|Regions with significant populations|
|Animism, Buddhism |
Lawa (Lao: ລະວ້າ, Thai: ลั๊วะ or ละว้า English: Lawa) are an ethnic group in Laos (where they are considered among the Lao Theung) and northern Thailand. Their language is related to that of the Blang and Wa people in China and Burma and belongs to the Austroasiatic language group. Their population is estimated to be some 17,000. The group that is known in China as 'Western Lawa' is officially considered part of the Wa minority.
Today many Lawa still live a traditional way of life, often professing animism. As the other mountain ethnic groups of Thailand, they are known for extraordinary craft skills.
According to certain traditions the Lawa are one of the oldest people groups in Thailand. In the 5th to 10th century the Lawa people also lived in Central Thailand, and, together with the Mon, were the inhabitants of present day Lopburi. The name "Lopburi" is said to have been derived from "Lawaburi", and the city formed the core of an early kingdom in what is now Thailand, the Lavo Kingdom, which existed from the 7th century CE until it was incorporated into the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1388 CE.
The Lawa inhabited cities which were located down in the valleys before the arrival of the Tai people. For instance, the Lawa city of Wiang Nophaburi is where king Mangrai founded his new city of Chiang Mai.
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