Lao Theung

Lao Theung

ethnic group
group=Lao Theung

poptime=~2 million (est.)
The Lao Theung or Lao Thoeng (Lao: ) is one of the traditional divisions of ethnic groups living in Laos (the others being the Lao Loum and the Lao Soung). It literally indicates the "midland Lao", and comprises a variety of different ethnic groups of mostly Austro-Asiatic origin. In 1993, the Lao Theung formed 24% of the country's population.


The Lao Theung are largely of Mon-Khmer stock, and are believed to be the autochthonous poupulation of mainland Southeast Asia, having migrated south in historical time. Although now they live in the higher uplands of Laos, they were originally paddy rice farmers and were displaced by the influx of Lao Loum migration into southeast Asia from Southern China.


Within Laos, the Lao Theung are sometimes referred to by the pejorative term "khaa" (Lao: ), meaning "slave", reflecting the fact that they were traditionally used for labour by the lowland Lao. Midland Lao still have a lower standard of living than other ethnic groupings in Laos.

The Lao Theung differ more from one another culturally and linguistically than either the Lao Loum or Lao Soung. The largest component is the the Khmu, followed by the Lamet and Lawa. There are also smaller populations of Katang, Katu, Alak, Makong and Laven, as well as others.

Most Lao Theung who are isolated still wear their traditional clothings as they once were 2000 years ago. However, Lao Theung who lived to closer proximity to mainstream Laos have been westernized to a much larger extent. The Lao Theung live in distinct houses built on stilts and in tree.

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