Mlabri or Yellow Leaf Tribe

Here are some shots we took on our last visit to Nan.  This was a side trip to the “Unseen” village of the Mlabri nomadic tribes people or “Yellow Leaf” .  They are found only in the northern provinces of Nan and Phrae. A total of 145 now live in the village we visited – Ban Huay Yauk. 

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Their actual name is  Phi Tong Lueang  – which translates to “spirits of the yellow banana leaf” because they use banana leaves to cover their shelters and when the leaves turn yellow they move to new sites for their hunter-gathering existence.  They don’t like to be called spirits but they do like yellow-leaf, but more important to them is that they like pig meat. We gave the “headsman” money so we could take some pictures and I am sure the whole tribe celebrated with a full-course pig dinner.


Over the years the encroachment by agriculture and logging has destroyed much of the forest that is their natural habitat.  Now they have been forced to work in the fields of other hill-tribes in exchange for daily food and old clothes. Their nomadic life style is over.

Mlabri, meaning “forest people” in the tribe’s language, are a ethnic group of people from early Thailand and Laos.  The men used to wear only loin-cloth as demonstrated by the Headsman in the picture with me – he was very happy to show us how they lived and invited us in to see his home.


We bought some hand carved pipes and the next time we go back to visit we will bring the tribe a small pig they can raise for future food.  Money meant nothing to them except that with it they could send someone to town and buy food and used clothes – I am glad we could help.

The community is slated to be promoted as a cultural tourism site in the province and Public Health officers have been dispatched to take care of their needs. They have also been taught how to raise livestock, jungle fowl, pigs and cattle – It’s a shame their natural way of life is gone – but I suppose all peoples want to develop and enjoy the safety and good health of modern life and the project aims to provide assistance to the poverty-stricken and malnourished tribes people.