Ir in Laos

The Ir have only been reported in Laos
Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The East Katuic language group consists of a number of separate tribes living in southern Laos near the border of Vietnam. These groups include the Ir, the Kantu, the Katang, the Lor, the Pacoh, and the Upper Taoih. Although they speak distinct dialects, they all belong to the East Katu branch of the Mon Khmer language family. Of these minority peoples, the Kantu are most closely related to the Katu. In fact, they are even referred to as the "High Katu," or "those who live in the hills."

It is said that the Mon Khmer-speaking tribes were the original settlers of this region; however, they were pushed out of the best valley lands in the early centuries A.D. by Thai-speaking peoples. Although the Khmer civilization existed before other people groups moved into the region, their power declined after being conquered by the Thai and Vietnamese.

In modern times, Laos has been the location of numerous battles. It has also become the object of political competition between China, Russia, and Vietnam. After many invasions by these countries, Laos has finally entered into good relations with its neighbors.

What Are Their Lives Like?

For thirty years, recurring warfare in this region has disrupted the traditional way of life for the East Katuic-speaking tribes. Today, half of the land in Laos is peppered by cluster bomblets that were dropped by U.S. warplanes during the Vietnam War, and by landmines. Both are still a serious problem.

Deaths and injuries most commonly occur when villagers are working in their fields or gardens. The wet rice farmers use traditional hoes to turn the soil. If a bomblet is struck with a hoe, it often explodes, injuring or even killing those nearby. Many children have been seriously injured while playing in the fields as their parents worked.

Although the Laos Bomb Removal Project is in place, it has not yet reached the Saravan Province, where the East Katuic-speaking tribes are located. However, mobile teaching teams have begun traveling to these sites, making the people aware of the problem and teaching them mine clearance techniques.

Most of the East Katuic-speaking tribes live in the mountainous regions or highlands where they practice slash and burn farming. Many also hunt and gather to supplement their diets. Some groups, such as the Katang, have been encouraged to cultivate rice in irrigated fields; however, they too continue to use the slash and burn method.

East Katuic families are patrilineal, which means that the line of descent is traced through the males of the family. Villages are made up of extended family units, who usually live in "longhouses" (long, communal dwellings that have central corridors with family compartments on either side). These long houses are built on stilts and strategically organized in geometric patterns as a means of protection. Pigs, chickens, and ducks are raised under or near the houses.

Each village is governed by a loosely organized council of elders, one of whom is considered the "village headman." He is the link to the central government, but his role is not clear. In Buddhist settlements, the core of the village is a Buddhist temple where a monk lives.

The villagers are largely self sufficient. They grow their own rice; have their own vegetable gardens; gather fruit from the forests; and fish in the nearby ponds, rivers, or even in the rice fields! Surplus rice and produce can be exchanged in the market for salt and other necessary items.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The overwhelming majority of the East Katuic-speaking tribes are ethnic religionists. Although they may recognize a creator god, they also worship and fear a large group of spirits called phi. These spirits have much influence over the daily activities of the people.

The East Katuic peoples are known to be very skilled in dealing with the spirits that inhabit the rivers, forests, and mountains. Sacrifices are used to manipulate and appease the phi. The High Katu (or Kantu) were still involved in human sacrifices until recent times.

What Are Their Needs?

The villagers daily need God's protection over them as they work in the fields laden with bomblets. They also need more education teams that can teach them how to clear the mines. Many of the children play in the fields while their parents work and eventually get injured by the explosions. Medical help, especially with prosthesis and physical therapy, are desperately needed. Perhaps these needs will provide opportunities for Christian medical missionaries to gain access to these people.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Laos to live and work among these tribes.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through intercession.
Ask the Lord to call forth medical missionaries to work among these tribes and share the love of Christ with them.
Pray that God will open the hearts of Laos' governmental leaders to the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among these tribes.

Scripture Prayers for the Ir in Laos.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Ir
People Name in Country Ir
Pronunciation eer
Alternate Names In; Yir
Population this Country 6,400
Population all Countries 6,400
Total Countries 1
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 12243
ROP3 Code 104046
ROP25 Code 303224
ROP25 Name Ir
Country Laos
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Saravan province, Saravan district   Source:  Faces of the Unreached in Laos, 1999
Country Laos
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Saravan province, Saravan district.   Source:  Faces of the Unreached in Laos, 1999
Map of Ir in Laos Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
98.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
2.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Ir (6,400 speakers)
Language Code irr   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Unknown
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Ir (6,400 speakers)
Language Code irr   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Ir

Primary Language:  Ir

Bible Translation Status:  Translation Started

Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2024  Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Bethany World Prayer Center 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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