Introduction / History
The Mpi people live in just two villages in northern Thailand - Ban Dong in Phrae Province, and Ban Sakoen in Nan Province - although they say they originally came from Yunnan Province in China. The Mpi fled China 250-300 years ago and went to Laos. They were captured in a war soon after in Laos and brought to Thailand, and have lived there ever since. There are approximately 1,500 Mpi people, with perhaps only 900 of them still using the Mpi language. Ban Dong is on a plain, just outside a provincial capital while Ban Sakoen is in the mountains.
The Mpi people dress and act just like the Northern Thai people who they live among, and they speak Northern Thai fluently. The younger generations also speak Central Thai which they learn in school. In a generation or two, Mpi might no longer be spoken by anyone. There are still quite a few speakers of Mpi in Ban Dong but very few in Ban Sakoen. Even in Ban Dong, many of the children do not speak Mpi, although some still can understand it when they hear it. The Mpi are mainly rice farmers, but many also work in the city and some hold community leadership positions beyond their own village. The Mpi are all Buddhists. There is no church in either Mpi village and there are currently no Christian workers specifically focusing on the Mpi people. In effect, this means that they are grouped together with the Northern Thai as far as Christian outreach is concerned. Yet they do have a distinct identity as Mpi people.
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