Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Shan – Jer Jad Van Möng

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Nation, Shan


Jer Jad Van Möng

Relates to nation

The term for nation combines the words for nationality, jer jad, with the words for village, van, and country or state, möng. The joined term, it must be stressed, has the connotation of a country of a certain people or race, and there a suggestion to that the country is expected to possess a strong measure of autonomy, at least in its domestic affairs.

The term möng is used to describe the old Shan principalities as well as contemporary nations or countries. Before the colonial period the Shan principalities functioned as autonomous states, albeit within a feudal structure in which they owed allegiance to a larger Shan principality or the king. A möng was made up of groups of villages and could be a tributary of another state or a kingdom. “These states pledged their loyalty to [Chinese emperors or Burmese kings] and sent tribute. However, their autonomy and the rights to run their own affairs were never questioned.”[1]

The term möng is currently used in Shan for the seven ethnic-based states of Burma; Möng Khang being Kachin State, Möng Yang being Karen State and so on. The various Shan principalities, many of which are now townships in Shan State, are still referred to as möng i.e. Möng Hsipaw, Möng Yawnghwe, etc. The term can also be used to talk about a city, hence Möng Kawk (rdlif;u.ufb) is Bangkok. More formally, the Shan term for a state is saymöng. Say by itself means a town, but used together with möng it means a state within a state).

The term möng is also used to talk about countries. Möng Tai can refer to both Shan State and the Shan nation, depending on one’s views on Shan independence. Möng Thai is Thailand. Möng pawm hom ahmayrika, is literally, ‘State United of America’.

In the case of Burma, Möng Marn means not only Burma but also the Burman dominated central part of Burma separate from the ethnic states. This conveys well the extent to which ‘Myanmar’ or ‘Burma’ is perceived in essentially ‘Burman’ terms – not as an etnically inclusive entry.

Jer jad on its own means nationality. The term comes from the Thai term cherchat (เชื้อชาติ), and was not used before contact with central Thais. Since adopting the term its meaning has changed. In Thai the word means ‘race or nationality’, but in Shan it has come to mean specifically one’s nationality.[2] Again, the choice of a word co closely allied with ‘race’ is an indication of the extent to which Shan had viewed ‘nationality’ in racial terms. Today, the Shan term jer ker – once also used to talk about one’s nationality – is reserved for ‘race’. Thus, it is now conceptually possible for a person in Shan State to be jer jad Tai (a Shan national), but jer ker Wa (racially Wa). Jer jad van möng, then, does not necessarily imply that a country belongs to a specific ethnic group or race.[3]

At the 1947 Panglong Conference, U Sein, a Shan representative from Hsipaw State said in his testimony, “In Shan States there may be a number of tribes, but all of them are at the same time Shan and most of them speak the Shan language which is almost universal.” While he may have been overstating the spread of the Shan language he is noting that there may be many races in Shan State, but they are all Shan by nationality.

 

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[1] Sai Aung Tun, History of the Shan State from its Origins to 1962, Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, 2009, pp. 37-38.

[2] Discussions with Sai Khuensai Jaiyen, Chiang Mai, 2008-2009.

[3] Ibid.

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