An Akha woman wearing an Akha Headdress at a funeral near Mae Salong. The Akha Headress is made from silver and feathers and is an important part of the traditional Akha dress

The Akha Hilltribe originate from Tibet and Mongolia, but currently live in the mountainous area of the Mekong Subregion in Southeast Asia. Although the Akha live in five countries, including China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam and Thailand, they speak a common, tonal language classified as Sino-Tibetan / Sino-Burmese.  Akha villages are generally located in the mountains, although many are moving closer and closer to the cities, due to economic, educational and social pressures (especially in Northern Thailand). Although the numbers we have seen vary, there appear to be approximately 80,000 Akha living in the northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai in Thailand, and 2,000,000 Akha in the world.

The typical Akha village is unique among the hilltribes, distinguished by their ornate headdresses, hand carved wooden gates, raised bamboo houses on low stilts, and hillside farming methods. A typical Akha man is able to recite his ancestry up to 60 or 70 generations. Also distinguishing the Akha from other hilltribes in Southeast Asia are the headdresses, adorned in coins and other silver craft, worn by Akha women.

Unfortunately, there are other distinctions. The Akha are also the most at risk of being exploited by the sex industry and the drug trade. They are poor and are often not granted full rights of citizenship in the nations in which they live.

Issues facing the Akha people:

  • The Poorest of all the Hilltribes : In our village, a woman makes about $0.12/kilogram of hand picked tea leaves. Or $2.50/day.
  • The Least Educated : The knowledge of the Akha about their environment is astounding, however they are pushed down socially and economically due to their lack of formal education. Our village is fortunate, being near a school. However, most of the adults have had no formal education and are unable to read any language.
  • The Highest Rate of Drug Addiction : Every few months, someone in our village is arrested for drug posession.
  • The Highest Rate of HIV / AIDS Infection : We have attended at least one funeral of an AIDS victim.
  • The Highest Mortality Rate : An astounding number of young men and women in our village have lost spouses or parents at a young age.some of this information courtesy