Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
More than 1,500 Oma Akha live in Phongsali Province, the northernmost part of Laos that extends into Yunnan Province, China. Most of Phongsali used to be under China's control, before the French annexed it in 1895 and made it part of their Indo-China empire.
Several Oma villages are located in the Boun-Tai District in the southern part of the province. The Oma Akha are also found in China, where they still use that name, and possibly Myanmar.
Although the Oma Akha share similar histories and genealogies with other Akha groups in Laos, they now see themselves as a distinct branch of Akha.
There are five different Akha groups living in the Boun-Tai District of Laos. In addition to the Oma, the Eupa, Luma, Nutchi and Nuqui Akha have villages there. Despite their close proximity, the various groups have little contact with each other and do not acknowledge intimate kinship. Each group also wears a different style of dress.
The Akha language, which has five tones, is part of the Tibeto-Burman language family. All Akha children can speak their language. In fact, few can speak Lao until they are adults. Many elderly Akha have never learned to speak the national language at all.
Although none of the Akha groups have an orthography today (except for the script invented by missionaries and used exclusively in Myanmar and Thailand), the Akha have a legend of a lost book that was written on buffalo skin by the Creator. On a long journey the Akha got hungry and ate the book, and ever since have been without a written language.
The Oma Akha are almost certainly open to the Gospel message, if someone would only go and tell them. Although Christians among the Akha in Thailand, for example, number in the thousands, few have even considered the possibility of taking the Gospel to their cousins in Laos.
Fear of the Communist authorities, fear of offending the traditional Akha Way, and leaders who have little vision for evangelism and church planting in other countries mean the Akha in Laos remain untold and hell-bound.
* Pray for courage and increased vision fpr Akha believers in Thailand to reach into Laos.
* Ask God to raise up an extensive church movement among the Oma.
* Pray God would direct the hearts of many Christians toward reaching the different Akha groups in Laos.