The Burmese

Introduction to Burmese Culture(s)

“In 2012, over 10,000  refugees from Burma will be resettled in the U.S., joining more than 55,000 who have arrived since 2006. Linkage with health services is integral to resettlement, yet many refugees face the challenge of negotiating a healthcare system that is unfamiliar with their language, backgrounds, traditional beliefs and practices, and health issues.

Refugees from Burma, also known as Myanmar, come from one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Most of those resettled in the U.S. belong to one of three ethnic minority groups: the Karen (emphasis on the second syllable), the Karenni, and the Chin.” (Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center, 2012)

In Kansas, as of the end of 2014, the Chin are the largest refugee resettlement group (41% of the population), the Karen third (11%), Karenni fourth (10%), and the Burmese sixth (6%) (Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, 2015).


This 88-page booklet gives an extensive and detailed overview of Burma, its history, its people, and considerations for working with refugees from there. The document includes helpful insights in the right margins like, “it is disconcerting for a Karen to be touched by a stranger.”

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This 22-minute video “features interviews with refugees from Burma, talking about their challenges and accomplishments dealing with learning English, employment, housing and community, rights and responsibilities, and the long process of resettlement.

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This webpage gives a thorough yet easy-to-read profile of the Chin people from Burma. History, beliefs, medical considerations, and more information can be found here.

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This 12-minute video gives a history of the Karen refugee experience after a lengthy introduction of Karen music, imagery, and art.

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An hour-long YouTube video whose description reads: “Over fifty years of civil war have left Burma one of the poorest countries in the world. The military dictatorship attacks its own people, killing thousands, and leaving millions displaced. The Karen people, an indigenous minority, have been struggling for independence against Burmas military dictatorship all these years. This talk will give a historical context to the situation of the Karen people and highlight the current situation.”

Download Booklet

For those seeking more in-depth information, follow the link to the main page for resources about Burmese refuges at It includes videos and briefs that cover Burmese values brought to the U.S., cultural orientation, photos, special considerations, and more.

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