Reflections on Band Akha Mae Salong. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Lucien M. and Jane R. Hanks   

HANKS, LUCIEN AND JANE R. HANKS. REFLECTIONS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG. JSS. VOL.63 (pt.1) 1975. p. 72-85.

 

REFLECTIONS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG*

by

Lucien M. and Jane R. Hanks

         

          Since our  initial  visit  to  the  hills  of  Chiengrai  Province  north  of  the
Mae  Kok   river   in  1964,   we  have  seen  rich  and  poor,   small  and  large,
vigorous  and  apathetic  Akha  villages,   but  never  one  like  Ban  Akha  Mae
Salong.    The   five   little  huts,    each  perhaps  no  more  than  three  meters
square, were easily  identified  as  Akha  from  the  shape  of  the  thatch  roofs
which  sloped   in  four  directions,   while   those   of  the  other  upland  inhabi-
tants,   the  Yao,   Lisu,   and   Lahu,   have  but  two  sloping  faces.  Between
the   huts   a  few  children  played,   but  there  were  no  dogs,   pigs  or  even
chickens.    Through   a   doorway   one   could   see  within  the  scattering  of
baskets,  rags,   and  tools  on  the  family  sleeping  platform,  which  severely
cramped   the   sheltered   space  on  the  ground  for  a  fire  and  cooking. Of
course,  we  had  seen  temporary  quarters like these, where newcomers to a
village  must  spend  a  few  weeks  while  they  gather  posts,   bamboo,  and
grass  for  a  permanent  house,  but here this was not the case. The lean and
ragged   young   Akha,  who  broke  off  his   cutting  of  firewood  into  uniform
lengths,  said  he  had  been  living  here  for  more  than a year. He had come
with  his  wife  and  two  children  from  a   nearby  village,   yet   unlike   most
Akha  villages,  his  present  neighbors  had  not  come  with  him.   Ordinarily
a  group  of  kinsmen,  perhaps  only  three  or  four  houses, move together to
establish   a   new  village.  This  family,  however,   had  scarcely  known  the
other   householders   before  meeting  on   this  hillside,  a  kilometer  or  two
from   the   nearby   Chinese   market  village  of  Ban  Mae  Salong.  No  one
headed  the  village,  no  village  priest  had  selected  the  spot  or built gates,
and   none  sought  to  lead  village  ceremonies.  Each  household  came  to
settle  on  its  own,  remain,  or  move, as  it  might  decide. Since the  village
had  no  name,    we  just  identified  it  for  our  records  as  Ban  Akha  Mae
Salong.

____________________________________________________________

*This essay seeks to formulate the essence rather than the precise content of a lec-
ture by the writers at the Siam Society on 4 June 1974.

  

                                    REFLECTIONS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG                                   73

          In  1964  we  had  begun  the Bennington-Cornell  Survey of Hill Tribes
in   Thailand.    We   limited   ourselves   necessarily  to  a  particular  region,
this  one  about  1,300  square  kilometers in area, bounded on the north and
west  by  the  Burma  border,  and  on  the  east,  generally speaking, by the
highway  from  Chiengrai  to  Mae  Sai.  At  that  time little was known about
these  uplands.  The  Border  Patrol  Police  manned  four  or more  outposts
in  our  region,   but  smugglers  and  bandits  occupied  most  of  their  time.
Though  the  Department  of  Public  Welfare  had made studies of scattered
villages  in  northern   Thailand   and  established  welfare  stations  in  three
provinces,  work  on  the  new  station  in  the  Mae  Kok  region  had barely
begun.   Few   district   officials  or  lowland  headmen  made  any  claim  to
having  visited  the  outlying   villages  in   their  jurisdictions.   Hence  many
agencies  of  the  Thai  government  welcomed  our offer to locate villages on
the  map,  count  their  populations, and  ascertain  their  modes  of  making
a  living,  as  well  as  their  general  welfare.   So  with  the  help  of  various
cooks  and  guides plus the indispensable  San Ching tse Phan,  our Yao in-
terpreter  for  upland  languages,  we  hiked the maze of upland trails to 131
scattered  villages,  mainly  of  the  Akha,  Yao, Lisu,  and  Lahu tribes,  not
only  to  obtain  the  foregoing  information  but  also  something  of the cus-
toms  of  various  ethnic  groups,  their  history,  and  their  relations  to  the
Thai  population  of  the  valley.  In  1969  and  again  in  1974  we  repeated
our  survey  in  order  to  trace  the  changes  that  were  occurring.  Among
them  the  appearance  of  Ban  Akha  Mae  Salong  was  one  of  the most
striking  met  in  1974.

