Posted by Martin Harrison
The Rotary Club of Royal Hua Hin’s Immediate Past President Brian Anderson recently undertook a 4,000 km round trip of north, northwest and northeast Thailand. During his travels in Chiang Rai, he revisited the Lahu hill tribe village that he had experienced 20 years ago.
Following his visit IPP Brian contacted the Board of Directors of RCRHH and sought funding to purchase 130 raincoats for the Lahu children at the Ban Meung Noi School in mountainous Wingpapao, Chiang Rai. This was approved and the raincoats were delivered in time for the rainy season in the area on 24 July, and help protect the children from illness. The cost of the project was 10,000 Thai Baht including shipping.
The Lahu people are to be found in the mountains of China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and northern Thailand. There are approximately 25000 Lahu’s now living in Thailand. There are four tribes within the Lahu: Black, Red, Yellow and She-Leh. Lahu villages are mostly at high altitude in the northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Sorn. They originated in southwest China. Houses are built on high stilts with walls of bamboo or wooden planks, thatched with grass. A ladder leads to the open central living area, with a storeroom to one side and living quarters to the other. Their domestic animals like chicken, pigs and buffalos are kept in the basement corral. Their practice of slash and burn agriculture does not provide them with even the basic essentials of life, let alone the enrichment to be found in education for their children, adequate medical care, and the simple amenities of modern life.
Lahu women are skilled in weaving cloth, both on back-strap and foot-treadle looms, producing delicate patchwork trims, and unusual embroidery work. The Black Lahu women wear the most distinctive costumes within this tribe. They wear a black cloak with diagonal cream stripes. The top of the sleeve is decorated in bold colours of red and yellow. Red Lahu women wear black trousers with white edging and vivid sleeves of broad red and blue stripes. All the other Lahu tribes have supplemented their traditional costumes by sarong and Thai shirt. Men and women together make some of the finest baskets to be found anywhere in Thailand. Lahu men produce excellent crossbows, musical instruments, and other items made of wood, bamboo and rattan.
The Lahu’s are animist and believe in one spirit with overall control all the others. About 30% of the Lahu’s have been converted to Christianity and have abandoned their way of life. The Lahu are independent people and love entertainment and the easy life. They are obviously pride themselves on their skills in hunting and trapping.
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