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Lahu

The Lahu are a strong independent and very diverse ethnic group who number about 60,000 in Thailand. The Lahu are located primarly in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, but can also be found in considerable numbers as far south as Tak province. Their settlements are usually remote from roads and towns, due to their strong commitment to the maintenance of the Lahu way of life.

The Lahu are complex and diverse ethnicity. In Thailand there are no fewer than six different Lahu tribes, some of whose languages are not mutually intelligible. The majority of Lahus in Thailand are Red Lahu, pantheistic animists who follow a Dtobo, a messianic leader. There are also a significant number of Black, Yellow and Shehleh Lahus in Thailand, many of whom have been Christian for nearly one hundred years. Black Lahu are the most populous throughout Southeast Asia and theirs is considered to be the standard Lahu dialect.

Although primarily subsistence farmers, growing rice and corn for their own consumption, the Lahu are also proud of their hunter-warrior heritage. They remain a strict, serious people governed by strong principles of right and wrong, every individual in the village answering to the common will of the elders. While less importance is placed on the extended family than in other hill tribe communities, the Lahu are still strongly committed to principles of unity and working together for survival. Lahus may have the most gender-equitable society in the world.


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