Profile Source: Tom & Lynn Newhouse
Introduction / History
Early inhabitants of the area, the Kuy did not have an advanced civilization like the Khmers. Most likely they pre-date the Khmer. Khmer people include them in the name Kamaen-boran which means ancient Cambodians. In the past they had a reputation as iron ore smelters and blacksmiths. But those skills seem to have been lost. Today Kuy People are found mostly in northeastern Thailand, but also in Laos and in significant numbers in Cambodia. They live primarily in the north-central part of the country, in Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom provinces. Their villages are mostly in remote areas interspersed with Khmer villages, though some have moved their villages close to the main roads in recent years.
In appearance Kuy do not differ from the Khmers. They do have their own unwritten language. One folk tale is that the village elders originally wrote their language on a pig skin but then dogs ate it so their writing was lost. Kuy is in the Mon-Khmer language group and there are several dialects. Two main dialects have been identified in Cambodia with a relatively high degree of mutual intelligibility. Most Kuy people also speak Khmer and in some places they are losing their own language.
What are Their Lives Like?
The Kuy are mostly subsistence wet rice farmers. Farming is labor intensive, plowing with cows or water buffalo and transporting goods by oxcart. They grow few other crops, though in some areas they grow cashews. They also raise chickens, pigs and cattle. Many also gather forest products like resin, wood, and traditional medicines although this is changing due to rapid deforestation. Frequently, their diet consists of rice eaten with salt and chili peppers.
Kuy villagers live in houses like those of their Khmer neighbors, bamboo or wood and thatch on stilts. Their fields are typically some distance away surrounding the village. Their dress is not different from that of the Khmer people. They mostly wear western type clothing though women often wear a sarong. Both men and women use the Cambodian Krama (checked cotton piece of fabric) as scarves, head wear, belts, wraps for bathing, and other uses.
Like most in Cambodia, the Kuy have an oral culture with a high level of illiteracy. For most, education is only available for two or three years in Khmer. This is contributing to their assimilation into Cambodian culture.
What are Their Beliefs?
Their beliefs are a mixture of animist and folk Buddhist ideas with animism being the older and more dominant belief structure. They believe in a spiritual realm that interacts with the physical. Some spirits are associated with natural objects such as trees and fields. The spirits of deceased ancestors are called upon for help and guidance. The Kuy believe that some spirits cause illness, while others give magical powers to certain individuals. Many wear strings tied around the neck, waist or wrists to ward off evil spirits. They mostly rely on traditional healers in the case of illness.
Buddhism is increasing in their areas as they assimilate more with the Khmer people. For example one large village now has a very simple wooden Buddhist temple built less than 10 years ago.
Christian and Missionary Alliance started work with the Kui in Thailand in 1955 and there are several churches there. Christian materials translated for this group are not very helpful in Cambodia as the dialects are too different and the script used is derived from Thai script. There is no known work among them in Laos. There are a few missionaries now focusing on the Kuy in Cambodia. One group is working on an orthography for the language. There may be a couple hundred believers, mostly meeting in small groups in Cambodia.
What are Their Needs?
The Kuy are at the bottom of the economic heap in Cambodia. They are often looked down upon by Khmer people. The Kuy have little access to good health care. They could really benefit from health and hygiene education, better access to clean water, and improved agricultural methods.
Many have never heard of Jesus and few have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel presented in a way that makes sense to them.
* Pray for committed Cambodians and other believers to bring the good news to these people.
* Pray for the development of Oral resources for evangelism and discipleship.
* Pray the God would grant wisdom and favor to the mission agencies currently working with the Kuy in Cambodia and that there would be good cooperation among them.
* Ask the Lord to reveal Himself and draw these people to himself.
* Ask God to motivate and equip the believers to reach out and share the love of Christ with their own people.
* Pray that strong local truly Kuy churches will be planted among them.