Thai highlands or Hills of northern Thailand, Thai:
เขตภูเขา (ประเทศไทย), is a
mountainous natural region in the north of Thailand. Its mountain
ranges are part of the system of hills extending through Laos, Burma,
China and linking to the Himalayas, of which they may be
The highlands in the north of
Thailand are characterized by a pattern
of generally steep hill ranges, intermontane basins and alluvial
gorges. Elevations are generally moderate, little above 2,000 metres
(6,600 ft) for the highest summits. There is a wide range of
elevations though, with floors ranging between 200 and 500 metres (660
and 1,640 ft) above sea level. Towards the Lao border, the divide
Mekong basin becomes higher with peaks occasionally rising
above 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) and streams flowing in narrow steep
The climate is typical of tropical mountains with clearly delineated
wet and dry seasons. Winter temperatures can be cool with frosts
occurring most years at higher elevations, but no snow even on the
The region of the Thai Highlands encompasses the nine administrative
provinces of northern Thailand, based on the six-region system, as
well as parts of Tak and Sukhothai Provinces.
Some areas of the highlands are sparsely populated.
3 Environment and human impact
4 See also
6 External links
Except for the
Daen Lao Range
Daen Lao Range (ทิวเขาแดนลาว)
at the far northern edge, all ranges in the north of
roughly aligned from north to south. They are linked to a wide system
of ranges in neighboring
Laos that do not have a specific
name for the whole, "Thai highlands" being the term generally
restricted to the Thai area. Broadly defined, and based on their
geological composition, there are two mountainous subsystems in
In the western part the ranges stretching southwards from the Daen Lao
Range, in the southern region of the
Shan Hills or Shan Highland, with
the two parallel mountain chains of the Thanon Thong Chai Range
(เทือกเขาถนนธงชัย). This area has the
highest elevations, with Doi Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand,
reaching 2,565 metres (8,415 ft). The Dawna Range
(ทิวเขาดอยมอนกุจู) forms the western
Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son and the Salween River,
The remaining mountainous region of parallel ranges that extend into
Laos includes the Khun Tan Range
(ทิวเขาขุนตาน), the Phi Pan Nam Range
(ทิวเขาผีปันน้ำ), the Phlueng Range
(ทิวเขาพลึง) as well as the western part of the
Luang Prabang Range
A great part of the highland area is drained by rivers Ping, Wang, Yom
and Nan, all tributaries of the
Chao Phraya River
Chao Phraya River flowing in a roughly
southern direction. The ranges separating the main rivers are
generally steep, high and continuous. Towards the east, as well as in
the Wang and Yom drainage basins, they are lower. The
Pai River in the
northwest flows westwards into the Salween and the northeastern part
is drained by rivers of the
Mekong basin, like the Kok and Ing.
Doi Phu Kha
Doi Phu Kha area,
Nan Province at the eastern end close to the Lao
Wat Phra That Doi Wao and the Daen Lao Range
Mae Hong Son
Mae Hong Son Province at the west end of the highlands
Doi Nang Non, "Mountain of the Sleeping Lady"
Geologically in the southern subranges of the
Shan Hills layers of
alluvium are superimposed on hard rock. The ranges closer to Laos
Permo-Carboniferous limestone, which makes for a more
jagged and steep relief, despite the more moderate height. Most of
Thai highlands are part of the Shan-Thai Terrane, a tectonic
Environment and human impact
Akha hut in the hills near Chiang Rai
The natural environment of the hills used to be dense montane rain
Swidden agricultural practices and logging have much reduced
the old-growth forest areas which have been replaced by secondary
For centuries the
Thai highlands have been inhabited with hill tribes
mostly from Chinese or
Tibeto-Burman descent, such as the Akha, Yao,
Lahu, Khmu, Hmong and Lisu. These human groups immigrated into this
relatively empty region fleeing persecution or harsh central rule in
their respective environments, as well as seeking new land for their
shifting agricultural productions system. For the past decades these
groups have been undergoing a process of integration into the Thai
Owing to the unrest in Burma, some refugee camps have been established
for cross-border refugees in the Thai highlands. Certain Kayah and
Karen communities, like the "long-necked Karen", are regularly visited
by organized tourist groups.
