Lahu trade and commerce. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Sanit Wongsprasert   

SANIT WONGPRASERT. LAHU TRADE AND COMMERCE. JSS. VOL.63 (pt.2) 1975. p.199-218.

 

 

 

                                  LAHU TRADE AND COMMERCE

                                                             by

                                            Sanit Wongsprasert*

Introduction

       This article describes the trading and commercial activities of the
Lahu Nyi1 villagers of Pang Fan village community in the hills of Phrao
District, Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand2. These  villagers  are
taken by the author to be fairly representative of the 16, 389  Lahu  hill
people, who live in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Mae Hong  Son
and Tak Provinces3.

       The Lahu Nyi system of kinship is bilateral or cognatic4. A village
or small cluster of neighbouring villages comprises the  basic  political
unit (Walker, 1969 : 44).

       Like  other  highland peoples, the villagers under  study  practise
swidden  agriculture5. Their  agriculture is mainly concerned  with  the
production  of food, both  for local consumption and for exchange; rice,
chilli and opium are the major crops with vegetables,melons,spices and
tobacco  as minor catch-crops. Fowl, pigs, cattle and  water buffaloes
are  commonly found in the village. The Lahu keep  their  livestock  as
prestige commodities and for cash income.

                            The Lahu  exchange  produce among themselves and  with  other

                       ethnic  groups.Trade and  commerce play a very important role in the
                       relationship between the Lahu and neighbouring peoples.

                       ___________________________________________________________

                       *Senior Researcher, Tribal Research Centre, Chiang Mai.

1) Known to the Thai as 'Mussur Deang', see  Walker, A.R. 'Blessing  Feasts  and

     Ancestor Propitiation among the Lahu Nyi (Red Lahu)', in  Journal  of  the  Siam

     Society, Vol. 60, Part 1, January 1972, 345-346.

 2) The fieldwork that forms the basis of this study was conducted between October

     1966 and September 1969, under the supervision of  Anthony R.  Walker,of  the

      Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Oxford.

 3) According to the census of 1970-1973 of Tribal Research  Centre, Chiang   Mai,

      Thailand.

 4) By cognatic, I mean the  type of  kinship  system which embraces all  of  an   in-

      dividual's father's kin, and all of his mother's kin.

      The term refers to the agriculture cycle in tropical forest i.e.— burning-planting-

      harvesting-and forest regrowth (Rappaport, 1971 : 177).

 

 

 

 

 

lahuu1

 

 

 

 

 

lahuu2

 

 

 

 

202                                        Sanit Wongsprasert

 

        The study  area consisted of three major settlements  and  these I
have named  Village A, Village B and Hamlet C 6.Two smaller  hamlets
were attached  to Village A, and there was a  permanent,  swidden  hut
established in  the area. Village B had one hamlet, and  Hamlet C  had
another small  hamlet nearby. The  population   of   Village  A  was  148,
Village B 288, and Hamlet C 67.

        Village  A   (including Hamlet C) is  an  official  administrative   unit
recognized by the Thai government. Precipitously  steep paths connect
the Lahu villages and the Khon Muang(northern Thai people)communi-
ties. It is about eight kilometres or  five  hours  walk  from  the   nearest
Khon Muang village to the Lahu settlements.

        Most of  the inter-ethnic  group  communications are  economic  in
nature, and   a  variety  of  goods  is   traded. Before  considering   trade
between the Lahu and other peoples, I wish to consider briefly the nature
of economic transactions within Lahu villages.

A) Trade within Lahu Villages

       Within  the  village  there are traditional constraints on trade  which
inhibit  the  number  of purely economic transactions which take  place.
For  example, in 1968, 20  litres of  unhusked rice cost  about  13  baht
(65 C. US.) in  the  open  market. By  comparison, the  traditional  Lahu
price was only 3 baht (15 C.) for that amount of rice. As a consequence
rice was more frequently lent and borrowed than  bought and sold. 2-5
kerosene tins (40-100 litres)of unhusked rice were usually lent for one
year  or  so. There  was  no  interest  account on this transaction. Chilli
and   vegetables, on  the  other  hand, were  not  borrowed  or  lent, but
exchanged on a reciprocal basis.

