Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
Approximately 15,000 Phai live in two widespread areas of northern Laos. One group live in Phongsali Province, the northernmost province of Laos, in the Boun-Tai, Boun-Nua, Phongsali and Samphan districts. A large number of Phai also live in Xaignabouri Province, further south. They live in the Hongsa, Xaignabouri and Phiang districts of Xaignabouri Province.
Thailand is reported to contain 31,000 Phai people, but this number may be too high. Research into the Phai is often made difficult because the Lao and Thai call them and the Mal people by the same name, Htin. They also call them Kha Phai, which is a derogatory name.
According to one source, the Phai in Xaignabouri are different from those in Laos, but the Phai of Phongsali are the same culturally and linguistically. The Phai of Phongsali have also been influenced by their neighbors, the Phunoi.
The Phai are generally known as a poverty-stricken and despised people, with a poor sense of self-worth. In some places they have hired themselves out to Hmong and Mien as menial laborers. Their hard lives contribute to their generally dejected appearance. Whatever property or wealth a Phai family is able to gather is inherited by the youngest daughter.
The Phai "typically subsist by hunting for wild game, breeding domestic animals and farming small plots of land. Since metal is taboo in their culture, they are particularly skilled at manipulating bamboo to make everything needed around the house; for floor mats and baskets they interweave pared bamboo with a black-colored grass to create bold geometric patterns."
There is some Buddhist influence among the Phai in Laos. Several villages are reported to have temples, but the majority of Phai remain bound to superstition, traditions, and a host of evil spirits that they feel forced to continually placate.
There are about 100 known Phai believers in Laos. Most of these came to Christ in refugee camps in Thailand, and were later repatriated back to Laos.
* Pray God would breath His life and fire into the few known Phai believers in Laos.
* Pray the Phai would be set free from the evil spirits and traditions that have bound them for centuries.