Hilltribe Cultures

EN: The Lawa of Southern MHS

The Lawa are not realy rated as hill tribes. It seems that they have inhabited Thailand since at least the eight century and they were certainly here already when the Thais arrived. They believe that they migrated from Cambodia, but some archaeologists think their origins lie in Micronesia, perhaps more than 2000 years ago. With such a long cohabitation with the Thais, most Lawa villages are indistinguishable from Thai settlements and most Lawa speak Thai as their first language.

However, on the Bo Luang plateau between Hot and Mae Sariang and the southern part of Mae Hong Sorn province about 14000 Lawa still live their traditional life. Their economy is based on subsistence agriculture, with rice grown on terraces according to a sophisticated rotation system.

Unmarried Lawa girls wear loose white blouses edged with pink. Around the neck distinctive strings of orange and yellow beads are worn. After marriage these brightly coloured clothes are replaced with a long fawn dress, but the beads are still worn. The Lawa are animist, but many of them have adopted buddhism.

About the Author


Galletto is a surprisingly accurate yet indolent journalist that volunteers as a part time guest writer for the Pai Explorer Map & Blog.