Thai, Southern in Malaysia

Thai, Southern
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People Name: Thai, Southern
Country: Malaysia
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 4,400
World Population: 5,352,400
Primary Language: Thai, Southern
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Thai
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Although Thai is the official language of the country, most Southern Thai speak their tonal language, Dambro, at home.

Centuries ago, the Southern Thai lived in China. However, relentless pressure by the Chinese gradually forced them to move southward. They conquered many peoples as they sought a new homeland.

By the tenth century, they were in southern Thailand in substantial numbers, mixing with the Mon-Khmer and Negritos of the land. A bloodless revolution in 1932, led by Westernized intellectuals, instituted a democratic constitutional monarchy. Since then, Thailand has had many governmental changes and military upheavals.

The Southern Thai live in about fourteen different provinces in southern Thailand. They usually live on the beaches and in the marshy swamplands, which gradually reach the foothills of jungle-covered mountains and into lush valleys. They are very prevalent in southern Thailand, but their homeland is on the Malay Peninsula. Thailand shares this region with Malaysia, and some Southern Thai are on the Malaysian side of the border.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Southern Thai are extremely polite and hospitable. They bring their children up to respect those of higher rank. They respect age in Southern Thai society. Type of occupation, wealth, and place and type of residence follow age in terms of respect and rank. Rural farmers rank below artisans, merchants, and city government officials, and clergy are a separate group. The wealthier Southern Thai live in sturdy, wood-paneled homes that are raised off the ground and have planked floors and tile roofs. Those with less income typically live in bamboo framed houses with thatched roofs and dirt floors.

Wet-rice farming and cattle production dominate the agricultural economy. The Southern Thai are also skilled gardeners, famous for their large fruit plantations. Rubber and coconuts are the most important products in their region. The marshes are rich in fish, and Southern Thai fishermen deliver a quota of salted fish for export to Singapore. Tin mining is another source of revenue.

Families are at the core of Southern Thai society. In rural areas, the entire immediate family lives together with mutual respect for each other. A young married couple may live with the wife's family until they can establish their own home.

What Are Their Beliefs?

More than half of the Southern Thai are firm believers in Theravada (orthodox) Buddhism, which was introduced into Thailand in 329 B.C. Thai Buddhists devoutly follow the principles of Buddha (the "enlightened one") 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 they can gain merit through feeding monks, donating to temples and frequently worshiping in the Buddhist temples. They also follow the old tradition that a man should enter a Buddhist monastery for three months to study Buddhism.

The Southern Thai live on the Malay Peninsula, where Buddhism comes from the Thai population and Islam comes from the nearby Malay population. In this part of the world, Buddhism and Islam both combine with animism, a practice in which they seek help through the worship of supernatural spirits and objects. Southern Thai Muslims believe in semangat, a "soul substance" found in everything from inanimate objects and animals to human beings. They believe losing semangat results in poor crops, poverty and illness. They believe evil spirits cause illness, so every village has a bomo, which is a man of high moral character who puts himself into trances to exorcise the evil spirits and thus heal the sick person.

What Are Their Needs?

Hepatitis and malaria are severe problem in rural parts of the Malay Peninsula. They need easily available medical facilities.

Prayer Points

Pray for Southern Thai people in Malaysia to have open and receptive hearts, and that they would encounter the King of kings.

Pray that movements to Christ would explode, as followers make followers, and that they would place their identity in Christ.

Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil through worship and intercession.

Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Southern Thai church in Malaysia for the glory of his name!

Text Source:   Joshua Project