NORTHERN THAILAND'S TRIBAL HERITAGE: THE AKHA

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Akha Akha Akha Akha Akha

Akha

Akha

The Akha, called E-Kaw by the Khon Muang, are linked with the ancient “Lolo” tribes of Yunnan in China, and belong to the Tibeto-Burman linguistic family. In Yunnan, they live mostly in the valley of the Red River and are grouped together with the Hani ethnic minority group there. After years of migration, they reached the eastern Shan State in Myanmar, northern Laos, and northern Thailand, where, arriving only one hundred years ago, they live in several villages in Chiang Rai province.

Most of the Akha in Thailand prefer to live along mountain ridges at an altitude of approximately 700 metres. In the past, their settlements were limited mainly to the mountains north of the Mae Kok River, but in more recent times, they moved further south in search for better land to cultivate dry rice, maize, and millet, as well as various vegetables, as cash crops. The Akha raise domestic animals including chicken, pig, and water buffalo especially for special feasts and sacrifices to the spirits. They build stilt houses along sloped hills and cover them with dried, roof-grass. Within a village, patrilineal clans control all matters concerning kinship, marriage rules, residential patterns, and rights of succession. After marriage, Akha men live in the father’s village. The Akha people are animists who place special emphasis upon ancestor-worship and spirit worship. A four-day “Swinging” ceremony is held mid-August to mid-September, when the rice is harvested. Then young girls dressed in their short skirts play on a wooden swing while young boys try to find their future bride. The Akha celebrate their New Year during four days in December. The Akha is the tribe with the highest incidence of opium addiction.

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