       Generally,the Lahu do not sell their fowl to one another;as with
rice, fowl are usually lent and borrowed freely. Nor are  pigs  bought
and sold between villagers.When a man slaughters a pig(usually its
weight was about 12 kg.), he will not sell it for cash but might lend some
pork to fellow villagers.It is not economical to sell the meat because,
as with rice, the price was fixed by custom at 3 baht per joi (1.6 kg.)

____________________________________________________________

6) Hamlet C is too small to constitute a village because it lacked a temple and

     formal headman.

 

 

 

 

 

                                      LAHU TRADE AND COMMERCE                             203

 

Large pigs are rarely killed for consumption by household members.
More   often   the   bigger  pigs  were  sold  to  Khon  Muang  visitors  for
slaughter,  and   the  meat   was  re-sold  by  them  to  the  villagers. For
example, two  Khon  Muang traders bought  a  400 baht  pig. They  then
slaughtered  it  and sold most of the pork (about 41 kg.) or 10 baht a kg.
In  this  transaction the traders made a profit of  about 5% or about 1 kg.
of  pork, which  they consumed themselves7.After the lowland butchers
had  collected  money  from  their  customers, they  repaid  the  original
owner. This kind of transaction occurred fairly frequently.

Opium, unlike other commodities, is often bought and sold  directly
between villagers,the price being adjusted to seasonal and yearly  fluctua-
tions. Another  contrast  with  the  exchange of subsistence products  and
other commodities — which were  not  lent with  interest  accruing  to  the
seller—is that opium is usually lent at 100% interest. Generally speaking,
a man who wishes to obtain opium borrows some money  and  purchases
direct from the seller. After  his  own  opium  is  harvested  he  returns  his
debt  with  opium of double the value of the money he  had  borrowed   the
preceding   year.  For   example,  Household   9   borrows   50   baht   from
Household 1;after Household 9 had harvested their opium they repay with
160  grammes  of  opium, which  had   a   value  of  100  baht. Usually, the
money  is  loaned  during June — September, and returned  between  the
months  of  January  and  February  the  following  year. This  money  lend-
ing system is known as 'f2 hkieŭ vui ve' (opium-green-to "mortgage").

Aside from these credit transactions,barter and sales for cash also
occur. For instance, Household 12 bought opium from Household 5  with
cash8. Household 3, on  the other  hand, bartered  their  horse  to  o btain
opium from Household 1.

         Unfortunately,no livestock were bought and sold between villagers
during the research period.There   was,  however, one  transaction  invol-
ving livestock which,incidentally, illustrates perhaps the mutual mistrust

____________________________________________________________

 7) These traders were able to estimate the weight of a  pig   to  an  incredibly

     accurate degree.

 8) After opium was harvested,Household 12 sold all of its opium. Later,during

     planting of the next crop, they needed some opium for   payment  of  addict

     labourers.

 

 

 

 

 

204                                        Sanit Wongsprasert

 

of the Lahu in dealing directly with  one  another. Household  2  wished
to buy a cow, and Household 3  had  a  beast  they  wished  to  sell, but
direct negotiations apparently failed to end in agreement. Then a  Khon
Muang trader bought the cow and a few days later  res old  it  to  House-
hold 2 at the same price he had paid for it.

Other items, such as agricultural tools, hunting implements  and
jewellery, were  very  rarely  bought  and  sold. In  one  case, however, a
man   bought a  house  from  a  villager  who  was  leaving  for  70  baht
(US$3.50).

