Introduction / History The Western Kayah people live in 150 villages plus towns in Kayah State, which is located on the eastern border of central Myanmar. Each village has one elementary school. Their population in Myanmar is approximately 150,000 with another 3,000 living in northern Thailand. Most of the people that live in Thailand relocated in order to take advantage of better employment opportunities.
The origin of the Kayah people could possibly be Mongolia. Although the people live mainly on mountain slopes, they are able to grow corn, groundnuts, berries and vegetables. They also raise cattle and do some hunting. The temperature on the mountains can get as low as 10F during the winter whereas the temperature in the summer can be as high as 70F. The New Testament has been available since 2010. One of their interesting celebrations is the Pole Festival. Each year, a pole is placed in the ground and the shopkeepers bring a small portion of their goods and leave it at the pole. Since the poles are left in the ground, the age of the village can be determined by counting the poles.
With a population in excess of a quarter million, the Western Kayah are the largest ethnic group in Kayah State in eastern Myanmar. The main centre for the Kayah people is the town of Loikaw in north-western Kayah State. An additional 20,000 Western Kayah are presently stuck in refugee camps across the border in Thailand. (Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, 2004)