Phana in Laos

Photo Source:  Copyrighted © 2020
Operation China, Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Joshua Project / Global Mapping International
People Name: Phana
Country: Laos
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 500
World Population: 5,800
Primary Language: Phana'
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Translation Needed
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Hani
Affinity Bloc: Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

A mere 350 members of the Pana ethnic group live in two distinct areas of northern Laos. Two villages (Bopiet and Namtoung) are located in the Luang Namtha District of Luang Namtha Province, near the Laos-China border. One additional village of Pana is located further south, in the Houayxay District of Bokeo Province.

There are possibly several thousand Pana living in southern Yunnan Province, China, where they are officially included under the Hani nationality. The Pana in Laos say they migrated from China eight generations ago, under the authority of a Chinese leader named Lateu Kouang. They arrived first in the Viangphouka District of Luang Namtha, before dispersing to their present locations.

Traditionally, the Pana lived in the mountains, but in the last 35 generations some have moved down to the plains and valleys. They have learned how to grow irrigated crops, and now intermingle with other ethnic groups. Today, it is difficult to tell the Pana apart from the Lu, Lao and Khmu. The Pana have not worn their traditional dress for many generations, but now wear Lu and Lao clothing.

Despite their small population, there are three clan divisions among the Pana in Laos: Sing Di, Sing Chao and Sing Pong.

The Pana build their houses similar to the Hmong. This may have contributed to them being erroneously placed in the "Miao-Yao" section of Laurent Chazee's 1995 book, as the Pana language is actually part of the Tibeto-Burman language family, and is related to Akha. Some Pana are bilingual in Lahu.

The Pana have never appeared in official government literature in either Laos or China. Small groups with little influence tend "not to exist" in nations where there is no benefit to be gained from acknowledging small ethnic groups like the Pana.

The Christian world has had some contact with the Pana however. Some time in the past, missionaries helped produce a Gospel recording cassette in the Pana language. Unfortunately, because few people have even heard of the existence of the Pana, it is not known if this tool has ever been used.

Prayer Points

* Pray the Holy Spirit would prepare the hearts of many Pana in Laos and China to receive salvation.
* Ask God to send Christians to witness among the Pana.
* Pray the Pana would soon worship God in their own culturally-relevant and God-glorifying churches.

Text Source:   Peoples of Laos, Asia Harvest  Copyrighted © 2020  Used with permission