 To sum up,items concerned with subsistence needs are not bought
and sold. Crops  and  animals  that  can  be  readily  sold  on  the  open
market are sold for cash. In these  transactions, however, Khon  Muang
middlemen often acted as intermediaries  between  Lahu   sellers  and
buyers. Table 1 summarises this data.

lahuu3

 

 

 

 

                                      LAHU TRADE AND COMMERCE                             205

 

B) External Relationships :

a) Trading with neighbouring  Lahu  settlements. Lahu who live in
neighbouring settlements  often  trade  crops  and  animals. A common
type of transaction between settlements involved the acquisition  of  rice
by the poor, opium addicted Lahu  who  lived in outlying hamlets. These
people often obtained cash loans from more prosperous Lahu in the larger
villages by mortgaging their crops soon after  planting time. They  would
use the loan to buy rice from lowlanders.

This mortgage system is known as 'ca  hkieŭ vui ve' (green-rice-to
mortgage).Unlike the 'green opium' mortgages, which could be obtained
before  actual  planting  took  place, a   'green  rice'   mortgage  was   only
granted  after  the  crops  were  in  the  ground  and  on  their  way  to  ma-
turity.

The  reason  for  this  difference  may  have   been   that 'green   rice'
transactions usually involved opium addicted mortgagees who could  not
always  be  trusted  to  honour  their  obligations. The  mortgagers  would
only   give  loans  once   they   had  the  security  of  a  maturing  crop. The
addicted hamlet dwellers were not trusted  for  'green  opium'  mortgages
because mortgagers felt that they would consume the opium themselves
instead of repaying their debts.

The interest on 'green  rice'  mortgage  was  usually  about  100%.

Opium is the commodity  which  most  frequently  changed  hands
between the members of different settlements.These transactions were
usually by direct  cash  sale, and  involved  members of  both  the  small
hamlets and the major villages. Opium is usually  acquired  in  this  way
for   local   consumption. When   transactions  of   this   kind  took   place
between Lahu, it was taken on  trust  that  the  drug   was  unadulterated.
Where opium was sold  to, or   bought  from  members   of  other  ethnic
groups, proof was required of the purity of the opium  before the transac-
tion could proceed.

Chillies and vegetables were very rarely bought and sold between
villages and hamlets.

Fowl  and  pigs  were  bought  and  sold  on some occasions. The
husband of a pregnant woman, for instance, often sought sacrificial fowl

 

 

 

 

 

206                                         Sanit Wongsprasert

 

in the other settlements. Sometimes when Village B slaughtered a large
pig the villagers of  Pang  Fan  would  go  to  buy  pork. When  epidemics
decimated the fowl and pigs of one  village, its  members  might  borrow
stock from a  village  which  had  not  been  so  affected. For  example, in
1971, most of the  pigs  in  Village  A  were  killed   by  disease. They  bor-
rowed pigs from Village B, repaying the loan when their herds had  been
built up.

Cattle and horses are commonly bartered between  members  of
different   villages. Usually   the  buyer  did  not  drive  the  animal  to  his
village after he  had  paid its  price, but  left  the  animal  to  graze  on  its
original   ground.  After   weeks   or  months, the  buyer  would   lead  his
stock to his village.

Wild animal meat and forest products were sometimes sold.Often
the Lahu who lived in  very  small  settlements  adjacent  to  virgin  forest
carried barking deer or porcupine meat to sell and barter  with members
of larger settlements for opium. The price of wild  animal  meat  was  the
same   as   tha t  of   pork   (10 baht/kg.). Rattan,  which  was  rare  in  the
region, was often sought by the outlying  hamlet  dwellers. This  material
is   either  sold  as  raw  material  or  is  woven  into  baskets  for  sale  to
villagers.

Members of small settlements sometimes left  their  valuables  in
store  in  the  larger  villages. Generally, all  the  residents  of  this  region
recognized that Village B was the most  secure  settlement; it  has  many
rich people, is well-equipped with firearms, and is  internally  united  and
cohesive. The senior kinsmen of many of  the  Lahu  in  the  surrounding
area   live  in  this  village. The  head  of  Household  10  of  Village  A,  for
instance, left his cash savings of 4,000 baht (US$200) in the safekeeping
of his elder brother who lived in Village B.