At higher elevations, above 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), one of the
main crops was opium until the 1990s, when the combined effects of
development became evident—from the construction of roads into the
remote area, increasingly efficient policing, and opium replacement
Yearly wildfires are started by local farmers during the dry season in
different areas of northern Thailand. Often speculators also hire
people to set forests on fire in order to claim land title deeds for
the areas that, post-fire, become "degraded forest". The smoke
produced by these fires is the main cause of the intense seasonal air
pollution in the Thai highlands, also known as the "northern
haze". Fires also contribute to the floods in the country by
denuding forest undergrowth and the dry forest soil leads to lower
water intake for the trees to extract when the rains arrive.
Presently large tracts of the mountains are covered with a mixed
vegetation resulting from the capacity of the efficient shifting
agricultural system being exceeded. As a result, large areas end up
becoming dominated by
Imperata cylindrica grass, which is used
Thailand as roofing material. Cattle can graze on the grass
to an extent, as agricultural science research in the 1970s
showed. The longer term environmental care of the region is
associated with forestry and in the lower reaches, perennial fruit
like peaches and other trees. Some projects for the restoration of
forest cover have been undertaken in ecologically degraded areas.
Doi Phu Chi Fa, Amphoe Wiang Kaen, Chiang Rai province.
Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand
Doi Nang Non, a karstic formation in Chiang Rai province
Golden Triangle (Southeast Asia)
Deforestation in Thailand
Tribal Museum in Chiang Mai
Western Forest Complex
Southeast Asian Massif
^ Heritage Thailand, Geography 4 Archived 2011-10-07 at the Wayback
^ The Physical Geography of Southeast Asia, Avijit Gupta
Thailand Archived 2012-01-28 at the Wayback Machine.
^ ดร.กระมล ทองธรรมชาติ
จำกัด, 2548, หน้า 24-25
^ Geology of
Thailand - Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,
^ Bunopas, Sangad; Paul Vella (17–24 November 1992). "Geotectonics
and Geologic Evolution of Thailand" (PDF). National Conference on
"Geologic Resources of Thailand: Potential for Future Development".
Department of Mineral Resources, Bangkok. pp. 209–229. Archived
from the original (PDF (Acrobat 7.x) 1.8 MB) on 12 August 2014.
Retrieved 10 August 2014.
Thailand consists of Shan–Thai and
Indochina Microcontinents or Terranes welded together by the
subsequently deformed Nan Suture.... During the Middle Triassic
Shan–Thai sutured nearly simultaneously to Indochina and to South
China, the continent–continent collision being a part of the
Indosinian Orogeny and Indochina tended to underthrust
^ Secondary forests in swidden agriculture in the highlands of
^ Gajaseni, Jiragorn; Jordan, Carl F. (1 January 1990). "Decline of
Teak Yield in Northern Thailand: Effects of Selective
Forest Structure". Biotropica. 22 (2): 114–118. doi:10.2307/2388402.
Thailand travel guide and holiday planner".
^ TBBC Archived 2012-05-01 at the Wayback Machine.
^ The Politics of Ethnic Tourism in Northern Thailand
Opium Reduction and Highland Development:
Thailand Case Study
^ "PM Misses the Boat..." Bangkok Post.
^ Mushroom Research Center Archived 2012-01-27 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "national forest policy review-thailand".
^ "Underlying Causes of Deforestation". UN Secretary-General's Report.
Archived from the original on 2001-04-11.
^ Lindsay Falvey, Cattle and Sheep in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai
^ "Welcome to The GEF Small Grants Programme".
^ "REHABILITATION OF DEGRADED SITES - Unasylva 207".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thai highlands.
Chiang Mai travel guide from Wikivoyage
Opium, Power, People: Anthropological Understandings of an Opium
Interdiction Project in Thailand
Dubious Development Concepts in the Thai Highlands: The Chao Khao in
Laos moist deciduous forests". Terrestrial
Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
Cultural Landscape of the northern Region of Thailand
Golden Triangle and beyond
Speciation and Radiation in a River
Premier orders urgent action to tackle h