This is a compilation of various ethnic groups living in modern days LAOS, focusing on northern provinces of LUANG NAMTHA and PHONGSALY
Unlike the Khmer in Cambodia, the Thai in Thailand, The Kinh in Vietnam or the Han in China who are the overwhelmed majority in their country, the LAO are only half of the population of the 7 millions people living in Laos and they ve traditionally divided Laos in 3 populations categories :
1 The LAO LOUM (Lao in the plains, 68 %) where the LAO belong with other TAI-KADAI (LAO_TAI) populations , not represented on the LP
2 The LAO THEUNG (highlanders, 22%) or Austro-asiatic (MON-KHMER) who used to be called KHA (slaves) by the valleys kingdoms, the KHMU being the largest of those 31 ethnic groups, and the BIT probably one of the smallest group.
3 The LAO SUNG (new comers from China in the highlands, 9%) including the HMONG/MIEN and TIBETO-BURMESE like the AKHA who live in northern Laotian provinces and northern Thailand.
The north of Laos is a mosaïque of minorities, including most south-east Asian ethnolinguistic categories :
the HMONG/MIEN (YAO) is an ethnolinguistic category, they have finalized their centuries long migration from central China down to Northern Laos, northern Vietnam and northern Thailand and the Hmong have kept their central instrument the QEEJ (a 6 bamboo tubes mouthorgan inserted into a small wooden resonance box). The LANTENE (Lao word) are LAN TIEN YAO (dark blue Yao in Chinese) who call themselves in their language MOON, have similar history of migration as the Hmong and men until recently were able to read and write Chinese. I have recorded on the other side of the boarder in Yunnan, China, similar canon singing.
The KHMU and the BIT are part of the large ethnolinguistic family of the MON-KHMER (spread from Cambodia to eastern India), are probably the most ancient inhabitants of the region. As far as I m concerned all Mon-khmer culture had similar visual design and the fermented rice alcohol in jar where one drinks with a bamboo straw and the ability to pronounce Rrrrrrrrrrrr !
The AKHA belonging to another Chinese ethnolinguistic family (the TIBETO-BURMESE), are obviously the postcard of Laos, Tourism in the north is based on pictures of Akha women who definitely have incredible outfits, with lots of silver coins from French Indochina (I ve always wonder why they had so much French silver coins from the 20s and 30s : I found out later that the French Colonial power had the monopoly to trade opium in French Indochina and they were buying from tribal producers like the Akha or the Hmong and importing tons from neighboring Yunnan China to Hanoi Vietnam).