The Mon people, an ethnic group from Myanmar
Who are the Mon people?
The Mon people are an ethnic group from Myanmar (Burma), living mostly in Mon State, Bago Division, the Irrawaddy Delta, along the Southern Thai-Myanmar border, in the Western provinces of Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi, in the Gulf province of Samut Sakhon and in Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani. The Mon people were one of the earliest people to inhabit in Southeast Asia. Additionally, the Mon people were responsible for the spread of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar and Thailand. The Mon people have endured centuries of persecution, displacement and forced assimilation and nowadays they are still fighting for the conservation of the Mon autonomy. It is not strange if you look at their history of being persecuted, displaced and forced to assimilate that some people call the Mon people “the Palestinians of Asia”.
The traditional culture
The Mon language was an important language, it has been the primary language for multiple long times in the history of Myanmar. However, in recent years the usage of Mon has declined rapidly. The number of Mon speakers is relatively very small compared to the large numbers of Mon people. The usage of the Mon language is especially declined by the younger generation, the majority of the Mon people speak and are literate only in the Burmese language. However, just like their striving for the conservation of their political autonomy, the Mon people are fighting for the conservation of their language and culture in general as well. The Mon language continues to be propagated mostly by the monks.
Whereas it could be seen in many places in Myanmar back in the age, the traditional Mon dance is a rare performance nowadays. Kanchanaburi is one of the few places in Thailand where this can still be experienced. The Mon dance performance consists of 8 chapters: welcome dance, kid’s dance, water festival dance, candle light dance, flirting dance, two males and two females culture dance, solo female culture dance and farewell dance. The dance is supported by background music using a set of traditional instruments consisting of for example drums and claps, xylophone, gongs, flute, flat guitar etcetera. At the Kanchanaburi resorts you can enjoy the authentic show every evening after dinner. The dancers are the Mon people from the Mon villages surrounding the resorts, guided by a master who lived in Myanmar in the years when the traditional Mon dances were not as rare as today.
The wearing of thanakha is a characteristic feature of the culture of Myanmar, the unique traditional kind of make-up has been used for over 2000 years. Thanakha is especially used by women and girls from Myanmar and sometimes as well by men and boys. Thanakha is made by grinding the bark, wood or roots of a thanakha tree with a small amount of water on a circular stone slab called kyauk pyin. The pale, yellowish paste can be applied on the face but as well on the body, arms and legs. The advantages of the use of thanakha is that it cools the skin, overcomes the sunburn, tightens the pores, smooths the skin, removes acne and more. The pale, yellowish paste goes well with the yellow complexion of the people of Myanmar and is often applied in different patterns on the people’s faces which shows the traditional charm.
The Kanchanaburi resorts, in the name of SERENATA Hotels & Resorts Group, believe in conserving the local communities and their cultures. By giving them the opportunity to work and to have education, they want to improve their standard of living. The local Mon community is helped by projects like building Mon culture temples, schools, buildings, providing clean water, proper waste management etcetera. In the resorts a lot of Mon people are working, they have a very big heart for service.