The Karen people are the second largest ethnic minority group in Myanmar. After WWII, when Britain granted autonomy to her former colonies, the Karen believed they were also going to be granted statehood because of their loyalty and service to the British during the war. This dream, however, did not come about and instead the Karen came under the control of the Burmese. In 1948, the Karen took up arms against the Burmese in a fight for freedom and independence which continues today. In the sixty years of destructive civil war, Karen civilian populations have been targeted and terrorized by Burmese forces. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Karen have become refugees. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Karen people live as refugees within the country of Myanmar (formerly Burma), forced to flee and hide in the jungle. Many others have escaped, making the dangerous journey to one of the nine refugee camps in Thailand housing about 155,000 mostly Karen refugees.

Governments around the world are beginning to accept Karen people from the camps in Thailand for resettlement as they see no end to the difficulties for these people without a country. There will most likely be tens of thousands of Karen coming to the U.S. over the next few years.

Click here to read The Plight of the Karen, where Carol Reynolds, ASAP Board Member, shares more information about the Karen people's situation.

Country Data


  The total number of Karen is difficult to estimate. The last reliable census in Burma was conducted in the 1930s. A 2006 Voice Of America article cites an estimate of seven million in Burma. There are another 400,000 Karen in Thailand, where they are by far the largest of the hill tribes. (Wikipedia)




  Buddhism, Christianity, Animism