Introduction / History
The Central Tai live on the country's rich central plain. The area, which includes the capital city of Bangkok, is watered by the Chao Phraya River. The Central Tai, who represent more than a third of the population, call themselves the Khon Thai, meaning "the free people".
Centuries ago the Tai lived north of Yangtzekiang in China. Relentless pressure by the Chinese gradually forced them southward. They conquered many peoples and cultures as they sought a new homeland, and by the 10th century they had settled in Central Thailand. Today, Buddhism is the central and unifying force in Thai society and even maintains social control.
Central Thai people have moved to other parts of the world, often to make a better living. A small number of them have migrated to neighboring Cambodia, another Buddhist nation.
Where are they located?
There are Central Thai people in Cambodia's capital city of Phnom Penh.
What are their lives like?
The Central Thai people who have re-located to Cambodia are often business owners who hire Cambodians. Cambodians are eager to learn the Central Thai language in order to further their careers.
The Central Tai are unusually polite, respectful, and hospitable people. Their children are brought up to respect those of a higher rank, with additional emphasis on independence and self-reliance. The Central Tai seldom use physical punishment to discipline children.
Age is highly respected in Central Thai society. Type of occupation, wealth, and place and type of residence follow age in terms of respect and rank. Farmers rank below artisans, merchants, and city government officials; clergy form a separate group. Families are the core of Thai society. In rural areas, the immediate family usually lives, eats, and farms together. A young married couple may live with the bride's family until they can establish their own home.
What are their beliefs?
Theravada Buddhism was introduced in Thailand in 329 B.C. Almost all of the Thai are devout followers of Buddha ("the enlightened one") and seek to eliminate suffering and improve their future by gaining merit in pursuit of perfect peace, or nirvana. They believe that merit can be acquired through feeding monks, donating to temples, and attending worship services.
Traditionally, young men enter a Buddhist monastery for three months to study Buddhism. The Thai also attempt to incorporate their Buddhist beliefs with folk animism, a practice in which they seek help through the worship of spirits and objects.
What are their needs?
Wherever they live, the Central Thai people do not understand the uniqueness and centrality of Christ. They believe that "Christianity" is good for Westerners, but Buddhism is best for the Thai. They need a special encounter with the Lord that will make it clear that He is far above all gods.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to mission agencies that are currently ministering to the Central Thai.
* Ask God to send Christian teachers and medical teams to work among the Central Thai people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Central Thai towards Christ.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Central Thai people in Cambodia.
Text source: Keith Carey