          Asking about the rice crop in Ban Akha Mae Salong,  we discovered
that  in  the  present  year  our informant had not planted any at all, nor did
he  expect  to  plant  one  during  the  coming  year.  He  had  no time for it.
Each  day  he  went  to  the  forest  on the steep slope below  the village to
cut  a  tree  or  two  and  with  a  Chinese  partner  saw it into lumber. Then
the Akha or his wife carried  a  few  boards on their  shoulders  up the  trail
for  sale  to  some  merchant  or  householder in the Chinese market. On a
good  day  he  could make from sale of lumber or firewood as much as fifty
baht,  more  often  twenty  or  less.  To  provide a bare minimum of food for
his  household  and  opium for himself, he needed twenty baht per day. No

   

74                                Lucine M. and Jane R. Hanks

one  in  the  market  would advance  him  a few baht for  tomorrow's lumber.

Were  he  to eat, clothe  his  family, and  replace  his  worn  tools, he must
work  every  day.  He  kept  no  track  of  the  days  in  the traditional Akha
week,  let  alone  the  sabbaths  when  all should stop working. No one res-
pectfully  kept  the  sacred  container of fermented rice which  furnishes the
avenue  to  the  ancestors  who  protect  against  the demons of forest  and
stream.  Only  on  the  few  occasions  when  he  went hunting and brought
back  a  wild  boar  or  a  deer,  did  he  follow the Akha custom of sleeping
for  a  few  nights  apart  from  his  wife.

          On  the  whole  these  people  were  living outside Akha culture. The
women that  we  saw  were  still  wearing  Akha  dress, but would they con-
tinue  once the silver coins on their hats had vanished, reduced one by one,
in  order  to  feed  the  children  in time of sickness? Everyone spoke Akha
in  the  village,  yet  here  even the women had Lahu as a second language
and  could  muster  enough  Chinese  to  buy  and sell in the market. Only
the  mechanical  reflexes  of  the  tradition remained; the joys of village par-
ticipation,  the  pride  in  Akha  achievement, the reassuring safety of Akha
ritual,  all  this  had  been  abandoned.

          Of  course,  we  asked  our informant the reason for moving from the
village  of  his  parents  and  brothers,  but  he seemed to have  little facility
in  explanation.  Besides,  why  should  he  confide  in  a stranger who had
just approached him a few minutes before, and  reveal  his personal  hopes
and  frustrations?  He  simply  said  that  his  crop had failed;  his pigs and
chickens  had  died.  In  his  village  it  had been impossible to support his
wife  and  children,  not  to  mention  his  craving  for  opium.  A  man  told
him  about  the  advantages  of living near the Chinese market, and he had
decided  to  come.  No  word  was  spoken of his hesitations at leaving the
village  protected  by his  ancestral spirits, of anguish at leaving behind his
kinsmen,  nor  of  hostilities  that  may  have  driven  him  away. Scores of
uplanders,  representing  all  local  ethnic groups, were coming daily to the
Chinese  market  heavily  laden  with  wares  for  sale,  but  they took their
earnings  and  purchases  back  to  their  villages  where they continued to
live.  Why  this  Akha  preferred  to  carry  his  burdens  a shorter distance
and  forego  the  sociability  of  his  village,  he  never  explained.


                                  REFLECTIONS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG                               75

          If  our  informant   were  more  desperate,   individualistic,  or  misan-
thropic  than  other  Akha,  he  and   his neighbors were not unique. Within
a  few  hours  we  discovered  four other such  clusters of Akha huts, all on
the outskirts  of  the Mae Salong market.   There  they  repeated  much the
same  tale.  In  the  months  that  followed we found equally  abject villages
in  the  neighborhoods  of  other  markets. In  these  places   collective  life
within   the   Akh  tradition   had  shrunk   near  a  minimum  while  hungry
householders  struggled  to  find  something  to   eat.  Certainly  Yao, Lisu
and  Lahu  villages  were  equally   impoverished,   but  none  of them were
leaderless aggregates of people living outside  their  own cultures.  Though
the  inhabitants  also  looked  bleakly  ahead  to  months  of  hunger, their
cooperative hunting, social and ceremonial observances seemed to remain
intact.  The old forms persisted at a lower level of enthusiasm.

