The Central Tai of Thailand
Centuries ago the Tai lived north of Yangtzekiang in China. Relentless pressure by the Chinese gradually forced them southward. They conquered many peoples and cultures as they sought a new homeland, but by the tenth century they had settled in Central Thailand. A bloodless revolution in 1932, led by Westernized intellectuals, instituted a democratic constitutional monarchy. However, the country has suffered numerous governmental upheavals since then. Today, Buddhism is the central and unifying force in Tai society and even maintains social control. The Central Tai speak Thai, the official language of the country.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Age is highly respected in Central Tai society. Type of occupation, wealth, and place and type of residence follow age in terms of respect and rank. Rural farmers rank below artisans, merchants, and city government officials; clergy form a separate group. Families are the core of Tai society. In rural areas, the immediate family usually lives, eats, and farms together. A young married couple may live with the bride's family until they can establish their own home.
The Central Tai are distinguished by a near absence of labor division by sex. Both men and women plow, till, fish, cook, tend babies, clean house, and wash clothes. Rice is the major economic crop, providing both a food staple and a cash crop.
The wealthiest Tai live in wood-framed homes that are raised off the ground and have plank floors, hard wood or mahogany panels, and tile roofs. The poorest villagers live in bamboo homes with thatched roofs and dirt floors. There are a wide variety of homes in the cities: multi-level cement houses, houses that are attached to or above shops, townhouses, apartment complexes, or wooden houses. The temple and school are prominent features in the villages. Water taxis transport people and cargo on polluted waterways that connect houses and other buildings.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Traditionally, young men enter a Buddhist monastery for three months to study Buddhism. The Tai also attempt to incorporate their Buddhist beliefs with folk animism, a practice in which they seek help through the worship of spirits and objects.
What Are Their Needs?
Prostitution is a pressing social problem. Approximately 200,000 to 500,000 prostitutes, usually from poor, rural areas, are forced to sell their bodies to help their families survive. Education and employment opportunities for women are limited, and many women and children lack adequate health care.
Although a number of missions agencies are working among the Central Tai, more help is needed. The Bible, the Jesus film, and Christian broadcasts are all available in the Tai language. However, less than 1% are Christian.Prayer Points
See also the following Tai Groups:
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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