Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
The 1995 national census of Laos counted a total of 2,510 Toum people. This number may include the Hung and possibly one or two other small groups, which linguists have determined to speak distinct languages. The Hung live further north of the Tum and appear to have a separate ethnicity. A 1981 linguistic atlas listed a population of only 500 Tum people in Laos.
The population of the Tum is expected to rise to more than 2,800 by the end of the 20th century, and may exceed 3,500 by the year 2010. Laos has one of the highest birthrates of any country in the world. According to government findings, each woman in Laos will give birth to an average of 7.1 children.
The Tum inhabit three distinct locations. Most are found in the Khamkeut District of Borikhamxai Province, near the border between Laos and Vietnam. The area is remote and rarely visited by outsiders. The Tum live near the banks of the Nhang River. Borikhamxai contained a total of only 163,589 people according to the 1995 census, a density of only 11 people per square kilometer. A smaller number of Tum people have migrated inland and south to the Nakay District of Khammouan Province.
The Tum area in Khammouan contains moderately high mountains that slope from south to west towards the Mekong River valley. The areas inhabited by the Tum are predominantly Tai Dam, Tai Kao and Phutai areas.
The Tum language belongs to the Viet-Muong branch of the Mon-Khmer language family. It is closely related, or may be the same as the Hung language of Laos and Vietnam, and more distantly related to Viet-Muong varieties such as Tho and Muong, spoken by a combined total of more than a million people in central-northern Vietnam.
The Tum are an unreached people group, of whom little is known. Few anthropologists or linguists have ever ventured into their villages to discover more of this small group. There are few Christian communities in the area of eastern Borikhamxai or northern Khammouan, and therefore few opportunities for the Tum to hear the Gospel in a language that is easily comprehended by them.
* The Tum have been a neglected group in a nation that has been forgotten by most Christians. Pray for the Tum!
* Plead with God for the salvation of the precious Tum ethnic group.
* The Tum were created by God to worship and give glory to Him. Pray that they will soon know the Creator.