The Boloven of Laos
The ancestors of the Boloven were part of the great Khmer empire that flourished from the ninth century to the thirteenth century. The empire, which encompassed present-day Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and parts of Vietnam, declined after the Thai and Vietnamese invasions. The center of the Cambodian Kingdom, known as Angkor, was located in the Boloven region, where there are ruins dating from the eighth to the twelfth centuries. Laos has since been the scene of numerous battles and the object of political competition between China, Russia, and Vietnam. The Boloven are uniquely aware of other ethnic groups due to their contacts with the Lao, Chinese merchants, and European colonists.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Boloven are skilled wood-workers, though unlike other people groups in this area, they do not weave or work with metal. Pagodite, a stone used in carving, is also mined in the Boloven Plateau.
The Boloven live directly in the path of the southwest monsoon rains and receive more than 160 inches (4,000 mm) of rain, the heaviest rainfall in Laos. Boloven villages are generally small. Houses are rectangular, built on stilts, and accessed by stairs. Depending on a family's income, a house may have thatch or wooden walls, a thatch or tile roof, and bamboo or wooden floors. Each house has a kitchen garden in which vegetables and herbs are raised.
The village is the most significant political unit of Boloven society. Each has a village headman who decides important issues. Tribesmen are considered citizens of Laos, but most of them have no special representation in the government. Family leadership is directed by the eldest male.
The Boloven are somewhat unique in their marriage practices in that the couple must also give their consent (in addition to the parents) in order for the wedding to take place. There is no bride price, bride service, or dowry required for first marriages. If it is a second marriage, a bride price is given to the second wife's parents. The village headmen perform the weddings and provide a written document to make the ceremony official.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The influence of Buddhism is clearly seen in Boloven society, but it serves more as a veneer to their traditional ethnic religions, such as ancestor worship (praying to deceased relatives for help and guidance) and animism (belief that non-living objects have spirits). The Boloven believe that the ancestral spirits remain actively involved in their lives and should be cared for and fed. They are also strongly influenced by the belief that objects of nature, such as rivers, forests, mountains, and trees are inhabited by spirits who can directly influence the courses of their lives.
What Are Their Needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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