half of the migrant workers, both legal and illegal in Thailand. It is believed as many as 3 million such workers make a living here.

The Shan people form small self-help groups to look after one another. When called upon, they come together to assist fellow Shans in distress.

Mr Puendam said he and other Shans were thankful to the people of Thailand who had accepted them into their society.

The Shan history is made up of fascinating, little-known facts. Kuensai Jaiyen, editor of the Shan Herald Agency for News, said German researchers had found after 20 years of study that Taoism may have originated in the Shan area.

He said it was a discovery that had excited the academic community.

The Shan expatriates hope one day to be able to establish an international academic network devoted to the compilation of all aspects of Shan culture, history and tradition.

The recent seminar may already have drawn people’s attention to an ethnic population that has long been overlooked.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s