The Lua minority in Nan province

In Nan province are living thirteen ethnic groups : Khon Mueang (Tai Yuan), (Tai) Lue, Khuen, Lao, Phuan, Haw, Chinese (mostly the Hakka), Mpi, Hmong (Miao), Mien (Yao), Khmu, Lua (Thin), Mlabri (Tong Lueang). But when speaking with people I always assumed that when people say "Lua" that they actually were talking about "Tai Lue". But that is my mistake, there are Tai Lue and there are Lua. The people from some villages in the mountains of Doi Phu Kha and even in Pua valley are Lua people. Example the villages Manipruek in the mountains of Doi Phu Kha are partly Hmong and partly Lua. So I did some research about Lua people and quote some information I did find from Wikipedia, Bangkok Post and other sources. For more information about Nan province see Destination Travel Guide Nan.



The Lua people are a minority ethnic group native to Laos. Lua is their preferred name, while some tend to call them Thin, T'in or Htin. There are two subgroups: the Mal and the Phai (Pray). The Lua speak Mal and Phai, belonging to the Khmuic of the Austroasiatic (Mon-Khmer) languages. Their original home region is in the provinces of Sainyabuli and Bokeo (and some people say also Northern Vietnam). In Thailand, most Lua settled in Nan province, close to the border with Laos.

There is some academic debate whether the Lua have already settled in their present home area since the 1st millennium AD or migrated there in a later period. More certainly, the Lua of Thailand have only arrived there in the late-19th or early-20th century. Some scholars, however, believe that the Lua were the original inhabitants of Thailand's Nan Province, before moving to Laos and later re-migrating to their original homeland. Following the communist victory in the Laotian Civil War, many Lua families escaped Laos to seek refuge in the Luang Prabang Range (Doi Phu Kha) area of Nan Province across the border in Thailand.

Anthropologist Cholthira Satyawadhna recorded that in 1987 there were 146 Lua communities with a population of 28,516, comprising 51.7% of highlanders in Nan. Now, the population has grown to at least 35,000, according to the most recent research available. And some part of the highlanders moved to the valley of Pua, Chiang Klang and Thung Chang. And there has been some forced resettlements. 

The Lua's traditional beliefs are characterized by animism. Some Lua, influenced by their Lao and Thai neighbors, have adopted Theravada Buddhism, while a few have converted to Christianity, but without renouncing their original ethnic beliefs. The Lua believe that the natural surroundings are full of good and evil spirits. They worship their respective villages' local spirits. The most highly respected genie called bhuka is celebrated for three days during Lao New Year (Songkran). In order to win the spirits' blessings for a good harvest, a newlywed couple, help in cases of natural disasters or diseases, etc., the Lua try to appease them with offerings of pigs, poultry, rice or liquor. Traditional Lua villages display a "spirit gate" to protect them from all evils coming from the outside world. To mediate between the living and the spirit world, each village chooses a male shaman, called khawcam.