Speaking in general,transactions of subsistence products such as
rice, vegetables, domestic fowl  and  pigs, are subject to a system  of  tra-
ditional  rules  with  regard   to  equivalent  value  and  are  therefore  only
carried  out  in  special  circumstances. The returns from  sale  of  opium
and  livestock, on   the   other  hand, vary  according  to  current  levels  of
supply and demand.

 

 

 

 

 

                                   LAHU TRADE AND COMMERCE                          207

 

b) Trade with other ethnic groups in the hills. The Lahu  of  Pang
Fan area do not have regular contact with many other ethnic groups  in
the hills. Most of their contacts are with Lisu or Yunnanese, and involve
the sale or purchase of horses  or  opium. In  early  1968, for  instance,
two Lahu of Pang Fan village went to a Lisu village to buy horses10. At
the end of that year three Lisu who were newcomers to the region and
had settled near Village B,came to buy horses from the villagers of Pang
Fan.

As for opium trade, Household 11's head carried about  one  kilo-
gramme of opium to sell at a Yunnanese village situated about 10  kilo-
metres away. But this trade occurred because the Lahu could not  wait
for the Khon Muang trader to come to purchase his opium supply, and he
needed cash to pay for a cow that he had already ordered from a trader.
During preparation of poppy swiddens, the Lahu who had opium  were
reluctant to sell it to needy Lahu addicts because they wanted to use  it
as payment  for  their  labour  force. Consequently  Yunnanese  visitors
came to sell opium to addicted Lahu.

Trading of domestic fowl and  pigs  with  other  ethnic  groups  is
sometimes attempted, but rarely meets with any success.

The Lahu often exchange seeds of different strains of  commonly
cultivated crops with other ethnic groups.The head of Household  2,  for
example,exchanged a small amount of his opium with a Lisu  for some
of the latter's seed rice which was reputed to be of  a successful strain11.
In another case a Lahu took some vegetables to barter for opium seeds
at a neighbouring Lisu village. The Lahu  believed that  the  Lisu   seeds
would provide him with higher yields.

_______________________________________________________

10) The Lisu wanted to emigrate to  Phitsanulok  Province 140  km. south  of  Pang

        Fan. They wanted to sell the horses to the Lahu  although  some  Yunnanese

        who lived near the Lisu village had offered to buy them.According to the Lisu

        informants, the Lisu said that they feared the Yunnanese would maltreat their

        horses, so they preferred to sell to the Lahu.

 11) It provided higher yields than the rice strain that he had previously  used  and

       could be planted either lower or higher than 1,000 metres altitude.

 

 

 

 

 

208                                           Sanit Wongsprasert

 

There are a number of conventions  to  be  observed  in  the conduct
of   inter-ethnic  group   trade.  For   example,  visitors  should  be  provided
with  food  and  shelter; Lahu was the language generally  used12;  visiting
traders should  be  very  careful   not  to  impose  upon   hospitality  offered,
usually,spending  only a  few  hours or at the most one night in their host's
home.

c) Trade   with   lowlanders. Since    the  Lahu produce  a  surplus  of
some crops and  livestock, Khon  Muang, especially   the foot-hill  dwellers,
frequently    seek   trading  contacts  with   them. Unlike  transactions   with
the  Lisu and Yunnanese, which are sporadic,regular trade relations  have
developed  between  Lahu  and  lowlanders.The  Khon  Muang  specialise
in   different  kinds  of   trade  goods : some sell  only  local  food  products,
such as rice cakes,fruits,fresh water fish,fermented crab sauce and so on;
some were middlemen bringing goods from lowland markets to sell in the
hills; others trade in rice and livestock, or specialise in  the  purchase  and
sale of  firearms; whilst  a  few  traders  come  merely  to  buy  opium  from
the   hill   dwellers. The   following   diagram    illustrates  the  frequency  of
visits made by these different kinds of traders.

