Hill tribe is a term used in Thailand for all of the various tribal peoples who migrated from Yunnan, Tibet, or elsewhere in China over the past few centuries. They now inhabit the remote border areas between Northern Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar). These areas are known for their thick forests and mountainous terrain. The six major hill tribes within Thailand are the Akha, Lahu, Karen, Hmong/Miao, Mien/Yao and Lisu, each with a distinct language and culture.
The hill tribes are subsistence farmers who use slash and burnagricultural techniques to farm their heavily forested communities. Tighter conservation of Thailand's virtually depleted forests, however, has forced hill tribe people to abandon their traditional agricultural methods. Traditionally, hill tribes were also a migratory people, leaving land as it became depleted of natural resources.
The Akha are an indigenous hill tribe that live in small villages at high altitudes in the mountains of Thailand, Burma, Laos, China, and Yunnan Province in China. They made their way from China into South East Asia during the early 1900s. Civil war in Burma and Laos resulted in an increased flow of Akha immigrants and there are now some 80,000 living in Thailand's northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai where they constitute one of the largest of the hill tribes. Many of their villages can be visited by tourists on trekking tours from either of these cities.
The Akha speak Akha, a language in the Loloish (Yi) branch of the Tibeto-Burman family. Akha language is closely related language to the Lisu and it is conjectured that the Akha once belonged to the Lolo hunter tribe people that once ruled the Baoshan and Tengchong plains before the invasion of Ming Dynasty (A.D 1644) in Yunnan, China.