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Home About Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand

About Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand

About Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand


Approximately 1 million Hill Tribe people live in small villages scattered throughout northern and western Thailand. There are 6 main Hill Tribes, Akha, Lah-fvu (Lahu), Lisu, Hmong, Mien and Karen. Originating in China and Burma, most have migrated to Thailand in the last 150-200 years. Most people were fleeing from fighting in these countries, and the migration continues today. Karen people were the first Hill Tribe to come to Thailand. This was followed by Lisu, Lah-fvu and Akha hill people.

When they came to Thailand, Hill Tribe people chose to live in the highland areas in harmony with nature, similar to that of their origins. However, these are also the watershed areas and protected forests of Thailand. Here, the villagers have rights to use the land, but not to own it. Food and non-timber products are collected from the forest and river. Village committees prohibit the sale of timber products, although with permission, timber can be cut for personal use. The villagers know what to harvest and how much they can collect sustainably. If the villagers are sick, they can go to the forest and collect herbal medicine for most illnesses. Most traditional houses are built from bamboo and wood collected from the forest. The Hill Tribe people have traditionally practiced shifting cultivation of rice and corn, supplemented with hunting and gathering. However, the increased pressure on land has required a change in agricultural practices.

Problems and challenges occur throughout the daily lives of the Hill Tribe people. Many do not have Thai citizenship. This lack of status prohibits them from most normal human rights e.g. owning land, voting, driving a car, leaving the province, receiving minimum wages, access to schools and healthcare. While the Hill Tribes have these problems, and believe themselves to have separate cultural identities, they still consider that they are Thai people. They are aware of the need to conserve nature and fully participate in the development of Thailand as a nation.

For more information and details about the Akha, Lah-fvu, Lisu, and Mien, the four tribes who live in the area where Natural Focus works, please click here.

Last Updated (Friday, 20 May 2011 23:41)

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