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Myanmar - Burmese peoples

Last modified: 2007-07-28 by ian macdonald
Keywords: myanmar | burma | arakan | kachin | karenni | pa-o | lahu | wa | palaung | mon | karen | kawthoolei | chin | naga | rohingya |
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From the Encyclopaedia Universalis CR-ROM (1998):
"Myanmar is a federal republic made of seven purely burmese divisions (Sagaing, Mandalay, Magwe, Pegu, Irrawaddy, Rangoon, Tenasserim) and seven states with non-burmese population (Kachin, Chan, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Arakan, Chin). National unity was not really achieved due to the diversity of populations. Burmese are mongoloid peoples speaking a language of the tibeto-burmese group, and represent 75% of the population, and up to 80% when including Arakans, who speak the same language but were more or less influenced by Islam, and Tenasserim Mo^ns, who speak a mo^n-khmer language and greatly influenced the Burmese civilization. Burmese are theravada buddhists.

Chan (1,500,000 ?) are Tha, related to Siamese, and also theravada buddhists. They have preserved a feudal organization and dominate proto-indochinese minorities

Kachin of the mountains (450,000 ?) speak a tibeto-burmese language but were not influenced by Indians. They are animists or christians.

Chin tribes (400, 000?) are also of tibeto-burmese language but remain very primitive, and their dialects differ from one valley to the other.

Karen (2,000,000 ?) of the mountains speak a language close to burmese but are animists and partially christianised."[eun]

Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999

The flags shown here are probably those of organizations engaged in a struggle against the Myanmar government, as the designs do not coincide with the "official" flags of the states as illustrated in Burmese postage stamps of 1974.
   The following tribes and peoples have reported flags:

See also:


Flag of Arakan people, Myanmar Mark Sensen, 1 June 1996, Crampton (1990)

This flag (based on W.Crampton, if I remember right) corresponds to the National United Front of Arakan (NUFA), the principal military organization of the State of Arakan, with more than two hundred regular soldiers, the majority Arakanese with some Chin and Rohingas. The Arakanese people number some four million and live in the western hill country of Myanmar. The flag of the organization is horizontal white on red, and in the white part, near the shaft, a red star.

Flag of Arakan people, Myanmar Than-Tam Le, 09 June 1999

Reported as a flag of the Arakan State in a letter from George Pasch to Thanh-Tam Le dating from May 1982.
Than-Tam Le 09 June 1999

Concerning Arakan:

"Moslims of bengali origin already rebelled against the government between 1948 and 1954. The citizenship law of 1981 made a distinction between nation indigen ethnics (Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, karen, Mon, Arakans) and those immigrated after 1824 (beginning of the first Angle-Burmese war who induced the annexation of Arakan). In 1982 appeared in Arakan refugees in Bangladesh the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (R. S. O.), which asked for the independence of North-Western. A new rebel organization, the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (A. R. I. F.) appeared in 1991." [eun]

Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999

Kachin Independence Organization

Flag of Kachin people, Myanmar Jaume Ollé, 13 August 1996

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) counts more than five thousand regular soldiers. The Kachin people numbers some two million persons, who live in northernmost Myanmar.

Jaume Ollé, 13 August 1996.

"Kachinland (Kachin Independence Orgnization) - Burma". Similar to the above, but with stripes of equal height and smaller emblem. Identical to "Hainan".

Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999

" Kachin Independence Army (K.I.A.) signed under the direction of Brang Seng, former director of Kachin Baptist High School in Myitkyina, in March 1976 with the Burmese Communist Party [a pro-chinese rebellion movement opposed to the Burmese government] a cooperation agreement, which was considered as ideological by the Communists but only tactical by the Kachin. On 10 October 1980, a new agreement stated that the alliance was based on mutual respect. Therefore, China provided directly the Kachin with weapons in exchange of illegal exportations. The Kachin movement was reunified in 1981." [eun]

Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999

Flag of Kachin people, Myanmar image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 14 June 2007

Based on image at:

Quoting from the above site:
Organization Name: It shall be called the Kachin National Organization or by its acronym, KNO.
Organization Homeland: It is a statehood and shall be called Kachinland.
Organization Emblem: Historic ceremonial poles representing Male and Female with a Harbinger Drum.
Organization Flag: Four colors with traditional meanings:
    Evergreen: Truth and Faith
    Red: Bravery and Sacrifice
    Blue: Loyalty and Peace
    White: Honesty and Integrity
    Sun: Source of Life
    Ceremonial Poles: Symbol of Cultural Heritage
Mikhail Revnivtsev, 13 June 2006

