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Chiangmai and Bangkok Akha Street Women

Forced from their mountain homes

In increasing numbers the Akha can be found on the streets of Thai cities and towns, where ever there are tourists, working at the only option the Thai government has left them, selling trinkets on the streets.

The Forestry department is particularly to blame for these events, as they, like no other government agency, have worked the hardest to destroy the basis of Akha economics, their farm land.

Families are broken up. For the lucky few, one family member may stay behind in the mountain to watch the hut and what remains of their farming, while mother and small children hit the road to places like Bangkok, Hatyai, Pattaya, Phuket to sell wares and try to get enough money to pay for the trip and take back home to the village.

The government fails to address this problem beyond having the local police chase and fine the women.

Visits to the living quarters of these migrant women reveals the quantity of despair where they live.  Several women packed into a small room with their children, barely room for one large mosquito net, and mosquitos there are, a breading ground for disease.

The women are paying seven hundred baht a piece, and the slum lord makes 8500 baht a month off his small shack in town, partitioned with small rooms.

Mike O Grady tells of visiting the Akha women at Khao Sahn Road in Bangkok, a place frequented by backpackers.

"I found a group of Akha women, showed them the Akha Journal, tried to explain about taking

some photos for the next journal and web site, but they were very suspicious. One younger girl spoke some

english and could read a letter (in thai) in the mag. She was leading the

group. There was one man with them too. The girl said they were in bangkok for

1 month then back up north, that Chiang Rai was 'no good' for sales


I asked a waitress in a bar about

the Akha women and she said there were more and more to be seen, and even knew their mark

up - 'buy 50 baht, sell 300 baht' for some items. As we were chatting the

group in front of us suddenly scattered when they saw what they thought was a

cop. But they didn't know cop uniforms- it was a security guard according to

the waitress. They regrouped laughing when they realized their mistake.


That was it. I think there were about 10-12 women around that night, walking

walking walking. The younger ones more streetwise."


Pics Below:

Chiangmai night market women sell their wares.(first pic only)

Khao Sahn Road Akha Women

Copyright 1991 The Akha Heritage Foundation