Tai Gapong in Thailand

Tai Gapong
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Peoples of the Buddhist World, Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
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People Name: Tai Gapong
Country: Thailand
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 2,300
World Population: 2,800
Primary Language: Language unknown
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Unspecified
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
People Cluster: Tai
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

According to Joachim Schliesinger, “the ancestors of the Tai Gapong in Thailand migrated westwards from central Laos, crossed the Mekong and settled in their present location in 1844 or 1845. The reason for their migration is unclear; they may have been taken as war captives and resettled across the Mekong River by the Siamese army or migrated voluntarily.”

In their language, Gapong means “brain”—therefore the autonym of this interesting group means “Brainy Tai.” Other Tai groups call them Phutai, but although the Tai Gapong say they are distantly related to the Phutai, they are now a distinct tribe with their own customs, history and dialect. In fact, even the Phutai who live in the Tai Gapong village in Thailand consider them different.

Tai Gapong people live in Thailand’s Ban Varit in Waritchaphum District of Sakhon Nakhon Province. There are homes in Ban Varit, most of which are inhabited by Tai Gapong families, along with some ethnic Phutai and Yoy people. There is a small number in Laos.

What Are Their Lives Like?

For generations, Tai Gapong women have worn an elaborate traditional dress that sets them apart from other tribes. It consists of a skirt that falls just below the knees, “with white, red, brown and yellow horizontal stripes at its lower part, a long sleeved dark colored vest buttoned in the middle with silver coins and decorated with red bands along the hem, collar and sleeve ends. In the past, Tai Gapong women wore a silver belt, silver earrings, silver necklaces and silver anklets.

What Are Their Beliefs?

All Tai Gapong people in Thailand are Buddhists. Their spiritual beliefs in Laos is not clear. Although many Tai Gapong families in Laos claim to be Buddhists, their ceremonies and rituals are dominated by animistic practices.

In Thailand the Tai Gapong reportedly “believe in an array of spirits, such as the spirit of the village, the spirit of the house, the spirit of the water, the spirit of the tree, but their most important spiritual being is chao pu mahaesak, an angel-like being, humanized in the form of a man-like statue in his shrine. The Tai Gapong honor chao pu mahaesak annually on a specific day with flowers, whisky, rice, and other small sacrifices.”

What Are Their Needs?

Because few people are even aware of the existence of the Tai Gapong people, little or no Christian outreach has ever been conducted among them. Only a very few Tai Gapong have heard the gospel. They continue—as they have for centuries—to live their lives without the slightest knowledge of Jesus Christ or his salvation.

Prayer Points

Pray for the authority of Christ to bind hindering spiritual forces to lead them from darkness to light.

Pray for signs and wonders among them and for great breakthroughs with a rapid multiplication of disciples and house churches.

Pray for bold workers who are driven by the love of the Holy Spirit to go to them.

Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them.

Text Source:   Joshua Project