Friday, August 14, 2009


The Lahu, or Musur as the shan and the Thai call them, also belong to the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan linguistic family. It is believed that they originated in the Tibetan plateau and over the centuries migrated to China, Burma, Laos and Thailand.

In Thailnad, Lahu are found in five provinces. Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Tak and Kamphaeng Phet. In 1995 there were approximately 73,252 which equalled 10.54 percent of the total hill tribe population.

The Lahu are divided into several ethnic sub groups of which only six are present in Thailand. These are: (1)Lahu Nyi or Musur Daeng (2)Lahu Na or Musur Dam (3)Lahu Shehleh or Musur Na Muey (4)Lahu Laba (5)Lahu Phu and (6) Lahu Shi The main subgroups are further subdivided into smaller groups.

Lahu villages are usually located high in the mountains at about 1,000 meters. When they establish their communities at some distance from a source of water they build a series of bamboo pipes to bring water into the village.

Lahu society is cognatic and monogamous. The nuclear family forms the most common domestic unit and plays the most important part in the social and political organization of the village. He is expected to live with his parents-in-law (uxoriloca) for a certain time to provide bride-service. In such cases, the household becomes extended but usually for not more than 5-6 years. Kinship ties are not particularly important in the Lahu society. However, it is possible for political leaders to gain high acceptance and respect.

The Lahu base their economy primarily on swidden agriculture. Like other pioneer swiddeners, the Lahu clear fields in the forest by slash-and-burn. A plot of land is used for as long as the yields are good, and after the soil becomes exhausted, the owner looks for other places to exploit.

Today, the Lahu staple crops are dry rice and corn. Many varieties of cash crops are also grown e.g. melons, peppers, beans, yams, millet, and vegetables. In some villages, opium remains an important cash crop. Animal husbandry is also important, and very household raises pigs, fowl, cattle and horses for various purposes such as for feasts, and ceremonial offerings and for transport.

The Lahu are theistic animists ruled by one god named Geusha. Like their highland neighbors, they also worship their ancestors. In Burma, the Lahu were considerably influenced by Buddhism and Christianity. A large number become Christian during and immediately following British rule. Most Lahu in Thailand follow their old beliefs. Religious practitioners remain prominent in Lahu society. The New Year ceremony (Kho Cha Lor), the most important event, is held for five days between January and March to thank their god Geusha.

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