                                           Reflections 

          Let us continue by asking what may  be the significance of this and
other  nameless  "Ban  Akha  Mae  Salongs"  for the hills north of the Mae
Kok.  Some  might  consider  them  a  passing phenomenon, the refugees
from  a  disaster  who  will return  to  continue  their  customary  life  when
threats  have  ebbed. However,  these villages seem to show symptoms of
a  more  profound  and  irreversible  transformation  of the entire uplands in
this  region.  Let  us  first  examine  the  economic  basis  of  upland living
and  later  turn to matters which may be loosely called "cultural".
 

            The Economic Contribution : In 1974 most of the 200 or so villages
that  we  visited  reaped  and threshed only about one third of the life-giving
rice  which  ordinarily  sustains  them  until  the  new  harvest. A few had a
small  surplus  to  sell, though they were outweighed  by others where only
one  household  had enough for the year but was duty-bound to share  with
less  fortunate  neighbors  until  the  supply  was exhausted. While certain
villages  had  resources  enough to buy sacks of polished rice from the low-
land   mills,   the  majority  looked  forward  to  many  lean  months. Some
people  blamed  the  heavy  rains  and tempestuous winds that spottily flat-
tened  the  standing  grain;  others  said  their  rice flowers failed to mature

  

76                                 Lucine M. and Jane R. Hanks

into  something  more  than empty husks,  or  spoke  of blight or  worms in
the  soil  that  consumed  the  roots.  Whatever  the cause, the result  was
empty  or  nearly  empty  rice  bins.

          Shortages  are  nothing  new  to the uplands where fear of hunger is
chronic.  Many  old  men  could  remember  mice  hordes  that ate the rice
crop  before  it  could  be  harvested  or  conflagrations  of  villages that left
charred  inedible  grain.  Then  neighbors  of  many  years  standing  some-
times  broke  apart,  each household fleeing to more fortunate neighbors in
other  spots. Usually,  however, the  village  remained  in  place, borrowing
what  could  be  spared  from  kinsmen  or  gathering less appetizing roots
and  berries  from  the  forest.  A  single  year  of  shortages is ordinarily to-
lerable,  but  in the  present instance, the crop failure was preceded by one
only  somewhat  less  severe  because the 1972 rains were inadequate.No
one could  remember such  persistent and broadly spread  troubles.

          Ten  years  ago  the  land  was  still  covered in major part by forest.
Today,  however,  three  fourths  of  the  region  has been cut over, and the
population  has  increased  from  about eight persons per square kilometer
in  1964  to  more  than  thirty  in 1974.  Uplanders recalled the abundance
when  their  village  first  moved  in  from  Burma  to settle in an untouched
forest,  but  all  knew  that  only  bamboo  rises after a forest has been cut.
To  regrow  a  semblance  of  the  original  trees  takes decades. Here and
there  an  elder  who  spent his life on a certain mountain remembered that,
when  he  was  a  young man, a bucket of seed rice produced fifty  or sixty
buckets  of  paddy at harvest and acknowledged wryly that today he could
get  but  twenty  in  a  good  year. So fewer and fewer people of this region
expected  to  find  a  fertile,  forested  hillside, untroubled  by newly arrived
neighbors  whose fields threatened trespass on their lands.

          Villages with will and energy to prolong the days of subsistence agri-
culture  have  been  departing  from  the Mae Kok region in search of forest
elsewhere . Many  were  reported  to  be settling  on  lands as far south as
Ngao  on  the  edge  of Lampang province, but we, determined to study the
life of this region, did not  follow  them  to  record  their  successes.  In the
main  those  with  less  grasp of what was happening to their surroundings

 

  

                         REFLECTIONS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG                                 77

  or  more  faith  in their ability to cope were striving to continue subsistence
agriculture  of  the  old style. They  were  perpetuating  their  ways  a  little
longer  by more frequent  moves and by dissolving larger villages into smal-
ler  ones.

