Isan Thai in New Zealand

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Northeastern Tai, also known as the Lao Isan or Thai Isan, are dispersed throughout 17 provinces in northeastern Thailand. This area takes up nearly one third of Thailand's total land mass. It is basically a flat arid plain known as the Khorat Plateau with infrequent rainfall and few natural resources. The region is noted for its archeological relics and monuments dating back to Khmer influence under the Angkor wat regime.

Many of the present-day residents of the Khorat Plateau were forcibly relocated to this hostile region over a period of a hundred years from the Lan Chang Kingdom in what is now the People's Democratic Republic of Laos. Later the people, the region and their language was labeled by Siamese kings as Isan, the word for northeast. Even though this region is now fully incorporated into Thailand and all residents are Thai, the Lao Isan language, unique diet, ritual and culture continues to thrive among this people group.

A number of people that we call Thai Isan have migrated to other parts of the world, including New Zealand. These are usually women who are looking for economic security. Typically, they live in rural areas where local women do not want to live.

Where Are they Located?

Most of the Thai Isan people in New Zealand are in Wellington. They have their own Buddhist temple in Karori.

What Are Their Lives Like?

It is very common for Thai Isan women to move to Western countries like New Zealand to marry local men. This arrangement seems to work well, be it in New Zealand, Australia, Norway, or Iceland. However, the men need to understand that their wives are marrying for economic security, not love. Commonly a Thai Isan woman will marry a man who lives in a remote place where local Western women do not want to live. In New Zealand, she might find herself a farmer's wife, helping to tend sheep. Since the Thai Isan are from a rural part of Southeast Asia, this usually is not a big adjustment.

However, since she is probably the only Asian in a remote place where everyone else speaks English, this can cause her to be lonely. There is a Thai Association in New Zealand, and this provides them with some comradery with people from the old country. Ironically, it is called "Thai" though the people are actually Thai Isan, a different ethnic group from a different part of Thailand.

There is a very small population of both native Icelanders and Isan Thai people.
What Are Their Beliefs?

More than half of them are Theravada Buddhists. They follow the teachings of Gautama Buddha and seek to eliminate suffering and improve their future by gaining merit in their present lives. Ultimately, they are in pursuit of nirvana, or perfect peace. They believe that merit can be acquired through feeding monks, donating to temples, and frequently worshiping in the temples.

Many of the Thai Isan continue to practice their traditional ethnic religions particularly for important rites of passage. They combine Buddhist teachings with folk religious practices, seeking help through the worship of spirits and venerated objects.

What Are Their Needs?

The Thai Isan people in New Zealand need to understand their worth in God's terms, not man's terms. They rely on a religious system that blends animism and Buddhism where they and the spirit beings are simply using one another. God the Father has a far better way to live!

Prayer Points

Pray for Thai Isan people in New Zealand to put their worth in God, not in the world system.
Pray for those who will produce culturally appropriate art, music, and drama materials that will help the Thai Isan people to understand Jesus Christ.
Pray that God will call forth teams of long term missionaries and intercessors who will commit to seeing a Disciple-Making movement among the Thai Isan people in New Zealand.

Scripture Prayers for the Thai, Isan in New Zealand.


Profile Source:   Keith Carey  

People Name General Thai, Isan
People Name in Country Thai, Isan
Natural Name Isan Thai
Pronunciation ee-SAHN tye
Alternate Names Esan; Esarn; Isaan; Isan; Issan; Khon Tai; Lao Isan; Northeastern Tai; Northeastern Thai; Siamese; Tai Isan; Thai-Khorat
Population this Country 9,200
Population all Countries 19,136,000
Total Countries 6
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 15460
ROP3 Code 109994
ROP25 Code 308102
ROP25 Name Thai
Country New Zealand
Region Australia and Pacific
Continent Oceania
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Country New Zealand
Region Australia and Pacific
Continent Oceania
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked

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Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religion Percent
95.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.10 %)
0.80 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
4.20 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Thai, Northeastern (9,200 speakers)
Language Code tts   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Thai, Northeastern (9,200 speakers)
Language Code tts   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Thai, Northeastern

Primary Language:  Thai, Northeastern

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1972–1996)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (2016)
Bible-Complete No
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Audio Recordings Isan Bible Online General / Other
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio Jesus Film Project
Film / Video Video / Animation Create International
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Thai, Northeastern Jesus Film Project
Film / Video My Last Day video, anime Jesus Film Project
Film / Video The Hope Video Mars Hill Media
Film / Video World Christian Videos World Christian Videos
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2024  Hansamurano - Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Profile Source Keith Carey 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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