Much of this history of Pai is based on the work of Pai resident Thomas Kasper.
The region now known as Pai has been continuously occupied for more than 5,000 years. As of 2,000 years ago, the Lua tribe was the primary ethnic group occupying the area. A few descendants of the Lua tribe still inhabit villages just a few miles from Pai.
Almost 800 years ago in 1251 BCE, a settlement was established 3km (about 2 miles) north of Pai in an area now known as Ban Wiang Nuea. The area was settled by Shan immigrants from northern Burma. During that time, the area was mostly isolated from the outside world. Because they got little news from outside of the area, they were mostly unaffected by politics of Thailand.
During the 14th century and into the 15th, settlers began to arrive from Chiang Mai, bringing news from the the Lanna and the rest of Thailand. At the time, the Kingdom of Lanna had a policy of sending loyal citizens to remote areas of the kingdom in order to maintain territorial control. This policy resulted in a series of battles for territorial authority. In 1481, Lanna troops conquered Shan soldiers and compelled them to give up Burmese land. The Lanna prince allowed the families who had established households in the area to remain and to maintain a level of social and cultural autonomy under Lanna kingdom law. Ban Wiang Nuea became a distinctly split into a “Shan” section and a “Lanna” section by a wall.
During the latter part of the 19th century, France and England, having already established settlements in Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and Laos, were becoming interested in the area that is now Thailand.
In order to stabilize the influence and authority of Siam, Northern Thais from such provinces as Payao, Nan and Lamphun were encouraged to move to those areas. This migration led to another conflict in 1869 in which Lanna Thai again conquered the Shan in Ban Wiang Nuea in a battle that resulted in complete devastation of the entire village. Everything that had been there was burned. All of the buildings standing in Ban Vieng Nuea are there because of reconstruction efforts made by the villagers.