Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The Akha call themselves A-Kha whereas the Thai people refer to them as Kaw or E-kaw. They are historically linked with the ancient Lolo tribes that inhabit Southh Yunnan. The Akha belong to the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan linguistic family.

It is generally believed that the Akha originated in the Tibetan Highlands. Over the years they left their homeland and migrated south to Yunnan, North Burma, Laos, and North Thailand. It is not known when the first Akha settlement was established on Thai soil, but it is thought that this took place in the 1800's.
Most of the Akha in Thailand prefer to live along mountain ridges at an altitude of approximately 1,000 m. In the past, their settlements were limited mainly to the north bank of the Mae Kok river, and they rarely moved south. In more recent times, as a result of population pressure, the Akha began to spread out of the Mae Kok basin in search of better land. Today, Akha are found in six provinces : Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Tak, Kamphang Phet, Lampang and Phrae. Due to the lack of data, the exact number of Akha living in Thailand is not known. However the 1995 statistics indicate that the population is in excess of 48,468 spread over 258 village. Newcomers from Burma are constantly arriving.
The salient social unit is the extended family. Patrilineal clans mediate all relationships concerning kinship ties, marriage, residential patterns, and rights of succession. The Akha are customarily monogamous. In practice, however, there is no rule which prohibits an Akha man from having more than one wife. After marriage, Akha men live patrilocally.

The Akha are shifting cultivators. They cultivate dry rice for consumption and grow corn, millet, peppers, beans, garlic, sesame and other varieties of vegetables as additional subsistence crops crop production is often inadequate fowl, pigs and water buffaloes are also raised by the Akha for special feasts and sacrifices.
The Akha are pantheists who place special emphasis upon ancestor-worship and spirit offerings. The four day Swinging. Ceremony, the most enjoyable ceremonial event, is held during mid-August to mid-September. The Akha celebrate their New Year in December for four days. Those who want to draw the Akha into closer affiliation with lowland civilization often see their complex rituals as being a major obstacle to modernization. Akha society is under extreme pressure to change and partly as a consequence of this, the incidence of opium addiction is high.

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