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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."
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.
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.
The Dawei practice Buddhism, the major world religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha, who lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths by which one can gain spiritual knowledge and escape the endless cycles of reincarnation. Theravada, one of the two major branches of Buddhism, declares that by following the Noble Eightfold Path of right intentions and right actions that a Buddhist can achieve nirvana or a state of freedom and salvation. Mahayana Buddhism, the other main branch of Buddhism, asserts that by following the six perfections that a Buddhist can move along the path to Enlightenment. Tibetan Buddhism falls within the Mahayana school.
To most Buddhists, however, these things have far less meaning than their traditional beliefs, which are usually animistic. In animism, evil spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals. Buddhism allows people to mix Buddhist teachings with traditional religion.
Two of the important Buddhist yearly holidays are Vesak, the Buddha's birthday celebrated in May or June and Bodhi Day, the holiday which commemorates the day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.
The Dawei people in Thailand need to be able to start their lives again. There are probably many among them who are traumatized by the abuse of the Myanmar government.
Pray for the authority of Christ to bind hindering spiritual forces to lead them from darkness to light.
Pray for signs and wonders among them and for great breakthroughs with a rapid multiplication of disciples and house churches.
Pray for bold workers who are driven by the love of the Holy Spirit to go to them.
Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them.