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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

(By Srisakra Vallibhotama)
Similarly with other countries in the mainland of Southeast Asia, various prehistoric artifacts made of stone and metal have been discovered from all parts of Thailand. Ruined structures ubiquitously scattered all over Thailand carry the characteristics of diverse peoples who once lived there.
In the beginning of the historic period, influences from India were prevalent in various fields, such as religion, governing system, art and culture, which were adapted into the indigenous cultures. Although the source of influence was uniformly India, the result varied from area to area. For instance, if we compare the Dvaravati artifacts from each part of Thailand, we can distinguish the local traits, as well as common features among them, which can be categorized as the ancient Mon culture.
Similarities in artifacts and architecture were not always resulted from political relations, but rather were caused by communications among the early states.
Therefore, we should approach the studies of history and archaeology taking two points into consideration: the development sequence of certain area to establish the cultural evolution and the development of political entity; and the concentration on a certain ethnic group by studying their present culture and then the retrospective approach of their past events.
It must obviously be interesting to study, since when and why various peoples began to immigrate into Thailand, how much they still retain their own ethnic characteristics, and finally, how much they have contributed to the formation of the present Thai culture.
The main point of making this issue of the journal the Mons in Thailand, is to have a better understanding of the ethnic Mons now living in Thailand, whose ancestors came as war-prisoners, political refugees, merchants, and so on. This study should base on all sorts of historical records and various archaeological evidences. As the early historical records of the Mons are scarece and fragmentary, we should heavily depend upon artifacts for the coherent accounts of that period.
A pattern of social and cultural changes can be drawn from the social history of the ethnic Mons in Thailand, which can either be applied or be compared to those of various other ethnic groups who also made their share of contribution in constituting homogeneous present Thai culture. By contrast, some countries in the region are composed of multiple societies consisting of various ethnic groups, who could not successfully assimilate their own into one national culture.


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