        The  capital letter A traders who numbered about 18 (34%)  were
irregular   visitors. These   traders  sold   local  foot-hill  produce. They
were likely to appear in the Lahu village when  the  hill   folk  had  their
ritual celebrations, where they joined in eating   the  pork curry. When
these Khon Muang visited the village in  large numbers (4-6),the locals
felt that their settlement was being invaded  by  hungry  hordes13. The
villagers also kept careful watch on their guests as they had been known
to set fire to Lahu fallow swiddens on leaving the  village, in order to flush
out wild game and to encourage bamboo shoot growth.The lowlanders
had ignored the frequent Lahu appeals to desist from this practice and
their actions provoked a good deal of hostility, to the extent that some
Lahu had threatened death to offenders

____________________________________________________________

 12) The Lisu and Yunnanese bachelors also looked for Lahu girls, because they

        recognized that a Lahu bride-price was low. Coached by  Lahu boys, these

        visitors were taught sufficient Lahu to court the girls, and at the  same  time

        the Lahu boys imitated words that the visitors were saying.

 13) The Lahu were understandably reluctant to slaughter their pigs when irregular

        lowland traders visited the village on occasions of ritual celebration.

 

 

 

 

 

lahuu4

 

 

 

 

 

210                                         Sanit Wongsprasert

 

The capital letter B, C, D, and E traders in the diagram represent
permanent trade-partners14 of the Lahu. They numbered about  35 per-
sons (66% of the total number of traders)were permanent and  trusted
trade-partners. The   villagers  often order  items   they   need  from  the
market through these trade-partners. Items ordered  might range  from
a box of matches, to such  things  as  large  quantities of  rice, livestock
and even sub-machine guns. For example,Household 5 ordered  three
large kerosene tins of glutinous rice through a trader; a few  days  later
tha   trader   brought   the   rice  to  him. Surprisingly, the  price  that  the
trader charged his partner was close to that he originally  paid  himself.

Whilst many lowland traders were middlemen between the markets
and the Lahu villagers, some Lahu were  middlemen between  lowland
traders and Village B, which was less accessible.To give  one instance
of such a transaction : a trader wanted to buy  640  grammes  of  opium
from Household 10's head, but the Lahu man had none.The Lahu then
went to Village B and bought the required amount of opium for the Khon
Muang. The Lahu middleman retained 50  baht  from  the  agreed  price
in payment for his services.15

         Trading  relations  between  the   Lua'  and  the  lowlanders  clearly

depended  on  the existence of a cash economy  (Kunstadter, 1969 : 74).
This was also true in general for the transactions between the Pang Fan
villagers and Khon  Muang  traders. But   whilst  the Lua' had  no  goods
or property which could be used as credit with the lowlanders, the Lahu,
on the other hand, had their opium to  raise  loans  from  the lowlanders
of cash or rice. As an example : during  August  two  Lahu of Household
9 went to a  Khon  Muang  head  man of  a  valley village. The Lahu men
mortgaged 0.16 kg. of opium (which would cost about 100 baht when  it
was harvested), for about 35 litres of husked rice (equivalent to 50 baht).
During February when most of the opium had been harvested, the Khon
Muang creditor sent his  sons  to  collect  the  debt. However, there  was
only one lowlander   who   gave  credit  to  the  Lahu, although  he  never
visited Pang Fan village.16

__________________________________________________________

14) Kunstadter found that the S'kaw and the Lua' in Mae Sariang District  had   not

       developed regular relationships with lowland trading partners (1969 : 74).

 15) Some Khon Muang traders used to  visit  Village  A, but  not  Village B. Opium

       trading was rarely conducted between strangers.

