The Burmese of Thailand
The Burmese are the political, economic, and religious leaders of Myanmar. Myanmar has had a long history of coups, wars, and rebellions. Ethnic divisions and political unrest have been common since the first Burmese kingdom in the eleventh century.
Many Burmese fled to Thailand in hopes of finding a more peaceful climate. Unfortunately, Thailand has had its own problems with governmental changes, military coups, and riots. The Burmese refugees placed an added strain on Thailand's economy. Sadly, the Burmese have lived in a constant state of instability, defense, bitterness, and fear.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Although the Burmese ideally grow rice in irrigated fields, they also resort to "slash and burn" cultivation. With this process, the fields are cut and burned before any new crops are planted. To help in the fields, cattle and buffalo are raised to draw heavy wooden plows. It is a daily task for a whole Burmese family to go out into the fields to work. Mothers work with their babies, while the older children accompany their grandparents.
Various types of houses can be found in the Burmese villages. The wealthier people often live in sturdy, mahogany homes that are raised off the ground and have plank floors and tile roofs. Those with lower incomes may live in thatched roof, bamboo houses that have dirt floors. All activities take place on the dirt floors, including eating and sleeping. Therefore, it is extremely impolite to enter a Burmese house wearing shoes.
The single most important social institution in the village is the temple. It symbolizes unity among the villagers, and provides a wide variety of activities for the people.
The Burmese do not recognize clans or lineages. Marriages are monogamous, and rarely arranged by the parents. Young couples generally live with the brides' parents for the first few years after they are married. They will set up their own homes after two or three years.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Their animistic beliefs center around inherently evil spirits called nats. The Burmese spend their lives trying to appease the nats so that they will be protected from any other evil spirits that may seek to harm them. All Burmese homes have altars for the spirits, as well as a statue of Buddha.
According to their Buddhist faith, the Burmese believe that death is not a threat to one who has done good deeds. Instead, death is simply a "passing" from one life to another. Buddhists believe that those with less merit are reborn as demons, ghosts, animals, or inhabitants of hell.
What Are Their Needs?
Two missions agencies are currently targeting the Burmese in Thailand. However, less than 1% of the Burmese community has come to Christ. Fervent prayer and effective evangelism are the keys to seeing them reached with the Gospel.Prayer Points
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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