People and Society, Ethnic Groups
ethnic Malays, Chinese ancestry, Vietnamese refugees, Akha, southern peninsula
Although the majority of Thailand’s people (about 75 percent) are classified as Thai, the country has a complex ethnic composition. The Thai themselves vary considerably, with those of the central plain differing markedly in culture and language from those of the north and northeast, known as the Lao. Many Thai have some Chinese ancestry, and Chinese constitute the largest single minority group in the country (about 14 percent of the total population).
The mountains of northern Thailand are home to a number of different hill peoples, including the Akha, the Hmong (also known as the Meo or Miao), the Karen, and the Lua’. Most of these peoples practice slash-and-burn agriculture. Many produce dry hill (or upland) rice, and some, such as the Hmong, produce opium. Farther south are populations of Mon people as well as groups of Khmer (Cambodian) and Vietnamese refugees. The southern peninsula is home to ethnic Malays.
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