Numbering several thousands, the Akha, or Kaw, are the second largest tribe in Shan State. They live in the mountainous areas east of the Thanlwin (Salween) River.
Akha villages are easily identified by elaborate wooden gateposts carved with small figures of people and animals. These gatepost - a pair at either end of the village - separate and protect the village from the surrounding forest, where the Akha believe nature spirits roam. Like the dwellings of most other hill groups, Akha houses are made of wood and bamboo, with heavy, thatched roofs and wooden floors raised above the ground on posts. Each village is looked after by its own council of elders, usually the heads of households or their sons. The elders make important community decisions and elect the village priest and the headman.