For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Kayah State.

Kayah State

Kayah State
Myanma transcription(s)
 • Burmeseka. ya: prany nai
Htee Zai Kha waterfall, border of Shan and Kayah State
Htee Zai Kha waterfall, border of Shan and Kayah State
Flag of Kayah State
Official seal of Kayah State
Location of Kayah State in Myanmar
Location of Kayah State in Myanmar
Coordinates: 19°15′N 97°20′E / 19.250°N 97.333°E / 19.250; 97.333
Country Myanmar
Founded15 January 1952[1]
 • Chief MinisterTBD[2]
 • CabinetKayah State Government
 • LegislatureKayah State Hluttaw
 • JudiciaryKayah State High Court
 • Total11,731.5 km2 (4,529.6 sq mi)
 • Rank13th
Highest elevation2,623 m (8,606 ft)
 • Total400,000
 • Rank15th
 • Density34/km2 (88/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Kayah, Karenni
 • EthnicitiesKayah, Kayin, Padaung, Bamar, Shan, Pa-O
 • ReligionsBuddhism 49.9%
Christianity 45.8%
Animism 1.9%
Islam 1.1%
Hinduism 0.1%
Other Religion 1.2%
Time zoneUTC+06:30 (MST)
HDI (2017)0.585[4]
medium · 3rd

Kayah State (Burmese: ကယားပြည်နယ်, pronounced [kəjá pjìnɛ̀]), or Karenni State, is a state of Myanmar. Situated in eastern Myanmar, it is bounded on the north by Shan State, on the east by Thailand's Mae Hong Son Province, and on the south and west by Kayin State. It lies approximately between 18° 30′ and 19° 55′ north latitude and between 96° 50′ and 97° 50′ east longitude. The area is 11,670 km2 (4,510 sq mi). Its capital is Loikaw (also spelt Loi-kaw). The estimated population in the 2014 Myanmar Census was 286,738, the smallest among Myanmar's seven states. It is inhabited primarily by the Karenni ethnic group, also known as Red Karen[5] or Kayah, a Sino-Tibetan people.


Karenni (Kayah) State is located in the eastern part of Myanmar. The relief of Karenni (Kayah) State is mountainous with the Dawna Range and the Karen Hills also known as "Karenni-Karen" mountains separated by the Salween River as it flows through Karenni (Kayah) State.[6] Balu Chaung flows from Inle Lake to Than Lwin River and converges with the Salween in southern Karenni (Kayah) State.

Lawpita Dam, built in 1950 as a bilateral reparation agreement with Japan, is a major hydroelectric production dam that produces a quarter of the total hydroelectric power generation in Myanmar.[7]


19th century and British rule

Karenni States is the name formerly given to a group of states that included Kantarawadi, Kyebogyi and Bawlake. These states were located south of the Federated Shan States and east of British Burma. According to the 1930 census, the states had a total population of 58,761 with Kantarawadi (3,161 square miles or 8,190 square kilometres), 30,677, Kyebogyi (790 square miles or 2,000 square kilometres), 14,282 and Bawlake (568 square miles or 1,470 square kilometres), 13,802.

The British government recognised and guaranteed the independence of the Karenni States in an 1875 treaty[5] with Burmese King Mindon Min, by which both parties recognised the area as belonging neither to Konbaung Burma nor to Great Britain. Consequently, the Karenni States were never fully incorporated into British Burma. The Karenni States were recognised as tributary to British Burma in 1892,[5] when their rulers agreed to accept a stipend from the British government. In the 1930s, the Mawchi Mine in Bawlake was the most important source of tungsten in the world.

Independence to 1988

Lawpita Waterfall

The Constitution of the Union of Burma in 1947 proclaimed that the three Karenni States be amalgamated into a single constituent state of the union, called Karenni State. It also provided for the possibility of secession from the Union after 10 years.

In August 1948, the Karenni leader U Bee Htu Re was assassinated by central government militia for his opposition to the inclusion of the Karenni States in the Union of Burma. An armed uprising swept the state that has continued to the present day.

In 1952, the former Shan state of Mong Pai (1901. pop - 19,351) was added to Karenni State, and the whole renamed Kayah State, possibly with the intent of driving a wedge between the Karenni (in Kayah State) and the rest of the Karen people (in Karen State), both fighting for independence.

In 1957, pro-independence groups already active in the area formed the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), backed by its own army, the Karenni Army (KA). Apart from a brief ceasefire in 1995, the KA has been fighting ever since. Rivals to the KNPP include the leftist Kayan New Land Party (KNLP), and the Karenni National People's Liberation Front (KNPLF), both of which are now allied with the Myanmar military.


