Introduction / History
The main Tavoyan town of Dawei (formerly known as Tavoy) has been inhabited for at least 500 years. As early as 1586, the town was one of the main producers of tin in Asia, supplying all of India. In the mid-1700s the town became the possession of the Ayutthaya rulers in today's Thailand, who used it as a trade port.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Dawei people inhabit a long coastal stretch of the Tanintharyi Division (known as Tenasserim prior to 1989) in southern Myanmar. There are five major ethnic groups present in the Tanintharyi Division, which runs parallel with Thailand in the thin tract of land that separates the Andaman Sea from the Gulf of Thailand. The Dawei inhabit the northern part of the state, centered around their ancient homeland of Dawei City.
A small number of Dawei people have made their way across the border and now live in refugee camps inside Thailand. They fled to Thailand to escape oppression at the hands of the Burmese authorities. In the mid-1990s, more than 15,000 local civilians were forced to work on the construction of the Ye to Dawei railway. The inhumane conditions resulted in hundreds of deaths. The railway was not constructed for tourism or trade, but to help the Burmese military rapidly deploy troops to the troubled border areas.
For centuries the Dawei people have been peace loving and gentle people, but their patience has been pushed to the limit by the evil activities and abuses of the Burmese junta. Even after arriving in Thailand, one group of refugees was reportedly attacked by a battalion of Myanmar's 62nd Infantry.
Many young Tavoyan men in Dawei have been forced to attend Burmese military training to counter insurgency groups. Today there are at least 22 rebel armies operating against the Burmese in Myanmar.
It is difficult to identify the Dawei today because of their close ethnic and linguistic affinity to the Burmese. It is not easy to judge where one group stops and the other begins.
In addition to cultural differences, their dialect is different enough from standard Burmese to make communication difficult. The Ethnologue states that they are "one of the better known varieties of nonstandard Burmese with profound pronunciation and vocabulary differences from Burmese."
For centuries the Dawei people have been a peace-loving and gentle people.
Scripture Prayers for the Dawei, Tavoyan in Myanmar (Burma).