          A new  relationship to the  land  has, nevertheless, begun, and this
may  lead  to  a  modicum  of  prosperity. A few villages on their  own have
been  able  to  divert  a  brook into canals, level a plot of land into terraces,
and  master  successfully the techniques of growing irrigated rice; thereby
they  halted  the  ebbing  fertility  of  the  land. In addition, the Thai govern-
ment, working with a whole  valley as a drainage system, has begun irriga-
tion  programs  in  some  valley  bottoms  to stabilize food supplies and to
return  the  forest  to  the steeper  slopes,  thus  restoring a lost source of
wood,  fuel,  fruits,  and  game.  Though  limited  land  is   still  available in
certain  parts  of  the  Mae Kok region for development in  this manner, the
vast  majority of uplanders lives where valleys are seen as too  narrow and
precipitous   to   permit  terracing.   There  stability   of  food  supply  from
rain-fed fields  requires learning to conserve and increase fertility.  Already
the means exist, for one or two villages have learned to hoe out the weeds
in  a  single  plot two  or  three  times per year and to apply manure. Then
one  field  suffices  indefinitely  for  a  household,  in  contrast to the slash-
and-burn  practices  that  require  a  new  field  each  year. With adequate
labor  to  utilize  the newer technique and appropriate crops for the setting,
villages can make a good living.

          The  foregoing   programs  imply  continuation  of  self-sufficient  vil-
lages across the land, more prosperous because they produce more abun-
dantly.  Though  both  necessary  and  desirable,  these programs tend to
underemphasize  a  further  dimension,  familiar  enough  in  our own com-
merce  and  trade : i.e. one  locality  produces  in  order  to  supply  other
localities  and  receives  from  them  neede  commodities. This system of
distribution  rests  on  a change where the subsistence farmer achieves a
new outlook : he  becomes  an  entrepreneur seeking to produce, not just
enough  for  his own  consumption  but more than'he can possibly use, so
as to have something to exchange.  His attention expands, as he reckons
his successes,from a single-minded pride in the size of his crop to include
calculations of income and profit from sales. Such a change to commerce

  

 78                                Lucine M. and Jane R. Hanks 

can  have  benign  effects  on  the environment,   for each  village can take
better  advantage   of  the  temperature,   light  and  soil  of   its  particular
hillside   location.   These   variations  in   natural  setting  reinforce  effort,
and the whole,which includes both uplands and lowlands,rests on securer
foundations  in  nature.

      A slender commerce has long existed, as when the uplands sent raw
cotton  and  opium  to  the  lowlands  in  return  for silver, iron and salt. In
1964  the  villages  of  lower altitude were also selling soy beans, peppers,
and  rice  to the valley markets and buying mainly cloth, cooking  utensils
and  iron.  Here  and  there  a  headman  returned  from  the  market  with
extra tins  of kerosene,  salt and other items for resale,  as a convenience
to  his  village  rather  than  for  his  own  profit.  Entrepreneurs  were  few.
Besides  the  itinerant  Chinese  vendors, some Yao with their ponies con-
ducted  a  transport  service  during  the  dry  season, going to remoter vil-
lages  where  they  delivered  previously ordered wares and thus earned a
few  hundred  baht.  In  1974  many  more uplanders had become at least
part-time   entrepreneurs.   An  Akha  village  on  the  Burma  border  had
gained  renown  as  an  entrepot for dozens of lowland and upland  traders
in livestock.  An  industrious  Lahu  set  up  
a diesel rice  mill in his village,
operated  a  boat  on  the Mae Kok river, and dealt in agricultural  produce.
Another  Lahu  transported  tea  grown in Yao villages on Doi Chomphu to
the market towns.  One  Akha  became  partner  in a taxi service that was
successful enough to consider the purchase of a second automobile.Little
stores  appeared  in  many  villages  and  sold sweet crackers, cigarettes,
and flashlight  batteries to the locality. Indeed,  a delicious bowl of noodle
soup  in  a "restaurant"  awaits  the  hardy  traveller  who  can  walk three
days from the valley to a  Lisu village at the headwaters of the Mae Kham
river.

