“Cultivating character, cultural pride and creativity.”
Fast forward to 2020. The majority of Akha are now Christian and there are only a handful of animist villages left. Some of them cater to tourists looking for a stay in the mountains and a glimpse of a fading culture. Most villages have electricity, cement roads, access to water, and more of the people have Thai citizenship, but it is still hard to access through the local corruption they need to wade through. Without citizenship, they lack many basic rights and are open to exploitation.
Akha people are still migrating to escape poverty in Burma but, due to Burma being a source of amphetamines, many are treated as suspected drug traffickers. Many desperate Akha men do become drug mules, and leave a wife and children to fend for themselves when they go to prison.
The hilltribes are often blamed for forest fires, too, but burning off stubble is the only way they know to regenerate the soil now…but many also suspect the fires are lit by others and the Akha are the scapegoats.
Motorbikes have replaced horses and many houses are made of cement, some with satellite TV. Blacksmiths and shaman have all but disappeared as they no longer have a role in Akha society today. (An American researching the Akha shaman found that most of them have become alcoholics after realizing they are a dying breed.)
Only the elderly wear traditional dress now. Women no longer need to de-husk and winnow rice, no longer make their own clothes, and not many girls learn Akha embroidery. The government destroyed opium fields since the 70s, and coffee is now a major cash crop.
Without farmland, many Akha men and women now work outside the village in construction, factories or daily wage labor, with no time for their children. Social problems facing their communities include drug addiction and trafficking, HIV/AIDS and unwanted children from broken homes at risk of being trafficked or forced into prostitution, especially those without legal documents.