North Thailand People

The Akha In Thailand

  • The Akha live in Yunnan China (where they originated) Kengtung State Myanmar, Upper North Thailand, Laos and North Vietnam. Hill tribe imagery attracts tourists and they cannot escape being exposed to it by tour operators but these promotions are superficial and do not deal with the true culture and customs of these people.
  • Whilst some of the hill tribes appear to have similar histories, linguistic heritages and material concepts, what distinguishes the Akha (apart from their distinctive style of dress) is their culture or themes for living.
  • The Akha language is linked to the Lolo branch of the Tibeto-Burman family.
  • The Akha are highland dwellers.
The Akha themes for living are:
  • Rice is critical and Akha legends, customs, taboos and ceremonies center on its existence, cultivation and harvesting. The Akha way is to adhere to these guidelines and taboos. Rituals dominate the selection of the rice field, preparation of the seed, planting the seed, care for growth, harvesting, carriage of the harvest and the ancestor worship and offerings.
  • The quest for purity, to be clean, sacred or holy. This has nothing to do with the Christian or other religious groups' concepts of seeing God, but rather ensuring one does not see evil spirits, suffer hunger, disease, a terrible death or suffer a terrible tragedy. To live such a pure life the Akha have various rituals and prescriptions for living and in particular to certain events such as the process of birth, sickness, death, adultery and the use of pure rice and animal offerings in ceremonies.
  • Rice as a mystical force which links the Akha to God and their ancestors. Rice is used in divining, curing the sick and ceremonies such as treating the dead, marriage and the events surrounding a birth.
  • The Akha concept of God . This is unlike the Western Judeo- Christian concept. A translation of the Akha word to describe the power is ancestor or grandfather and the remainder of the term means great power. Each village has a priest who represents God who leads the community in all rituals concerning the ancestors. He is not the village shaman or spirit priest who deals with spirits. The principal contacts with God for the Akha are with birth, death and when there is a crisis.
  • An animistic ideology with an all world creating divinity and an obsession with spirits.
  • Swidden farmers producing dry rice and subsidiary crops with an excellent knowledge about plants for medicinal purposes.