        Still  more  striking  was  the  advent of three new market  centers in
the hills. Since 1969, when the U.S. Seabees bulldozed a hazardous road
in  to  the hills,  Chinese  have  been  setting  up  stores  with a  variety of
wares which  peddlers with  their trains  of horses could not equal. Except
during  the  most  torrential rains, steel-nerved truck drivers supplied  fresh
merchandise  every  day.  These  markets  have  grown, Ban  Mae Salong

  

                                  REFLECTIOMS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG                               79

among  them, to  a  street lined  with stores where uplanders from the sur-
rounding  areas  preferred  to  buy  and sell rather than make the long trip
to  the  valley  towns.

          While  we  might extend the catalogue of entrepreneurial  activities,
more  important  were  the  over-all influences  of these markets. The well-
dressed uplander was wearing a shirt from  some valley store and often a
beret.  To  honored  guests  he no longer served tea in native bamboo but
in  glasses.  Spinning  and  weaving  disappeared  in  all  but a handful of
villages.  Indeed,  many  a  village  moved from splendid isolation on a hill-
side  to  closer quarters with its neighbors to have easier access to some
market.  In  this  light the move of Ban Akha Mae Salong residents to the
outskirt  of that market represents not only a succoring flight from hunger
but  an  entrance  into commerce, however risky we may consider it. Yet
our  Akha  informant  might have remained in his village, sacrificing some
of  this  succoring  and from there carried on his new occupation. Can we
detect that tribal cultures are losing their vitality ?
 

          The Cultural Contribution : While proud, old Akha villages seem to
perch solidly on the shoulder of some hill, the inhabitants see themselves
balanced  precariously on the verge of calamitous attack by hostile spirits
of  the  forest  and  streams. The  site itself is chosen only after ritual test
of  its  safety  from  malevolent  influences;  house  sites  are  arranged to
ensure  internal  harmony  among  villagers;  gates  are erected to protect
the  inhabitants  from  demons. On  this  premise  a member's obligations
toward  his  village  are  prescribed, and failure to comply threatens village
foundations.  In  the  Akha  week  of  fourteen  days come two regular sab-
baths.  Nine  times  per year are days of agricultural rites to insure growth
of  the  crops.  Add  more days for appeasing hostile spirits, as well as for
renewing  contacts with the ancestral guardians. On each of these regular
occasions  a  man  may  not  leave the village to work. Still more exacting
are  the  demands  at  funeral  ceremonies  on  surviving kinsmen, for they
must  abstain  from field work for thirty days, and should a village calamity
occur, e.g. the birth of twins, these prohibitions on  work outside a  village
apply to everyone.  Clearly  the  continuous  work  demands of Ban Akha
Mae  Salong are incompatible with normal life.

  

 

80                               Lucine M. and Jane R. Hanks
          Akha  seem  to presume a backlog  of supplies in  every household.
Holidays  signal  feasting  rather  than  fasting.  To  join in the  culminating
feast  of  almost  every ceremonial  occasion requires the ability to  contrib-
ute  an  occasional pig  and to  entertain  village  elders  within  one's  own
household.  Destitution   limits   participation,   and  poverty,  if  persistent,
betokens  a  man  unable  or  unworthy  to  assume responsibility. Unless
miscreants  enjoy  some  wealth in livestock or produce, village elders can-
not effectively impose a fine, so that the poor stand unscathed by this form
of  discipline.  Banishment  from  the  village  becomes  the  sole recourse.
Such  rejected  households  can find haven only in the most dispirited and
impoverished  villages. We  suspect  that many of the hapless inhabitants
of  the  various Ban Akha Mae Salongs  are the misfits of Akha society.

          Yet  we  are  concerned  with  more  that individual failure, for Akha
culture  itself  has  become  subject  to criticism by its very bearers. After
years  of  little-availing  missionary  effort  to  introduce  Christianity, three
villages  of  Akha  Christians  have  come  into  being  during the past two
years.  We  have  heard  that  some  Akha have moved to join an existing
Christian  village  in  the  Mae  Sruaj  district  beyond the Mae Kok region
and that other  individuals  wish to become  Christians. We hasten to add
that  missionaries  should  in  no way be accused of fomenting discontent,
for  most  are  properly concerned that a new religion  shall disturb as little
as  possible  the  moral  foundation  of their converts. Nonetheless,  many
Akha  in  these  new  Christian villages  explained their conversion saying,
not  that  the  ancestral  spirits  had been unable to protect them, but that
the  obligations  of  living  in  a  traditional  village  were too heavy. For too
many  days they  had had to stop work even though the grain in their bins
was low, even when children cried for food.