 16) Lahu did not call Khon Muang money-lenders pau liang as did the lowlanders.

       Instead they used the money-lender's first name as they would   for  ordinary

       people.

 

 

 

 

 

                                       LAHU TRADE AND COMMERCE                                211

 

Essentially, the language used in trade with Khon Muang was Khum
Myng (the northern dialect  of  the  Thai language). Some  traders, espe-
cially the middlemen, speak  sufficient  Lahu  to conduct their business.
All Lahu household heads and  young  men  could  speak  Khum  Myng.
Some women used Lahu mixed with the visitors'  language  to  bargain
for the items that they needed.

Table 2 below shows the seasonal purchase to Khon Muang pro-
duce by Lahu.

 

 

lahuu5

 

 

 

 

212                                           Sanit Wongsprasert

 

In all I counted 85 items brought to the Lahu by the traders,and 13
items which were sold by the Lahu. This imbalance does not mean  that
the Lahu were  at  a  disadvantage  in  these  transactions. In  fact, if  any-
thing, it was the lowland traders  who  were  at  a  disadvantage, for  they
needed Lahu goods more than the Lahu needed the  commodities  they
brought   to   the   hills. A   Khon   Muang   who    wanted  to  buy  chilli, for
instance, had   to   speak  gently  and   be  persuasive. With  other things,
such as pigs and cattle, the lowlanders  had  to  form  a  friendly  relation-
ship and give good reasons as to why they wanted to buy  that  particular
commodity. Some  traders  used  the  word  "beg"  instead  of  "barter" or
"buy" when referring to the  Lahu's  goods, and  "help" when  referring  to
receiving   the  goods  they  had  carried  a  long  way. This  kind  of  trade
relation often involved the exchange of small items offered by the traders
at the time of  the  visits. For  example, many  visitors  carried  only  dried
fish to barter for Lahu chilli ; however when  the  Lahu  had  enough  fish
for several  days  they  might not  require   this  dried  fish, although  they
wanted other items. However, the  Lahu  might "help" the  traders  when
they reduced the price of their other goods.

During Khon Muang traders' visits, the Lahu sold their produce to
the lowlanders. The following table illustrates the types of  Lahu  goods
which were sold to Khon Muang at different times of the year.

Although the traders supplied  a considerable  quantity  of  goods,
the Lahu sometimes went to market themselves. They might do  this  if
some time elapsed between traders' visits, or if they  were  dissatisfied
with the quality of the  traders'  goods. When  the  Lahu  went  down  the
valleys for other than trade  reasons – to  seek  medical  attention, or  to
visit   the   government's  district  office, or  distant  kinsmen – they  often
brought goods such as fish or rice-cakes with them when they returned.
Such visits by Lahu to the lowlands were infrequent compared  with  the
frequency of visits by Khon Muang  to  Pang  Fan. During  June  1968  to
May 1969, Lahu individuals made in our study a total of 137 trips  to  the
lowlands. As there were  148  Lahu  at  Pang  Fan, this  means  that  on

 

 

 

 

lahuu6

 

Note : x represents supply of items

 

average an individual made 0.9 trips to the lowlands in the 1 year period.
During the same period, lowlanders visited the village for 417 men/visits.
Most of these visitors originated from tambon Pa tum and Panai.

        Diagram  Two  illustrates  the  frequency  of  visits  of  lowlanders  to

                              Pang   Fan, and   Lahu   to   the  lowlands  on  a  month  to  month  basis.

* Sesame and chestnuts to the value of about 50 baht (US. $2.50) constituted the
sum total of the annual yield.

______________________________________________________________

* Sesame and chestnuts to the value of about 50 baht (US. $2.50) constituted the

   sum total of the annual yield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

lahuu7

 

 

 

 

 

                                    LAHU TRADE AND COMMERCE                            215

 

The quality of the Lahu\Khon Muang relationships.

