Resettlement, opium and labour dependence: Akha-Tai relations in Northern Laos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Forestry is a major source of revenue for the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The Government's view is that shifting cultivation in the highlands is the primary cause of deforestation and erosion; this has led it to establish a policy of eliminating shifting cultivation by the resettlement of highland people in or near the lowlands. Here, it is assumed, the highlanders will be able to lead a more sedentary existence, cultivate wet rice, and benefit from various forms of development assistance. In the district of Muang Sing in northern Laos this policy has been partly responsible for the movement of large numbers of Akha people downhill to settle on the lower slopes of the highlands, at the periphery of the lowlands. This movements has been further encouraged by the low productivity of the Akha swidden economy. This article argues that Akha expectations of a more secure livelihood have not been fulfilled due to the ravages of disease, high rates of opium addiction, and the lack of government assistance. Instead, the Akha of the lower slopes have become an improverished labour force, exploited for the benefit of the politically and economically dominant Tai lowlanders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-200
Number of pages22
JournalDevelopment and Change
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


Dive into the research topics of 'Resettlement, opium and labour dependence: Akha-Tai relations in Northern Laos'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this