Hilltribe

The way of live and culture

Hilltribes is a term for all of the various tribal peoples who migrated from China and Tibet over the past few centuries. They now inhabit the remote border areas between Northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). These areas are known for their thick forests and mountainous terrain. The six major hilltribes within Thailand are the Karen, Mien, Hmong, Lisu, Lahu and Akha, each with a distinct language and culture. The Hill Tribes Development Association works in the Mae Yao sub-district of the Chiang Rai province, populated mostly by Lahu, Karen and Akha, with only a few Mien and Lanna Thai villages.

The hilltribes are subsistence farmers who use slash and burn agricultural techniques to farm their heavily forested communities. Tighter conservation of Thailand’s virtually depleted forests, however, has forced hilltribe people to abandon their traditional agricultural methods. Priorally, hilltribes were also a migratory people, leaving land as it became depleted of natural resources. This migratory pattern, however, is not possible in modern Thailand.

The issues confronting hilltribe people in modern Thailand include poverty, land rights, drug abuse, racism, cultural erosion, human trafficking, an overall lack of education, and, most importantly, the lack of Thai citizenship for nearly 30% of all qualified people. Without Thai citizenship, one is not eligible for any of the state rights or benefits, including free secondary education, the right to vote or discounted health care.

The Community Based Tourism poses additional problems for hilltribes. Organized tours and trekking in the villages do not provide any income to the residents. Rather, the money goes to travel agencies located in the cities. Guides from these agencies are often Thai people who know little about the culture and lifestyle of the hilltribes, and consequently provide inaccurate information to tourists. The city guide frequently treat hilltribe communities like poor people; tourists come to the village, take pictures, and leave, without interacting or truly experiencing the hilltribe way of life.

The Hilltribe Community Base of Mae Yao District seeks to provide the aid in the preservation of the hilltribe culture and combat the current issues.

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