Prayer Profile
The Phu Tai of Laos

[IMAGE] The Phu Thai live in the rolling hills east of the Mekong River, near Thailand's border. Their language, Phu Thai, is a Lao subgroup of the Tai linguistic family. There are various dialects even within the language itself. It is distinctive from Thai or Lao, since it uses an entirely different tonal pattern.

Because of unceasing pressure from the Chinese, the Thai gradually emigrated south, conquering many peoples and cultures along the way. By the tenth century, many of them had settled in Thailand and Laos. Some historians think that the Phu Thai preceded the Thai in migration, retreating from the lowlands into the hills as the Thai advanced. In a sense, the Phu Thai continue retreating to avoid contact with others.

Laos has had many invasions, as well as a series of land wars. It was also the object of political competition between Vietnam, Russia, and China. Such warfare and resettlement caused massive social dislocation.

What Are Their Lives Like?
The Phu Thai are primarily farmers. Some live in valleys where they cultivate wet rice, making use of irrigation and terraces like the Lao. In addition, they use the traditional swidden, ("slash and burn") method of farming on mountainsides.

Phu Thai villages are usually small, ranging from 20 to 30 houses, and are located within walking distance of related kin groups. If a new road makes their village easily accessible, the entire village moves to a new location. Houses are usually made of wood or bamboo and built on stilts, with farmlands adjacent to the residential areas. Underneath the house the family livestockópoultry, pigs, and goatsóruns freely.

Phu Thai society is organized on the basis of age, occupation, wealth, and type and place of residence. Rural farmers are ranked below the craftsmen, merchants, and city government officials; and clergy are a separate group.

The Phu Tai live in small, self-governing villages that are usually contained in a single valley. Each village is under the control of the chao muong, or prince, to whom the commoners pay taxes. Although the Phu Tai are Laotian citizens, they have very little say so in the government.

Phu Thai marriage customs are distinct from those of their Thai and Lao neighbors. Their moral ethics and standards are much stricter. Court cases and divorce are rare among the Phu Thai, as opposed to what has become the norm in tribal life. Intermarriage with the Thai is rare, but there have been some cases of intermarriage with the Laotians.

Distinctive customs and dress characterize the Phu Thai. Women are distinct in their dress, wearing black blouses and skirts trimmed with red. They also wear heavy silver necklaces and wrist bracelets similar to those worn by the Hmong tribe's women.

The Phu Thai are generally very industrious. The women are known for their fine quality hand-woven silk made with unique, colorful designs. Their specialty is striped skirts made with plain colors on a dark brown or purple background. They also do intricate needlework on cotton blankets, shawls, and pillows.

What Are Their Beliefs?
The Phu Thai have their own ethnic religion in which they worship 25 spirit beings. They have no supreme creator god, only their own village spirits. They believe that everyone in the village must appease the spirits with the blood of cows and pigs, lest all of the people suffer.

Because of Laotian influence, many of the Phu Thai have combined Theravada Buddhism with their ethnic religion. The people often seek help through supernatural beings (spirits) and objects. They believe that there are spirits within almost every object and person. Of major importance to them are the territorial deities.

What Are Their Needs?
The Phu Thai desperately need the Bible in their own language. The Truth of the Gospel is their only hope for being set free from spiritual bondage. There are currently no missions agency working among them and no known Phu Thai believers in Laos.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Laos to live and work among the Phu Thai.
  • Pray that the Lord will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Word of God into their language.
  • Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Phu Thai through dreams and visions.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Phu Thai towards Christians so they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Phu Thai bound for many generations.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Laos through worship and intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Phu Thai church for the glory of His name!

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Phu Tai
  • Country: Laos
  • Their language: Phu Tai
  • Population: (1990) 105,000
    (1995) 122,000
    (2000) 140,100
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 98.1%
  • Christians: 1.8%
  • Church members: 2,209
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 0
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 29,100 (24%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 9,500 (8%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 19,600 (16%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 92,900 (76%)
  • Country: Laos
  • Population: (1990) 4,201,700
    (1995) 4,881,800
    (2000) 5,602,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Lao 53%
    Khmu 7.5%
    Chinese Shan 2.6%
    Phu Tai 2.5%
    So 2.1%
  • Major religions: Buddhist 58%
    Ethnic religionist 32.5%
    Nonreligious 4.7%
  • Number of denominations: 8

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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