The Pashu people are Burmese Malays, the majority of whom live in the area of Kawthaung and Bokpyin townships in Tanintharyi Region at the southernmost tip of Myanmar. The Tanintharyi Region (which borders Thailand) has always been a mixing bowl of different peoples gathering to trade and to cross the isthmus of Kra (Pak Chan river) overland from the Andaman Sea to the Gulf of Thailand. The region has passed between Burmese, Thai, and Mon rule numerous times over the past millennium.
Malay peoples have also lived along the Tanintharyi littoral for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Pashu is the traditional Burmese word for Malay or Malayan, but – slightly confusingly – it has also come to designate the Nyonya or Peranakan Straits Chinese people in modern-day Myanmar. Many Pashu people have a mixed ethnicity with Moken (Salone) and Burmese blood. Like the Malays, many Pashu people are also Sunni muslims. They speak a dialect of Kedah-Perlis Malay mixed with Thai and Burmese and can read the Malay Jawi script.
Pashu people are another glittering bead in the kaleidoscope of Myanmar’s indigenous ethnic groups but under the current 1982 Citizenship Law they are not one of Myanmar’s 135 recognized ethnic groups. Since the 1980s, thousands of Pashu people have emigrated from Myanmar to Langkawi island off Malaysia’s northwestern coast, where they live in illegal squatter communities.
The Port of Kawthaung and the Kawthaung Central Mosque can be seen in the pictures. Under British rule, the area of Kawthaung was known as Victoria Point.