ETHNONYMS: The names used by and for nomadic boat people typically refer to the people's connections with the sea. "Moken" (Mawken, Maw khen) is the name people living around the Mergui Archipelago of Myanmar (Burma) use to identify themselves. Originating from a Moken story, the name means "drowned people" or "people of the drowning," maw or l'maw (drowning, to dip), o'en-ken abbreviated to oke'n ("salt water"), according to Bernatzik and to White. Anderson mentions people calling themselves Manoot ( menut or manut, people) Ta'au ( teau or t'ow, sea) or "people of the sea." Similar terms for "people" are found in Thailand ( chao ) and Malaysia ( orang ) with words for "sea" (Thai le; Malay laut ) or "water" (Thai nam ) ; hence Thais call Moken "Chao Nam" or "Chao Le" and Malays use "Orang Laut." The meaning and etymology of the Burmese name Salon, Selon, Selong, Selung, or Silung is not clear; it may derive from the Thai-Malay placename Salang (Thalang) Phuket, where Moken may have lived. Other names for Moken are associated with sociopolitical status, geography, and environment; these include "Orang Rayat" (Malay, "subject") or "Rayat Laut" ("the sea subjects"), "Orang Pesukuan" ("people divided into clans"), and "Bajau" (Bugis, "subject"), a term denoting sea people of north Borneo and the Sulu Archipelago (often equated with pirates). Local groups may take the name of geographic places where they live (e.g., Orang Barok, for Baruk Bay, on the island on Singkep).

See also Bajau ; Samal ; Sea Nomads of the Andaman


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Carrapiett, W. J. S. (1909). The Salons. Ethnographical Survey of India, Burma no. 2. Rangoon: Office of the Superintendent, Government Printing.

Lewis, M. Blanche (1960). "Moken Texts and Word-List: A Provisional Interpretation." Federation Museums Journal (Kuala Lumpur) 4:1-102.

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