Yao of Thailand - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. There is no single leader for all Yao groups in northern Thailand. Traditionally the village's headman or chief is the same person who established the village, and the members of his clan are numerous. In some areas, the headman of one village takes the leadership role for several villages as well as over the other groups. The position of the village headman is passed from father to son or to someone selected by the retired headman. Old people are highly respected, and they may form an elder council giving advice to the headman on domestic problems.

Political Organization. Under the Thai official administration, every Yao village is registered as an official hamlet ( muban ) or classified as part of an official hamlet. The village headman may be elected, if qualified, to the position of Phy Chuai Phuyai Ban under the lowland Thai Phy Yai Ban. Or he may be elected to be Phuyai Ban if his village is officially registered as a hamlet. He administers the affairs of the community under the supervision of the commune ( tambon ) and district office ( amphur ).

Social Control. A number of taboos are strictly observed by both men and women. Behavioral rules are also respected by younger people when dealing with older people. Traditionally the Yao avoid conflict among themselves. Conflicts are resolved by the headman, assisted ritually by the religious practitioner. Fines are also used in recompense.

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