In   the  S'kaw  Karen/Khon  Muang  relationship  in   Chom  Thong
District, Marlowe found the use of the terra siso  or  sio  to  refer  to  most
of the Khon Muang farmers or farmer-traders who carried certain recipro-
cal rights and obligations (1969:58). This term was rarely used between
the Lahu and the lowlanders. Similarly, the Lahu/Khon Muang  used  the
term 'khon kui-e kun' or "acquaintances" to  refer  to  each other. But, the
Lahu would call their trade-partners 'khon Kui-e kun'; a term not applied
to the irregular lowland traders.

In some respects, trade cemented the Lahu and Khon Muang people
together  in  a  harmonious  relationship. It  was not, however  a  relation-
ship without points  of  conflict. I  shall, in  this  section, first  discuss  the
positive aspects of this relationship before discussing the friction  which
sometimes arose.

Usually, lowland trade-partners spent one to two nights in a Lahu
village while on their visits. Some carried glutinous rice along with them
because they did not like the ordinary rice which the Lahu served.  Often
visitors were treated to special meals  containing  pork or  the   flesh  of
barking deer.

In  reciprocation, when  the  Khon  Muang  had  a  major  religious
festival, they would send notes to each Lahu household inviting  them to
come down. The lowlanders also invited the hill people to donate some
money to  "make merit"  when  a  Buddhist  temple  was  being  built   or
repaired. Some  hill  folk  usually attended  the  lowland festivities.  They
slept  over  night  in  the  Khon  Muang villages, being given  ceremonial
rice-cakes and other special food to eat. Before they  departed, the  Khon
Muang friends would wrap up some rice-cakes or cooked rice for a noon
meal during the long walk home.

Although  smoking opium was illegal in the  plains, Lahu  guests
were ignored if  they wanted to take a pipe during a visit to the lowlands.
The lowlanders  seemed anxious to make the  Lahu  feel "at  home" as
much as possible.

The Lahu were most anxious to visit the lowlands during the time
of the year when the mango and  jackfruit  were ripe. Some  lowlanders

 

 

 

 

 

216                                        Sanit Wongsprasert

 

sold their fruits to  the Lahu  at  low  prices, while  others  gave  them  as
gifts. The   Lahu   would  carry  as  much  fruit  back  to  their  villages  as
their horses could carry.

The Lahu considered the Khon Muang to be highly knowledgeable
and keenly sought all the information  that  they could  about  the  outside
world from  them. When a  visitor  stayed  over night  in a Lahu house, he
would have an attentive audience as he told stories of the  world  beyond
the  village. The  villagers  who  had  been  present  on  these  occasions
would pass on the  information  they  had  heard  to  all  other  Lahu  who
were interested.20

On the other hand,hostility between uplanders and lowlanders did
arise most typically over the theft of Lahu livestock  and  possessions  by
Khon   Muang, especially   by  Khon  Muang  who  were  irregular  traders.
When the Lahu's crops were stolen, they rarely reported  the theft   to  the
local government officials. The  reason  was  that  the  Lahu  felt  that  the
officials would not be very active  in  seeking  or  punishing  wrong-doers.

Conflict also arose between Lahu and Khon Muang on  account  of
intrinsic   cultural   differences. One  particular  point  of  friction  was  over
the drinking of  spirits  and  gambling. Both  of  these  were  prohibited  by
Lahu custom, but some Khon Muang persisted in gambling and drinking
while   visiting   Lahu   communities. Arguments   often   arose  when  the
village authorities tried to prevent this.

The Khon Muang  who  smoked  opium  was  usually  looked  upon

with suspicion. While the Lahu addict was allowed  to  take  a  pipe in  the
Khon Muang trade-partner's home when he  went visiting, a  trade-partner
who became an opium addict,on the other hand, might be refused shelter
and equipment  for smoking  opium  if  he  wanted  to  take  a  pipe  in  the
village.  The   Lahu   believe   that   Khon  Muang   addicted   to  opium  are
robbers and trouble-makers.

