Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Economy of LAWA

The Lawa on the plateau have been iron smelters and miners until recent years. Today, some of them continue to be ironsmash, but none of the Lawa mine their own ore anymore, since iron and steel con easily be bought from the Thai people. Their principal economy, therefore has been agriculture in recent years, either of the swidden type or wet rice cultivation. Their ability to earn cash income is limited, like the Karens, since most of their agricultural production is used for their own consumption. The few Lawa within the larger settlements who have shops and small trading businesses, tend to raise the average in come of all Lawa to something over 1000 baht per year per family, otherwise, this average would be very much lower. There are very few families of Lawa who have moved to areas high enough in elevation to grow opium poppies, but the soil conditions of their area (the right banks of Mae Chem river) are so poor that very few crops can be produced satisfactorily. These Lawa move frequently, looking for high valleys that might have a few rai of paddy land to be developed. The more assimilated Lawa keep considerable numbers of pigs, cattle and buffaloes, some of which are sold for cash. They are not vigorous farmers, except where they have arable lands that can be used for wet rice cultivation. Few of the more distantly located Lawa are self-sufficient through their agriculture alone, and must depend upon jungle products to supplement their needs. In such areas, the Lawa still eat the flesh of dogs as well as most wild animals that they might catch or shoot.

There is a wide difference in the degree of the Law people have with non-Lawas. The more assimilated may either be the same as the country Thai themselves or have at least very close outside associations. The remote Lawa have as little contact as the Akha in some localities. They deal mostly with the Lao-Thai and Karens who live near them, having little or no contact with other tribes in the general region. In the more assimilated communities, intermarriage with the Lao-Thai is quite common, although even these Lawa are along way from being absorbed completely by the Thai. Some Lawa men become itinerant workers, like the Khamu, and wander far from their homes, invariably to return after some time.

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