Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
More than 31,000 Ta Oi people live in southern Laos. The majority are concentrated in Ta-Oy District in the eastern part of Saravan Province towards the Vietnam border. Others live in Savannakhet and Kekong provinces Since 1989 some Ta Oi have migrated down the mountains to the Bolaven Plateau.
Although more than 26,000 Ta Oi were recorded in the 1989 Vietnam census, most of the Ta Oi in Vietnam speak a dialect that is only partially mutually intelligible with the Ta Oi in Laos. One source says people from these two groups can not understand each other "until speakers have had at least two weeks contact."
After the end of the U.S.-Vietnam War, a small number of Ta Oi families were allowed into the United States as refugees. Today, Ta Oi live in the Stockton, Ca.; and Birmingham, NY, areas.
The Ta Oi, who practice a combination of animism and shamanism, are one of the most demon-oppressed groups in all of Laos. In 1890 one Frenchman recorded the experience of a Ta Oi animistic ritual (which has changed little over the past century): "In a clearing a certain number of them made a circle around a beer jar. To the bowl of the receptacle a lighted wax candle was fixed. Chickens with their throats cut were lying on the ground. An elder, with his head shaved close to the skull, made invocations to the spirits and in turn, the warriors passed in front of him, presenting their arms to him."
A complex ritual is performed after a Ta Oi person dies.... "A shaman is brought in to help the soul of the deceased find its way to the next life. Ta Oi women are sometimes buried in their traditional clothing, and with ornaments made of copper, silver, ivory or glass. Several years after the burial, the remains of the body are dug up, washed, decorated, and placed in a funeral house outside the fence of their former home."
Although there are now between 350 to 500 Ta Oi Christians (mostly Catholics) in Laos, most Ta Oi oppose the Gospel. In Vietnam the Ta Oi are a completely unreached people group. A few years ago they attacked Bru evangelists who tried to bring the Gospel to them, and drove them out of the area.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Ta Oi to receive the Gospel.
* Pray that God would raise up Christians to focus on reaching all three ethnic groups among the Ta Oi minority.
* Pray many strong churches would soon emerge in their midst.
* Ask the Lord to heal the wounds of fear, suspicion of outsiders, and hatred that have kept the Ta Oi from knowing God.