Mlabri or Phi Tong Luang
Mla are known as yellow leaf or Mlabri. Yellow leaf is the name given to them by other people but they do not like
being called because it makes them sound like ghosts, which they are not because they are human like us.
They live in the forest; they find goods from the forest such as taro, potatos, bananas, bamboo shoots, animals
and bees. They live at a singular place for around 2-3 days then will move the place continuously and will choose
where to move to by having a discussion between families. Sometimes they will move to an other place,
not for food, but because they fear people will come to disturb or hurt them.
The population of the Mlabri tribe in the Nan and Phrae provinces of Thailand.
Mlabri speak their own language but it has no written form. Presently they are trying to collect their stories
so they are not lost with the new generations. They are adapting the Thai characters to fit their language
so they have written copies of their history. When the children are born, they will teach their own language
is the first for their children.
Lifestyle and House
When the Mlabri people were living in the forest, they did not have a career of any kind. They would rely
on the forest to provide them with the necessary goods, such as food and building resources. However,
when they later moved away from the forests to live with the Hmong people, they were employed as gardeners
or farmers, with a fee of fish, rice and some pets. At this moment, the Mlabri people are starting to learn how to
properly cultivate plants and harvest crops from the Hmong tribe. Other, they keep domestic animals
such as chickens and pigs, which they can sell as food. An additional form of employment is the weaving
and selling of hammocks.
In the Past, Mlabri people did not have any instruments to play as their own because they feared that
others would hear them. They have only just made swings from vines for their children but when they move down
to live with the Hmong people, the Mlabri youth start to use the Hmong’s toys such as using bamboo as guns etc.
They made their huts by banana leaf, changes color from green to yellow and then eventually dries,
this is the origin of the word "Yellow leaf" but the word that they are proud of and want other people to call them is “Mla”.
Cultural and Traditional
Marriage and Family
In the past, Mlabri people did not have wedding ceremonies. When a young couple would like to live together,
the man would take his parents to talk with the parents of the woman. When the families of both acknowledged
and agreed to live together, the man would take the woman to build their own house. Before that the parents
of both would have blessed the couple’s marriage. When everything was done, they would live together in
the house they built and be married.
Nowadays, Mlabri people still perform weddings as in the past. They are prohibited so that they do not marry
with their relatives no matter how many generations apart they may be and they do not ask for a dowry,
they are not engaged and they do not organize the ceremony. The parents simply talk to each other
and make a decision. If the couples love is for another, parents do not mind it just means that they are husband
and wife from then onwards.
Religious, Beliefs, and Rituals
In the past, Mlabri person believed in the ghosts, spirits, the natural, forests or wildlife. When they have illness they will raise
a comfort or a ceremony ask for forgiveness at the place that they think has to sacrilegious or disparage without knowledge
or if in the village have someone sick, they believe that person do something wrong with the guardian spirit. They will have
the ceremony to apologize. When they live in the forests, they will ignite a fire to protect them from the ghost or make
a warmth and confidence for themselves but currently, they are going to hospital for treatment.
The Mlabri people make musical instruments to use when they have free time. They may use a blower leaf
as a song or take a piece of bamboo and use it as a drum by hitting a rhythm. However, the blower leaf
or the drum is not hit much unless they are sure that the area is far away enough from other people
so that they aren’t disturbed. They didn’t teach their lineage, so they can not play,
but they will play Hmong’s musical instruments such as reed mouth organ, guitar etc.