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North Thailand People

The Austro-Asiatic Speakers In North Thailand

  • The Austro-Asiatic speakers include the Mon, Lua, T'in, Kammu and Khon Pa. These are the descendants of the original aboriginal cultures. The Wa and Paluang in Myanmar have similar languages.
  • The descendants are also to be found in Laos, North Vietnam and Southwest China. The Khon Pa (forest gatherers in Thai) include the Mlabri. The Mlabri live secluded lives in inaccessible forested areas. They are nomads, they have few possessions. They are called ‘’spirits of the yellow leaves’’ as a reference to the leafed windbreaks they make for shelter, later to abandon them and move on. It is not a matter of clear differences between these groups and within each group at different places.
  • However some distinctions can be made:
  • With the exception of the Khon Pa, all have permanent villages, where life and interest center in the village.
  • They all are animistic and many of their spirit beliefs have been adopted by the Tai. The Lua believe a person has 32 individual souls and that sickness is a result of a loss of a soul. There are different soles for the dead, for those with a good death compared to those having a bad death (being an unnatural death or a death away from home). There are household guardian spirits and dangerous, disease carrying and crop attacking forest spirits. Apart from the Khon Pa they have a complex array of ritual leaders and some have ritual functionaries, others are guardians of knowledge about ritual and legal custom.
  • Life is dominated by the spirit world. There are spirits which we can characterize as being associated with natural phenomena. These include, the thunder spirit, the sky spirit, those of water, the earth and rainbows. Some of these can watch people and what they do, day and night. The next group are spirits which inhabit certain abodes, There are animal spirits and there are ancestral spirits. Today most people in some way in all Thailand accept the notion of spirits. Many of these spirits were introduced in to the immigrant population's minds by the indigenous native communities such as these in North Thailand.