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    Posted March 15, 2013 by

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    The Hill Tribes of Laos


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     From a laughing woman fishing for the day's catch, to curious young kids, to an elderly woman with her lips stained from chewing betel leaves, these are just a few of the friendly faces konacraig encountered amongst the hill tribes of Laos during a visit this week. "They received us with open arms," he said. "The kids were curious and spent a lot of time looking at my cameras." He said the tribes still faces threats from logging operations around their villages, however, increased tourism had brought in more money and more technological advances such as cell phones.

    The last image here was featured as CNN's Travel Photo of the Day for September 19, 2013.
    - sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer

    We spent 4 days traveling through Northern Laos visiting the Hill Tribe people.

    The mainland portion of Southeast Asia consists of Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam, and Assam in India. The hills of this region include tribes of Tibeto-Burman peoples including the Akha, Bodo-Kachari, Lahu, Karen, Hmong Mien, Mizo and Lisu. It is thought that they drifted down into the area from Tibet.
    Many of the tribes are spread across more than one country - the Karen people live in Burma and Thailand, the Zou people live in Burma and India, and the Akha people live in small villages among the mountains of China, Laos, Burma, and northern Thailand. They often retain their traditional way of life but are under increasing pressure to do so. As minorities, they tend to be less well off than the majority of people in the countries where they live.

    An interesting theorisation about the Hill people from this region is "Zomia". Zomia is a geographical term coined in 2002 by historian Willem van Schendel of the University of Amsterdam to refer to the huge massif of mainland Southeast Asia that has historically been beyond the control of governments based in the population centers of the lowlands.

    The massif arose during the Alpine orogeny, when the African, Indian and Cimmerian Plates, and smaller Asian terranes, collided with that of Eurasia. The name is from Zomi, a term for highlander common to several related Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in the India-Bangladesh-Burma border area.

    The exact boundaries of Zomia differ among scholars: all would include the highlands of north Indochina (north Vietnam and all Laos,) Thailand, the Shan State of northern Burma, and the mountains of Southwest China, others extend the region as far West as Tibet, north India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. These areas share a common elevated, rugged terrain, and have been the home of ethnic minorities that have preserved their local cultures by residing far from state control and influence.

    The region covers more than 2.5 million square kilometers known as the "Southeast Asian Massif" and comprises nearly one hundred million marginal peoples. This large area is inside the fringe of nine states and at the middle of none, stretching across the standard regional designations (South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia); along with its ecological diversity and its relation to states.

    Enjoy these photos of the Hill Tribes of Laos.
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