Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The Lawa or Lua as the northern Thai call them, are found only in Thailand. The Lawa identify themselves as Lavu'a (La-woe-a). It is estimated that the Lawa people, once know as the Milakkha or Lowa, migrated into the northern region of the Mae Ping valley around 660 AD. They are of Austro-Asiatic stock and according to protohistorical tradition, they are believed to be the first settlers in North Thailand. They are linguistically closely related to the Mon-Khmer and have largely been absorbed into Thai society.

In 1995 those who retained a separate identity in the highlands numbered 15,711 and made up 2.26 percent of the tribal population. Most were found to be living on the Bo Luang plateau southwest of Chiang Mai and in the mountainous area of Umpai, southeast of Mae Hong Son.

The Lawa practise shiffing cultivation of the rotational type and are skillful in making wet rice terraces. They are recognised as being the most conservation-minded land users in the highlands.

The Lawa society is similar to that of other tribes in that descent is traced patrilineally and marriage is monogamous. Their society is regarded as having a dual structure. Most members are classified as Lua or common people. A amall group who trace descent from Khun Luang Wilanka, a proto-historical Lua King, are called Kun.

The Lwa are animists and ancestor workshippers who, like the Thai, combine their traditional beliefs with Buddhism.

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