It is a red over green ~5:9 horizontal bicolor with large white emblem overall. This consists of a Namibian-style sun (i.e., disc surrounded by stubby triangle outwards for rays) with eight rays surrounded bracket-like by two arching elements (the said ceremonial poles?), these with black edging and lining. Both bottom ends of these show a fringe-like pattern; the hoist side pole top end is convex while the fly-side is convex, both are filled with a stylized sunrise/sunset motif. The main patterns are unequal: The hoist side pole is filled with a wave-like coiled motif repeating 6,5 times while the fly side pole is filled with six radial cells stroked on their diagonals and pseudo-apothems.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 14 June 2007


Flag of Karen people, Myanmar by Jaume Ollé

The national flag of Karen (Republic of Kawtholei) according Franciae Vexilla #20/66, December 2000, by J. Renault & H. Calvarin.
Jaume Ollé, 25 January 2001

See also:

  • Karen tribe for variants and other flags of the Karen people.


Flag of Karenni people, Myanmar Jaume Ollé, 16 August 1996

The Karenni Nation Progressive Party (KNPP) has 200 regular fighters (Kayaw, Kaya, Manamanaw, Shao, Pa-O and others). The Karenni number approximately 300,000.

Karenni (alternate)

Flag of Karenni people, Myanmar Jaume Ollé, 15 June 1998

An alternate version of the flag of the Karenni States is reported to have equal width stripes, red, white and blue, with a central motif in black consisting of a central 12-pointed star surrounded by four frogs in an inner circle and four fish in an outer circle.

Murray Menzies, Karenni Govt. South Pacific Regional Charge d'Affaires, 1 March 1998

In 'Franciae Vexillae' # 4/50 (January 1997), M. Corbic reports the history of the Karenni flag, as follows:

  • 1983: central emblem slightly different (see below).
  • 1988: with three equal stripes and central emblem slightly different (see below). Description comes from a photography.
  • 1993: The most recently seen flag. Three equal horizontal stripes blue-white-red with a white 5-pointed star near the hoist in the blue stripe.
The differences in the central emblem between the 1983 and 1988 versions and bu-kayah are as follows:
  • color: black and white (instead of pink and white).
  • between the two circles, 4 groups of 4 arcs each (instead of 4 groups of 2 arcs each).
  • in the inner circle, 4 fishes (instead of 4 frogs), that could symbolize Christianity.
  • central star: white, outlined in black, with very thin points.
Ivan Sache, 12 May 1997

Recently the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Abel Tweed and the South Pacific regional charge d'affairs sent me much documentation and I redrew the flag according to the official documentation. The flag is three horizontal stripes of red, white and blue, with the emblem in the center. Several times is reported the same flag but with the central stripe double wide. The official name of the country is the United Karenni independent States, but is abrreviated United States of Karenni. The states are Bawlake, Kyebogyi and Kantarawaddy. The emblem has four fish and four toad and a twelve pointed star.
Jaume Ollé, 15 June 1998

Flag of KNPP, Myanmar image by Eugene Ipavec, 12 September 2006

An article in The Irrawaddy News Magazine from November 2005 shows the flags of the Mon nation and of the Karenni National Progressive Party. The KNPP flag is completely different from those above. Source:
Valentin Poposki, 11 September 2006

See also:


Flag of Lahu People, Myanmar Jaume Ollé, 14 August 1996

The Lahu National Organization (LNO) has an army of 150 regular soldiers (100% Lahu, but from different Lahu groups). The Lahu people number 200,000.

Flag of Lahu People, Myanmar Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999.

"Lahu National Organization (Lahus) - Burma." Similar to above, but with stripes of equal height. I have found mention of Lahu tribes in Laos but not in Burma.

Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999


Flag of Mon people, Myanmar Eugene Ipavec, 12 September 2006

Nickname: Flag of the Golden Drake Flying. The New Mon State Party (NMSP) has 3,000 regular fighters (mostly Mon). The Mon people number approximately one million.
 Jaume Ollé, 15 August 1996

An article in The Irrawaddy News Magazine from November 2005 shows the flags of the Mon nation and of the Karenni National Progressive Party. Source:
Valentin Poposki, 11 September 2006

Flag of Mons state, Myanmar Than-Tam Le, 09 June 1999

Reported as a flag of the Arakan State in a letter from George Pasch to Thanh-Tam Le dating from May 1982. The bird is probably a sheldrake.
Than-Tam Le 09 June 1999