 

 

 

 

 

                                    LAHU TRADE AND COMMERCE                              217

 

Khon Muang dietary habits also amazed and repelled   the Lahu.
The Khon Muang, for instance, ate Lahu animals which had  died natu-
rally, something the  Lahu  themselves  would  never  do. Furthermore,
the Khon Muang ate some species of plants and animals which are tabu
to the Lahu.

Sometimes young lowland men tried to flirt with   the  Lahu  girls
when they were on visits. Unlike the Lisu who joined the Lahu boys  to
court the girls, the Khon Muang were shunned  by  the  Lahu girls. Mar-
riage between Lahu women and men from other ethnic groups occurred
only when both sides were opium addicts.

It  may  be  concluded  that  transactions  within  the  village  were
important, but hedged around with customary constraints. Subsistence
crops and domestic animals were exchanged on a reciprocal basis. Opium
and large livestock were,on the other hand,often sold for profit between
villagers. Interest was payable where transactions involved opium.

Exchange between the villagers and outsiders (Lahu, Lisu, Khon
Muang, and others) was on a more strictly commercial basis. It usually
took place between trading partners who had established a firm personal
relationship.  An   exception  to   this   rule   were  transactions  involving
goods of marginal importance to the Lahu, which were  sold to them by
virtual strangers. More often than  not, lowland  traders   brought  goods
to   the  hills  for  sale; visits by  Lahu  to  the  lowlands  for  commercial
purposes were comparatively infrequent.

 

                                              Bibliography of References Cited

Burling, R.

1965 Hill Farms and Padi Fields : Life in Mainland Southeast Asia, N.J. :

          Prentice-Hall.

DessainT, A.Y.

1971 'Lisu Migration in the Thai Highlands', in   Ethnology, 3 : 329-348.

Forde, D. and Douglas, M.

1967 'Primitive Economies', in Dalton, G., ed., Tribal and Peasant Econo-

          mies, The Natural History Press, 13-28.

 

 

 

 

 

218                                                     Sanit Wongsprasert

 

HINTON, P. (ed.)

1969 Tribesmen and Peasants in North Thailand - Proceedings of the First
Symposium  of  the Tribal  Research  Centre, Chiang  Mai, Thailand,
1967,
Chiang Mai.

Kunstadter, P. (ed.)

1967 Southeast Asia Tribes, Minorities and Nations, Princeton (N.J.), 2 Vols.

Marlowe, D.H.

1969 'Upland-Lowland   Relationships  :  the  case  of  the  S'kaw  Karen  of
Central Upland  Western Chiang  Mai', in Hinton, P. (ed.), Tribesmen
and Peasants in North Thailand,
Chiang Mai, 53-68.

Ministry of Interior, Department of Public Welfare, Thailand.

1966 Report on the Socio-Econonic Survey Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand.

Rappaport, R.A.

1971 'The Flow of Energy in an Agricultural Society', in  Scientific  American,
Vol. 224, 3 : 116-132.

Walker, A.R.

  1. 'Red    Lâhu   Village   Society-An   Introductory   Survey',  in    Hinton,  P.,
    ed., Tribesmen and Peasants in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, 41-52.

                                     1970    'The La Hu Nyi (Red  La  Hu) New  Year  Celebrations', in  the  Journal
                                                  of the Siam Society,
LVIII Part 1, 1-44.

                                     1972   'Blessing Feasts and Ancestor Propitiation among  the  Lahu  Nyi (Red

       Lahu)' in  the  Journal  of  the  Siam  Society,  Vol.  60,  Part  1, 345-373.

Walker, A.R. and Wongsprasert, Sanit.

1968-1969 6th-14th Working Reports of Research Activities among the Lahu
Nyi (Red Lahu),
Unpublished Reports presented to the Director of the
Tribal Research Centre, Chiang Mai.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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