The "Shan" have a long and strong political history in an extensive area of Eastern and South-eastern Asia. They are the fore-runners of Northern Thailand's Lanna region and are directly attributable for the creation of Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, they are known by many names but universally Tai is accepted, and there are a number of sub-groups within this grouping.

The Shan people can be divided into five major groups:
The Tai Yai (တႆးယႂ်ႇ) or "Shan Proper"
The Tai Lue (တႆးလိုဝ်ႉ), located in Sipsong Panna (China) and the eastern states
The Tai Khuen (တႆးၶိုၼ်), the majority of Keng Tung
The Tai Neua (တႆးၼိူဝ်), mostly in Dehong (China)
The Tai Khamti, mostly in Assam and Manipur.

Their migration and penetration into societies can be monitored with some confidence by the use of modern genetic techniques. Their language is very notable and linguists have been able to determine the penetration and culture link-backs because of their language strength, this language is deemed to be the mother language of Tai-Lao speaking peoples. They have their own written script which closely parallels Burmese script. They have been rulers of Burma and Northern Thailand in time. Their numbers are in the millions within southern China and Burma.

The Shan are those of this group who have had their homeland in the upper areas of Myanmar. It was an alliance with the Shan that was to some extent the reason for the Burmese sacking of Ayutthya. The Shan number about 6 million people. The three SEA countries with significant Shan populations are Burma, Thailand and Cambodia. There have been refugee migrations across the Thai border and previously they had been given Thai citizenship. More recently there has been action against certain Shan villages and many of their people escape to Thailand but there is no refugee status for these people. Many work as illegal labourers. The young men are particularly vulnerable as the forces either conscript them into the army without pay or use them as enslaved labour for public works again without pay and food. Estimates of 2 million of these youth are in Thailand working illegally to escape this tyranny.

The Shan diet and cuisine is predominantly vegetable with little meat being eaten. The Shan are Buddhist of the Mahayana sect. They eat what little fish they have access to and this generally is roasted in or on hot coals, protected by layers of leaves such as banana or green bamboo. Recipes that include meat can usually be stripped of the meat and any other vegetable proteins source used as a substitute.



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