In 1996, Myanmar's State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) stepped up its campaign to crush Karenni independence with a population transfer program, forcibly moving villagers to designated relocation sites to deprive the pro-independence forces of bases of support.[citation needed] The Myanmar government has been accused of massive human rights violations in the region.[citation needed]

In June 2019, six young Karenni protesters were arrested after being sued by the Kayah State government for calling Chief Minister L Phaung Sho a "traitor" to Karennis due to a statue of Gen. Aung San being erected in Loikaw, the state capital.[8]

In September 2020, Sho was impeached by the state's parliament and subsequently removed as chief minister by President Win Myint due to his misuse of state funds, with Boss Ko appointed as acting chief minister in his stead.[9]


In the context of the ongoing post-coup civil war, on 7 November 2023, the Karenni National People's Liberation Front, Karenni Army, and Karenni Nationalities Defence Force launched a military offensive known as Operation 1107 against the ruling State Administration Council junta. An additional offensive, known as Operation 1111, started on 11 November 2023 with the aim of capturing Loikaw.[10][11] In an interview with The Irrawaddy on 28 November, the KNDF's deputy commander-in-chief Marwi (Burmese: မာဝီက) claimed that the anti-junta forces controlled 80% of Kayah state and had control over half of Loikaw, where an interim Karenni state government was being established to replace the junta installed state government which had collapsed.[12][13][14]


Historical population
1973 126,574—    
1983 168,429+33.1%
2014 286,627+70.2%
Source: 2014 Myanmar Census[3]
Figurines of nine of the subgroups of the Kayah.

Ethnographers classify anywhere from seven to ten ethnic groups (not including ethnic sub-groups) as native to Kayah State. In addition, Shan, Intha, and Bamar live in the north and Pa-O in surrounding hills. Each group is also known by more than one name. Clearly, ethnicity in Kayah State is a complex issue, made more complex by the current political situation. According to the 1983 census conducted by United Nations and the Burmese government, the Kayah composed 56.12%, while Bamar (17.58%), Shan (16.66%), Karen (6.45%), mixed races (2.08%), and other groups formed minorities. Ethnolinguists distinguish the following linguistic groups in Kayah State:

  1. Karenni (Red people)
  2. Padaung (Kayan)
  3. Bwe
  4. Geba
  5. Manumanaw (Kayaw)
  6. Yantale
  7. Zayein (Kayăn Lahta)
  8. Geko (Kayăn Kakhong)
  9. Yinbaw (Kayăn Kangan)
  10. Paku (Karen)


Religion in Kayah (2015)[15]

  Buddhism (49.9%)
  Christianity (45.8%)
  Tribal religion (1.9%)
  Other religion (1.2%)
  Islam (1.1%)
  Hinduism (0.1%)

According to the 2014 Myanmar Census, Buddhists, who make up 49.9% of Kayah State's population, form the largest religious community there.[16] Minority religious communities include Christians (45.8%), Muslims (1.1%), Hindus (0.1%), and animists (1.9%) who collectively comprise the remainder of Kayah State's population.[16] 1.2% of the population listed no religion, other religions, or were otherwise not enumerated.[16]

According to the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee’s 2016 statistics, 2060 Buddhist monks were registered in Kayah State, comprising 0.4% of Myanmar's total Sangha membership, which includes both novice samanera and fully-ordained bhikkhu.[17] The majority of monks belong to the Thudhamma Nikaya (82.4%), followed by Shwegyin Nikaya (17.6%), with the remainder of monks belonging to other small monastic orders.[17] 303 thilashin were registered in Kayah State, comprising 0.5% of Myanmar’s total thilashin community.[17]

The Kayans' traditional religion is called Kan Khwan, and has been practised since the people migrated from Mongolia during the Bronze Age.[18] It includes the belief that the Kayan people are the result of a union between a female dragon and a male human/angel hybrid.[19]

The major religious festival is the three-day Kay Htein Bo festival, which commemorates the belief that the creator god gave form to the world by planting a small post in the ground. During this festival, held in late March or early April, a Kay Htoe Boe pole is erected and participants dance around the pole.[18][20] This festival is held to venerate the eternal god and creator messengers, to give thanks for blessings during the year, to appeal for forgiveness, and pray for rain. It is also an opportunity for Kayan from different villages to come together to maintain the solidarity of the tribe.