"New Môns State Party (Môns) - Burma." Similar to the first one above but with different bird (flying drake represented in profile, in "cruising flight" position.) Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999

"The Môn ethnic group established in the past rich and powerful kingdoms in Burma and Thailand, but is nowadays a minority trying to preserve its identity, in spite of the fiction of a "Môn federate state' in Myanmar. At the end of the 70's, they were ca. 1,000,000 Môns in Myanmar and 60,000-100,000 of them in Thailand. The ethnic emblem is a species of duck, which represents the brahmanic 'hamsa' [the mount of God Brahma]. Môn language belongs to the Môn-Khmer family, with one of the oldest writing system in the area." [eun]

Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999

After the British-Burmese war, British troops evacuated the occupied regions of Syriam, Rangoon Prome, etc... The Mon (called by the Burmese Talaing) were the majority in Syriam, and expected the formation of a national state under British protection.  However they did not obtain it, and then, allied with the Karen (that also expected a British protected state) revolted and proclaimed the Kingdom of Talaing. Maong Sat, brother-in-law of the Burmese king, ethnic Mon and governor of Syriam, was proclaimed king (1826). But Burmese troops occupied the kingdom and supressed it in 1827.
Jaume Ollé, 30 June 2001

Flag of Mon people, Myanmar Jaume Ollé

Franciae Vexilla reported another flag supposed to be from Pegu, a Mon Kingdom in fact called Ramanyadesa (capital Pegu), according to Norie and Hobbs,  but Vexilologie 15 shows a similar flag attribued to Sanove. Perhaps is the flag hoisted by the kingdom of Talaings (Mon) when was annexed to Britain in 1825/26 (Talaing kingdom I believe that was the remain of the old Pegu kingdom, and was vassal of Ava/Burma kings).
Jaume Ollé, 28 June 2001

See also:


Flag of Palaung people, Myanmar Jaume Ollé, 14 August 1996

The Palaung State Liberation Party (PSLP) has an army of more than 500 regular fighters (80% Palaung, 20% Kachin and Shan). The Palaung number approximately 1 million.

Jaume Ollé, 14 August 1996.

"Surrender of the P.S.L.A. was effective in May 1991." [eun]
Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999


Flag of Pa-O people, Myanmar Jaume Ollé, 14 August 1996

The Pa-O National Organization (PNO) has 300 regular fighters (90% Pa-O, 10% Shan, Kayah, Palaung and others). The Pa-O number approximately 1,600,000.

Jaume Ollé, 14 August 1996

"Surrender of the Pa-Os was effective in April 1991." [eun]
Ivan Sache, 16 Sep 1999


Flag of Rohingya people, Myanmar image by Jaume Ollé, located by J. Patrick Fischer, 30 January 2006

Source: Catalan Wikipedia

A green flag with a small seal bearing an ornate pattern of white on brown. The reliability of this flag is unknown. [Ed.]


Flag of Wa people, Myanmar Jaume Ollé, 14 August 1996

"Courrier International" #773, 25 August 2005, gives the translation of a paper by Xiaoning originally published in "Waitan Huabao", Shangai (People's Republic of China):
The United Wa State Army (USWA) is the biggest of the armed groups not controlled by the government of Myanmar, in spite of the obsolescence of its weapons. It has 20,000 professional soldiers and 40,000 civilian recruits. Its leader Bao Yuxiang is considered by the American government as "the third leader of a terrorist organization to be suppressed after Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein". A reward of 3 million USD is offered for his capture. Bao, the sixth of the eight children of the chief of a Wa tribe, founded with his elder son Bao Yuyi and his uncle Bao Sanban an anti-government guerrilla movement. In the 1960s, he joined the Burmese Communist Party, then fighting the central government.. In 1989, he left the Party and found his own army, coming to a peace agreement with the ruling junta. With his 40,000 soldiers, he founded the Autonomous Wa State and helped the army of Myanmar in its fight against Khun Sa, the lord of the Golden Triangle (see Shan Army). After Khun Sa's fall in 1996, Bao became the new lord of the Golden Triangle. In 2005, the government of the Wa State announced that all the poppy cultures in the State should be eradicated and that sowing of new fields in autumn 2005 will be strictly prohibited. Yuxiang claims he wants to transform the Wa State into a tourist region and economic zone; he already owns the "Mayflower Myanmar Group", which controls the biggest bank in Myanmar, and he owns all the shares of the Myanmar national airline.
Ivan Sache, 1 May 2006