          Among the Yao,  Lisu, and Lahu we often sensed a cultural ebbing
too,  though  it  was manifest in other ways. Unlike Akha, many headmen
did  not  know  the households that had joined or departed from the village
during  the  past  year.  Unlike  the  cohesive  Akha, ever following a head-
man,  people  moved  on  their  own initiative, some households remaining
behind  while  others  took  off  in  the  direction  of  their choice.   Even in

   

                                        REFLECTIONS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG                         81

1964  we  found  the  lone  Lahu,  Lisu  or  Yao  household that voluntarily
lived  apart  from  any  village  or  that  joined  a  village  of  another ethnic
background. Moreover, ceremonial occasions were less frequent and less
focussed  on  the  general  welfare  than among the Akha. New Year rites
often  constituted  the  sole village-wide celebration for the year, yet these
rites  were  often  abridged because of the absence of a village priest or a
musician  to lead the dances. Though all phrased these rites as renewing
bonds with  the protecting ancestors, joyous dancing about the traditional
poles  festooned  with  banners and bedecked with offerings often yielded
to  little  more  than feasting and exchange of cakes. Under these circum-
stances  the  man  eager  to  work every day to feed his dependents may
work  as  he  pleases  and remain a resident. There are no Ban Yao, Lisu
or  Lahu  Mae  Salongs,  only Ban Akha. Here we do not imply that Akha
alone  drive  their  pariahs  from the village, but Lahu, Lisu and Yao exiles
do  not  congregate.

          Though  crop  failure  appears  more  disruptive  of Akha than other
upland  cultures,  two  or even five such years of hardship offer insufficient
basis  for  prophesying  Akha  demise.  If  one  may  judge by the forty or
more  generations  recited in calling the ancestors, Akha have survived at
least five hundred years and doubtless endured much severer tribulations.
Rather  than  a denouement, we may be observing the strengthening of a
culture  by  sloughing away the disheartened and reenforcing the stalwart.
While  prosperity  draws  people  easily, in this region adversity alienates
from  a  way  of  life.  Thereby  those  who  remain  through  affliction  are
confirmed  in  the  tradition's  validity.  Today  for  the  first time Akha are
begging  in  the  valley  towns  for  food.  Some  of  them will never return
to  their  villages,  for  headmen are already turning away the poor and im-
provident.  In these  weakened  villages  as  well as among the foot-loose,
Christianity  will  doubtless  find  further  converts,  yet somewhere in the
hills  traditional  Akha  villages  will  continue.

          Commerce  and entrepreneurship are among the most immediate
new   features   that  confront   uplanders.   The  Yao  with  their  trading
experience  enjoy  an  initial  readiness,  shared by some Lisu and Lahu.
Though many of these latter villages are bound to a subsistence style of

 

 

82                                Lucine M. and Jane R. Hanks

living,  others  prosper  or  strive  to  prosper  under headmen trying  their

hands  at  commerce.  As  for the Akha, only two villages are  at present
engaged  in  apparently  stable commerce, one the previously mentioned
entrepot  for  water-buffalo traders on the Burma border, the other flourish-
ing  with  its  maize  and  cattle. The vast majority of seventy villages has
not yet tried the new and is likely, when the time comes, to make  all the
mistakes  of  innocent  and  gullible  late-comers.  Yet  in  some of these
villages  will be living headmen of acumen and tenacity sufficient to guide
their  following  into  commerce.  Indeed,  Akha sense of obligation to the
whole  and  skill  in  maintaining  harmony  within  a group will serve their
enterprise  well.
 