The Kayan have a strong belief in augury and nothing is done without reference to some form of divination, including breaking thatch grass, but most importantly consulting the chicken bones.[21] Nowadays the annual Kay Htein Bo festival is always accompanied by a reading of the chicken bones to predict the year ahead. Fowl bone prognostication can be witnessed in the Kayan villages in Thailand's Mae Hong Son province during the annual festival and during “Cleansing Ceremonies” which are held when a family has encountered misfortune. Dreams are also used to make predictions.


As with many other states in Myanmar, which have ethnic minority populations, Kayah state has experienced human rights abuses by the Burmese military junta and the Burmese armed forces.

Kayah State Government Otfice

Villagers live under the constant threat of rape, beatings, arbitrary arrest or execution, conscription as slave labour for the Myanmar army, and having their food and possessions taken without compensation.

"The SPDC also arbitrarily closes roads for non-military travel in Karenni State, further restricting villagers movements. Landmines are often planted along roads to prohibit the villagers' movements. Villagers, fearful of landmines and potential injuries, further restrict their own movements.

Even with a valid travel pass villagers are still vulnerable to abuses and exploitation. There have been reports of arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings and rapes of villagers who have had permission to travel. Villagers have also been shot at when they have been outside of their communities."[22]: [27] 

It has also been alleged[by whom?] that the relocation centers have inadequate access to water, food, medical services, and educational facilities.[citation needed] As of April 2024, more than 80% of the state's population is classified as internally displaced.[23] Thousands of Karenni people are in refugee camps in Thailand.[citation needed]

"Currently there are 4,800 IDPs in eight forced relocation sites throughout Karenni State. These relocation sites are a result of the Burmese military regimes mass relocation program in Karenni State in 1996. Following the collapse of the ceasefire between SLORC and the KNPP, tens of thousands of people were forcibly evicted from their homes during this program.

"Most relocation sites are located close to military camps, army bases and along main roads. This increases the vulnerability of exploitation and abuse. IDPs are subjected to force labour demands from the soldiers and arbitrary taxation (essentially theft). IDPs are also vulnerable to torture; murder and rape by soldiers and their movements are heavily restricted.

"The relocation sites are also inadequate to sustain a healthy and economically viable livelihood. The majority of relocation sites do not have sanitation facilities, electricity or access to safe drinking water. The land surrounding the sites is often barren and over populated. As productive land has usually been claimed by the original inhabitants or confiscated by the soldiers, opportunities to farm are limited. There are also very few employment opportunities in forced relocation sites."[24]


The state capital is Loikaw. The state is divided into 4 districts[25] which are divided into 7 townships with 106 wards and villages.

Districts and their Townships

Loikaw District
Loikaw Township  • Shadaw Township
Demoso District
Demoso Township • Hpruso Township
Bawlakhe District
Bawlakhe Township • Hpasawng Township
Mese District
Mese Township


Towns and Cities of Kayah State



This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2015)


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2015)


Kayah State High Court

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2015)

List of chief ministers


Kayah State is served by Loikaw Airport and Loikaw Train station


Market near Loikaw, Kayah State

Kayah State has a primarily extraction-based economy. The main crop is rice, mostly irrigated, with other important crops including millet, maize, sesame, groundnut, garlic, and vegetables. Mineral products include alabaster, tin, and tungsten. Valuable woods such as teak and pine were once produced, but the forests have largely been stripped bare by illegal logging authorised by the Tatmadaw (Burmese military). The hydroelectric power plant at Lawpita Falls outside of Loikaw is of strategic importance, as it supplies over 20% of Myanmar's total electrical power.

Kayah State has theoretical tourist potential, if the political situation is resolved. The state has rugged mountains, river streams, lakes and waterfalls; however, transport and communication are difficult. At present, Kayah State is open to outsiders by permit only, which can be difficult to obtain depending on the current military situation. Even with a permit, usually only a 25 km (16 mi) radius around Loikaw is allowed. The central government effectively controls only Loikaw and parts of the western half of the state. 16 January 2012

As of 2018, the state is the most electrified in Myanmar, at 87%.[27]


Technological University, Loikaw

Educational opportunities in Myanmar are extremely limited outside the main cities of Yangon and Mandalay. According to official statistics, Kayah State has the lowest number of public schools in the country.[28] Loikaw University is the state's main university.

