Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway
Introduction / History
The Khuen ethnic group, who numbered more than 8,000 people in a 1995 study, live in the Nale, Sing and Viangphoukha districts of Luang Namtha Province in northwest Laos. A few Khuen spill across the border into the western part of Oudomxai Province. The Khuen share the region with communities of Nguan, Samtao and Kim Mun people.
In addition, one thousand Khuen live in Jinghong County in China's southern Yunnan Province. Refugee families of Khuen now live in Richmond, Ca. and Seattle, Wa. in the United States. It is important to note that the Khuen, who speak a language related to Khmu, are not the same as three other ethnic groups in Laos with similar names: Kuan, Tai Kouanne, and Khmu Keun.
The Khuen were converted to Theravada Buddhism under influence of the Lu people about 400 years ago. When Christian missionary William Clifton Dodd visited the Khuen more than a century ago, he reported, "A branch of the Kamu called Kwen [Khuen] have temples and priests teaching the Yun script, and they also have village and household spirits. The other non-Buddhist Kahs have the village and household spirits and then some."
In another Khuen village, Dodd stated that "the head man, P'ai Luang Patavi, told me that he was the head of nine villages. He and his people are Kwen, who are indigenous to this region. There are five villages that have temples. They are the Buddhists of this region. He says that some time ago there were about seventy houses in this village called M. Puka. But disease and death have reduced the number to about fifty.... I had no many calls for medicine that I hardly had time to eat."
Today there are between 100 and 200 Christians among the Khuen. They first received the Gospel as early as 1902. Dodd reported, "I had rapt attention from all. In the evening I had a still larger and more attentive audience. Many stayed after service to talk. They say they understand and would like to listen to such preaching every day. May the time soon come when they can have it. We left feeling that we have many kind friends among the Ka Kwen and no enemies... they said that if they had some one to teach them they would like to learn Christianity."
* In prayer, bind the spiritual strongholds of Buddhism, animism and the "Unmal" spirit among the Khuen.
* Ask God to strengthen the few Khuen who profess to follow Christ.