"Hill tribes" - Minorities in Northern Thailand

For many tourists a trip to Northern Thailand isn’t complete until you’ve visited a one of the "Hill tribes".

Years ago the tourism industry discovered the appeal the mountain tribe groups had for tourists and senselessly marketed them. The consequences have been horrendous to say the least. the tribe people are forced to stay in villages quite reminiscent of a zoo where tourists come and take snap-shots. If you look closely at these people you can see their confusion, fear and hopelessness.

Responsible or eco- tourism does not support or reflect this depiction of the hill tribes.

As saying goes, it’s the richest or the most powerful who get the best fields. These fields are situated at the fertile altitudes which are owned by the Thai people.

This means that the smaller ‘tribes’ and ‘nomadic people’, have had to settle for land hard t to reach and areas difficult to cultivate crops in the mountainous regions. This is why these groups are called ‘the hill tribes’.

At present there are approximately one million of people from the following ethnic groups; Akha, Karen, Lahu, Shan, Lawa or wha, Yaoh or Mien, Mlabri, Hmong, Lisou, Palaung, Htin and Kamu as well as the oldest tribal group within Thailand the Mon.

These nomadic groups that travelled through East Asia have their own language as well as their own unique culture. Their original homelands are as varied as their customs and dress. The majority are animistic while some have recently converted to Christianity and Buddhism.

The Thai people have recognized these tribes for over 200 years while there is still some debate whether other groups had previously settled in today’s Thailand.

As nomads they lived from hunting, gathering, and small slash- burn cultivation. They erected stilt like houses using bamboo and when these houses fell apart they simply moved on. The jungle regenerated itself and they were an integral part of the environment.

When the Thai population expanded they made contact with the hill tribes and this signalled an end to their subsistence lifestyle.

The strong increase in population among the hill tribes also meant that more jungle had to be sacrificed in order to produce food.

In the 20th century the opium fields were a good alternative to generate income, but the subsequent ban 20 years ago meant that opium is no longer an option.

The "Thai way of life" has assimilated western culture resulting in an identify loss for many of the different ethnic groups.

There are a number of well established help projects but these aren’t enough to stop deforestation. Realistically the only thing that will help these poor tribal groups is integration.

With our projects in the areas of environmental awareness, education and eco tourism we are striving for a positive lasting impact on the hill tribes.

If you would like to help, then book a tour with us. You can combine a holiday experience with real social commitment and directly help support our projects.

Full on Eco-tourism

We adhere to the strict principles of eco tourism which make our tours both ecological and socially acceptable.

The protection of the jungle forests and preserving the hill tribes’ way of life is very important to us at the Thai Horse Farm and maintaining these goals has become a core objective for us.

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