Thailand boasts approximately 60,000 Lahu members. The Lahu tribes are located in the provinces of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai; however, they are also found in the Tak province. Because of their commitment to the Lahu lifestyle, their villages are normally found in remote areas far from towns and roads.
The subgroups of the Lahu are based on the colour and style of their traditional clothing the subgroup wears. For example, the Black Lahu traditional women’s clothing included black cloaks with red or yellow sleeves. The Red Lahu traditional women’s outfit included black trousers trimmed in white. In addition to this, the women in both groups wore colourful turbans and silver jewellery. The men in both subgroups wore black shirts and pants. However, as they have moved into more populated areas, their clothing choices have changed.
The Lahus are easy going and friendly. They tend to live in the mountainous regions, preferring elevations greater than 4,000 feet. Their main crops include root vegetables, rice, tea, buckwheat, tobacco, cotton and sisal. In addition to gardening, the Lahu are hunters of wild pigs, porcupines, deer, bear and pangolins. The women make clothing and shoulder bags for their family.
The Lahus’ homes are built on stilts, and feature thatched roofs and bamboo or wooden planked walls. The homes feature central rooms, a storage room and a large shared bedroom. The domesticated animals of the people are kept in a corral under the house. Domesticated animals include chicken, pigs and buffalos. Firewood is also stored within this area for the cold winter months.
The Lahu men tend to court women during the New Year as this is the time of year when the men do not work. The men will visit other villages looking for a wife. Then, the man will ask the parent’s permission to marry the daughter. If the man is unable to care properly for his wife, the woman’s parents can force the couple to separate. The valuables are given to the man because the parent’s of the wife decide to end the marriage. If there are children, the couple decides who will raise the children.
Approximately 40 percent of Lahu in Thailand are Christians. Traditional Lahus believe in a supreme deity named Geusha. In addition to this deity, the creator, known as Sky Ghost as well as his female counterpart, known as Mother Aima, are worshipped. The Lahus believe in spirits and believe that if a spirit is offended it can cause illness.