Zaw Moe Oo (Myeik)
MYEIK- Most Salon nationals who recently migrated to Thailand have turned and arrived in the Myeik Archipelago, Taninthayi Region during the third week of January to hold a traditional nat (spirit) festival.
Salon nationals have to hold their traditional spirit festival at the Myeik archipelagos in Tabaung month, according to the Myanmar lunar calendar.
Due to job shortages in the Myeik Archipelago, many Salon people migrated to Thailand, with some settling there. Others have returned, many of them disenchanted with their treatment in Thailand, where some found jobs in the fishing industry.
“Mostly, they[Salon] were manipulated into working in the fishing industry,” said Ko Htwe from Lanpi Island. “Bamar nationals married the Salon females based in Thailand and they persuaded Salon people to join the fishing industry. They fished until they reached Sular Island in the Thai Border Area.”
The Salon people found the fishing was convenient work, but when they had enough food they returned home to the Myeik Archipelago to hold a traditional nat festival and pray for the success of their business, said Ko Htwe.
The traditional nat festival was held with the help of Saw Lu Kar, Ethnic Affairs Minister from the Taninthayi Region Government Committee.
The government recognises the need to create job opportunities for the Salon population.
Up to 1,900 Salon nationals are now in the Myeik archipelago. The Salon are often called “sea gypsies” because of their traditional nomadic seafaring lifestyles, is declining rapidly, sparking concerns that they are in danger of cultural extinction.
Conserving the traditional lifestyle of Salon nationals is considered important because there is a national and international interest in their culture.
According to the 1976 census, there were more than 6,000 Salon in the Myeik Archipelago. In 2001, there were about 4,000 Salon people – 2,274 on the islands and 1,276 living on the sea. According to a proposal submitted to the regional parliament on November 9, 2012, there were 3,438 Salon people left. According to the latest list, there are about 1,800 Salon people left in the region.