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Shan (North Thailand)
Population and Geographical Distribution
The Shan of Thailand, or Thai Yai (Great Thai) as they are known locally, are a small but significant Tai-speaking ethnic group in North Thailand. Their historical roots are in Yunnan, China, where about 270,000 Shan are found today. Only about 30,000 Shan live in Thailand, mainly in the Maehongson province, west of Chiangmai and near the northwestern border.
Across the border in Myanmar, there are about 3 million Shan in the Shan states. Their warfare and the resulting tensions and economic hardships have caused many Shan to slip into Thailand illegally to find work for varying lengths of time.
The Shan are of Tai descent and speak a Tai dialect. The language is related to Thai and Lao, with a written script that is less complicated than Thai. Few of the younger generation of Thailand-educated Shan can read their own language, but all of them still speak it. Most of the books available in Shan are Buddhist literature.
The Yuan language is the language of the people of Lannathai Lannathai (often short Lanna, english Kingdom of a Million Ricefields) was a kingdom in the north of Thailand around the city of Chiang Mai. It consisted of several partly independent city-states. Speakers of this language generally consider the name Yuan to be pejorative. They generally call themselves Khon Mung (or Lannathai, or Northern Thai--or Western Lao, across the border). The language is generally known by one of these terms, or as Phayap. The term Yuan is still used for the distinctive (and now all-but-dead) Lannathai script. Most linguists consider Northern Tai to be more closely related to Thai and the other Chiang Tai languages than Lao and the other Phu Tai languages, but the distinction is never easy to make, as the language families form a continuum with few sharp dividing lines