CHIANG DAO, Thailand—The normally sleepy village of Ban Mai Samakee, located in northern Thailand’s Chiang Dao district, was teeming with activity this past weekend as villagers held a traditional Kachin festival in honor of the Thai King’s 87th birthday.
The village, home to a group of aging Kachin exiles left stranded in northern Thailand in the 1970’s and their descendants, has celebrated the Manau festival every other year for the last decade on the King’s birthday to commemorate his granting them the opportunity to live in his country.
During this year’s festival, members of northern Thailand’s Kachin community were joined by a large number of visitors from Burma, as well as their Jingpo and Singpho cousins from China and India. The Manau dance, which originates from the animist faith practiced in the Kachin hills before the arrival of Christianity, involves dance leaders guiding two groups of dancers, weaving around Manau posts in a complex pattern.
This year’s festivities also included a series of concerts held over the four days of celebration. Performers included the popular 88 generation musician Mun Awng, a long exiled native of Kachin state.