The Akha


The Akha hilltribe is one of the four main ethnic minority groups living in the mountainous northern provinces of Thailand. The Akha people settled in the Chiang Rai province as far back as 200 years ago. However, they still exist as a minority group who are often treated as second-class citizens. The hilltribe people face many challenges, and the Akha are known as the least "developed" group.


Many Akha people lack proper legal documentation to make them eligible for Thai citizenship and are considered illegal immigrants, even in the country of their birth. Officially recognised by no nation, they are vulnerable to the worst that humanity has to offer, and have no way of claiming government assistance. Without legal documens, many Akha people have no rights to healthcare or school graduation records, and cannot open bank accounts or take any legal action if they are exploited by employers.


As each hilltribe has its own distinct language and culture, the Thai language is not their mother tongue. Illiteracy and poverty result in lack of opportunities and choices for young people. Educational opportunities are limited in most of the hilltribe villages and there are great social problems facing their communities including drug use, drug trafficking, HIV/AIDS, child prostitution and abuse.