          If  then  we envision the Mae Kok region as it may  become twenty
years hence under  a commercial economy, there appear stable  entrepre-
neurial  villages  dominating  the  countryside.  Irrigated terraces  and rain-
fed  fields,  now  worked  with new techniques, are producing a  variety of
temperate  crops  such  as  pyrethrum  and Macedonian tobacco.*  Such
crops  move  over  a  system  of  roads  to market centers, while rice,  no
longer  an  upland  product,  moves  hillward  from  the valley. Only a  few
upland  villages  are  Yao,  Lisu,  or  Lahu because most of their  entrepre-
neurs  led  the  people  away to more favorable localities beyond  the Mae
Kok  region.  The  majority  of  the  villages  are  Akha,  who  have   made
their  place in commerce through special crops, maybe even  silk-making,
that  capitalize  on  their  special  capacity to coordinate people and jobs.
Of  course,  all  these entrepreneurs are the comfortably wealthy, but  the
poor,  those Yao,  Lisu and Lahu  too  impoverished  to  move  with   their
kinsmen  or  too  undisciplined  to bear responsibility in village enterprise,
these residual people continue to eke out a subsistence living in the back
valleys.  As  for  the poor Akha,  they,  no longer Akha, have disappeared.
These   people   have  become  inhabitants  of  villages  that  simply  call
themselves  Christian  or  dwellers  in  other spots that have woven a new
ethnic standard out of varied ethnic strands.

_____________________________________________________________

*In 1973 the United Nations Program for Drug Abuse and Control began working
in Chiengmai  province  to determine whether such crops as these may become
commercially viable in the uplands.

 

                                REFLECTIONS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG                     83

          Ban  Akha  Mae  Salong  is  thus a byproduct of a culture slow to
change.  The  inhabitants  have  adapted  to  living  outside Akha culture;
becoming  Christian  or  Thai  are other adaptations. The tightly knit con-
servativism  of  the  old Akha villages, however, bodes well for the contin-
uity  of  the  tradition.  Should  some  future  traveller  in the hills hope to
savour  something  of  the  past,  he will find much still surviving in these
villages   despite   their   economic   transformation.   To   find   the  Yao,
Lisu  or  Lahu  traditions  will  be  more difficult, but in some little cluster
of  houses  hidden  away  will  live  a  few conservative headmen still per-
forming  the  old  rituals. The rich, who reside more accessibly, will have
only nominal semblance to their grandfathers of the subsistence era.

 

84                                            Lucine M. and Jane R. Hanks

Appendix 

                   Preliminary Count of Tribal Population in Mae Kok Region
                                          January to May, 1974

 

Amphoe (districts)                                  number of                Number of                Population

                                                                  villages                  households

Amphoe Myang Chiengrai1            38                     654                  3,999

Amphoe Mae Chan2                    131                    2,562               16,404

Amphoe Mae Sai                          6                       128                   665

Amphoe Chieng Saen                   3                        81                    378

Amphoe Mae Ai3                         16                      355                  2,139 

                                   Total       194                    3,780                23,5854


 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________

1)     Amphoe Myang Chiengrai includes in the present count the following tambol
      (communes) : Mae Yao, Huei Chomphu, Nang Lae, Ban
Du and Raub Wieng. 

2)    Amphoe Mae Chan includes in the present count the following tambol  (com-

         munes) : Mae Kham,Pasang,Pateng and Mae Chan.

3)   In  Amphoe   Mae  Ai,  Changwad  Chiengmai  and Tambol Huei Chomphu in

       Amphoe Myang Chiengrai, Figrues represent only the region under survey,not

       the total tribal population of those areas. 

4)   This figure does not include Shan,Thai, Chinese, or military presonnel living

       in  the  region  under  survey.  We estimate  their  number  at  10,000 people,

       giving an approximate total of 33,585.

 

                                  REFLECTIONS ON BAN AKHA MAE SALONG                       85

                                      

                                        Appendix (continued)

                     Preliminary count of population change, according to
                            tribal group, over ten years (1964 to 1974)

 

Year of      Akha          Lahu           Lisu           Yao           Karen         Miao                Total
Census

1964     6,196       2,736      1,037    1,085       967                        12,021

1969     8,017       3,721      1,803    1,271       6631                      15,475

1974      10,547        6,460         2,847     1,787         1,603         342

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________

1)The Karen data for 1964 are incomplete and so do not represent a population
decline.

 

 

 

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