An ethnic minority, one of the very few groups living in Burma who speak an Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) language. Moken or Maw Ken is the name they call themselves, while Salon or Salone is the Burmese (Myanmar) language name for them; the British referred to them as "Sea Gypsies." They live in the Mergui Archipelago in southern Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) Division, and are seminomadic boat dwellers, living on land only during the rainy season. Closely related groups live in southern Thailand and the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. They are skilled boat makers, fishermen, and divers, and according to a legendary account sought refuge on the water to escape oppression at the hands of the Malays. According to James G. Scott, their traditional craft were dugouts that could be as long as 30 feet (10 meters) and had large sails made of palm fronds. The present population is not known but probably does not number more than a couple of thousand; the colonial census of 1891 recorded a population of 1,628. The scenic Mergui Archipelago is being opened to international tourism, which may have a negative impact on traditional lifestyles; for example, the government and private tourist agencies organized a commercialized "Salon Festival" in February 2004.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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