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KHMU HILL TRIBE OF LAOS (PHOTOS)

July 25, 2011

The Call of the Soul   (A Poem)

anonymous, Laos Poet

Come swiftly, soul
By forgotten footpath,and unswept track
Out of trackless
Wild or salt waste
Return to us

Do not delay on the road
Nor hesitate overlong
In the cobra’s nest
Or the tiger’s thicket

Do not let riverflood
Dissuade you nor
Any other voice
Persuade you but

Come swiftly back
To these well-wrought
Timbers hooked eaves
Open eyes and mouth
Of your own house

ON MARCH 6, 2011 WE CROSSED THE BORDER FROM THAILAND TO LAOS AT HUAY XAI TO CRUISE DOWN THE MEKONG RIVER FOR 2 DAYS.ON THE FIRST DAY WE STOPPED AT  KHMU VILLAGE ON THE MIDLANDS.

The Khmu/ Khamu are one of the small tribal groups, living along the Thai-Laotian border. They originate from Laos, mainly of Luang Prabang and Xieng Khoung districts. They are living now in small villages located on mountain slopes and survive on subsistence agriculture supplemented by hunting, fishing and trading, and can work as laborers for other hill tribes.

Approximately 500 to 600 Khmu Keun live in a few villages in the Tonpheung District of Bokeo Province in northwest Laos. The Khmu Keun’s location is near the Golden Triangle, where the countries of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet. It is not known if there are any Khmu Keun living outside of Laos.

The Khmu are recognized as the original inhabitants of Laos. When the Lao people migrated into the area from China at least 1,000 years ago, they pushed the Khmu off the plains and into the mountains…. “Though not Buddhists, the Khmu are entrusted with the Prabang (a statue of Buddha) during the Lao New Year’s celebration. The Prabang was brought to Laos when the first Lao chief came to the country from Cambodia. Thus, though the Lao Buddhists are dominant in Laos and no longer follow animistic rituals, they recognize the fact that the Khmu tribe preceded them in the country by including them in their New Year’s celebration.”

Traditional Khmu religion centers around spirits called “hrooy” (the phi of the Lao). Of particular importance are the “hrooy gaang” (house spirit) and “hrooy hoo” (apparently one of the most powerful of the jungle spirits). In addition, there are spirits of the village, mountains, rock, water, sun, and one particularly identified with shamans. The Lao believe that the Khmu have special power over the spirits of the area.

CROSSING THE MEKONG RIVER FROM THAILAND TO LAOS (THAILAND SIDE).

CROSSING THE THAI/LAOS BORDER AT HUAY XAI (LAOS SIDE)

USING POLES TO PUSH AWAY FROM SHORE

BOAT MEN ON THE LONG BOATS OF THE MEKONG RIVER

LOCAL TRANSPORT ON THE MEKONG RIVER

MEKONG RIVER FISHERMEN

KHMU VILLAE AS SEEN FROM THE MEKONG RIVER BANK

KHMU CHILDR

KHMU VILLAGE CHILDREN

KHMU WOMAN

KHMU CHILDREN

KHMU CHLDREN

KHMU CHILDREN

KHMU CHILDREN

KHMU BROTHER AND SISTER

KHMU VILLAGE HOUSING

KHMU VILLAGE HOUSING

KHMU WOMAN PUNDING RICE WITH A MORTAR AND PESTLE

KHMU GIRL WITH BABY BROTHER

KHMU VILLAGE SCHOOL HOUSE

The school room. The school is part of the new life in the Khmu villages. Earlier there was no school at all, and neither men nor women in the Yùan region could read or write.

KHMU VILLAGE SCHOOL ROOMKHMU SCHOOL CHILDREN

KHMU VILLAGE SCHOOL CHILDREN

KHMU VILLAGE SCHOOL CHILDREN

KHMU SCHOOL CHILDREN

KHMU SCHOOL CHILDREN

KHMU CHILDREN ON THE MEKONG RIVER BANK

PHOTOS BY:

LEONARD EPSTEIN

JANELLE BURGESS

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 9, 2017 5:44 am

    Arieclts like this are an example of quick, helpful answers.

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