ETHNONYMS: Lava, Lavu'a, La-wor-a, Lua, Luwa
A group of about 7,000 (1987) located mainly in the Bo Luang Plateau area of northern Thailand, roughly between 18° to 20° N and between 98° to 100° E. Lawa is classified as an Austroasiatic language in either the Palaung-Wa or the Mon-Khmer Group. Degree of acculturation into Thai society varies from one locale to another, with the life-style of rural farmers in the Bo Luang area closely resembling that of their Thai neighbors. Many Lawa live in large, permanent villages based on wet-rice agriculture. In the past, iron-ore mining was an important secondary activity, although the Lawa now more often purchase iron implements from lowland communities. Acculturated villages are integrated into the national polity, primarily through the community headmen who are appointed by Thai officials. The Lawa are described as animist Buddhists; their degree of adherence to Buddhist beliefs and practices is largely a function of their degree of acculturation.