AY 2002-2003 Primary Middle High
Schools 338 33 12
Teachers 1565 352 160
Students 29,200 13,200 4900

Health care

Kayah State, most of Myanmar, has poor health care facilities due to the alleged mismanagement by the Burmese military junta and economic sanctions by the US government. Although health care is nominally free, in reality patients have to pay for medicine and treatment even in public clinics and hospitals. Public hospitals lack many of the basic facilities and equipment. As Kayah State is perhaps the most isolated state in Myanmar, it has great difficulties in addressing health concerns. In 2016, Loikaw General Hospital was upgraded with the 1.945 billion yen funding from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).[29] The following is a summary of the public health care system in the state.[30]

2002–2003 # Hospitals # Beds
Specialist hospitals 0 0
General hospitals with specialist services 1 200
General hospitals 6 141
Health clinics 9 144
Total 16 485


See also


  1. ^ "'Kayah State Day' celebration fosters unity". UCA News. Loikaw. 18 January 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  2. ^ "Junta's Administration Ousted from Karenni State- Loikaw still a war-zone".
  3. ^ a b Census Report. The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census. Vol. 2. Naypyitaw: Ministry of Immigration and Population. May 2015. p. 17.
  4. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Karen-Ni" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 678.
  6. ^ Global 200 ecoregion: Karenni-Karen / Tenasserim Moist Forests
  7. ^ "Lawpita Hydropower Project". Archived from the original on 19 January 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  8. ^ Htwe, Zaw Zaw (7 November 2019). "Karenni Youth Jailed for Calling Govt Officials Criminals, 'Enemies of Ethnic Unity'". The Irrawaddy. Yangon: Irrawaddy Publishing Group. Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  9. ^ Aung, San Yamin (3 September 2020). "Myanmar President Removes Kayah State Chief Minister From Office for Misusing Funds". The Irrawaddy. Yangon: Irrawaddy Publishing Group. Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  10. ^ "ကရင်နီဒေသ ၁၁၀၇ စစ်ဆင်ရေး တိုက်ပွဲ ဆင်နွှဲ". BBC News မြန်မာ (in Burmese). 9 November 2023. Archived from the original on 10 November 2023. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  11. ^ "ကရင်နီဒေသ ၁၁၀၇ စစ်ဆင်ရေး စတင်". ဗွီအိုအေ (in Burmese). 8 November 2023. Archived from the original on 10 November 2023. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  12. ^ Kha, Kyaw (28 November 2023). "Operation 1111 'Close to Securing All of Kayah State for Myanmar Resistance'". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  13. ^ "Junta's Administration Ousted from Karenni State- Loikaw still a war-zone".
  14. ^ The Irrawaddy (26 December 2023). "Christmas mass held for IDPs in Karenni State". Facebook. Meta Platforms, Inc. Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  15. ^ Department of Population Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population MYANMAR (July 2016). The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census Census Report Volume 2-C. Department of Population Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population MYANMAR. pp. 12–15.
  16. ^ a b c Department of Population Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population MYANMAR (July 2016). The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census Census Report Volume 2-C. Department of Population Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population MYANMAR. pp. 12–15.
  17. ^ a b c "The Account of Wazo Monks and Nuns in 1377 (2016 year)". State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee. 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  18. ^ a b "Religion". Huay Pu Keng. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  19. ^ Virtua Design. "The Dragon Mothers Polish their Metal Coils by Edith Mirante - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics". Archived from the original on 12 December 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  20. ^ "Les peuples oubliés". 26 August 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  21. ^ Manna, Padre Paolo (1902), The Ghekhu-Karen Tribe of Eastern Burma, S. Giuseppe Pontificial Printing
  22. ^ "Living Ghosts: The spiraling repression of the Karenni population under the Burmese military junta." Burma Issues, March 2008.
  23. ^ Hannah Beech (20 April 2024). "A Ragtag Resistance Sees the Tide Turning in a Forgotten War". The New York Times.
  24. ^ "Living Ghosts" 78.
  25. ^ "ကယားပြည်နယ်အတွင်းရှိ ခရိုင်အမည်များ တိုးချဲ့ပြင်ဆင်ဖွဲ့စည်းခြင်း".
  26. ^ "ကယားပြည်နယ်ဝန်ကြီးချုပ် ဦးအယ်လ်ဖောင်းရှိုကို ရာထူးမှရပ်စဲ" (in Burmese). Myanmar Now. 3 September 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  27. ^ "43% of households in Myanmar gain access to national grip".
  28. ^ "Education statistics by level and by State and Division". Myanmar Central Statistical Organization. Archived from the original on 24 May 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  29. ^ "Loikaw to get new hospital buildings funded by JICA - Global New Light Of Myanmar". Global New Light Of Myanmar. 11 February 2015. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2017.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  30. ^ "Hospitals and Dispensaries by State and Division". Myanmar Central Statistical Organization. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Kayah State
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?