Introduction / History
The Saek (Tai Sek) live along both sides of the Mekong River in central Laos. There is also a community of Saek living in northeastern Thailand near the Vietnam border. The Saek speak a Diac language, called Saek, which belongs to the northern Tai branch. Many Saek also speak Lao.
Because of ceaseless Chinese pressure, the Thai emigrated south from China conquering many peoples along the way. By the thirteenth century, they had made their way to Laos. Through extensive contact the Saek (like other tribes), have been assimilated into Lao and Thai culture. Since Laos has been the scene of numerous battles and the object of political competition among Vietnam, Russia, and China, the Laotians have remained divided. Similarly, Thailand has experienced many governmental changes. They have also suffered from numerous military coups and riots. Years of warfare have undoubtedly affected the Saek society a great deal.
What are their lives like?
Almost every aspect of Saek society reflects the assimilated cultures of the Thai and Lao. However, the famous "round dances" of the Saek women remain one of the unique characteristics of their culture.
Saek homes are typically made of wood or bamboo and are built on stilts. The family's livestock (mainly poultry, pigs, and goats) run freely underneath the houses. Farmlands are adjacent to the residential areas. While rice is the chief crop of the Saek, they also raise a wide variety of crops for consumption and trade. Fishing and hunting are also important activities. The Saek are dependent on the monsoon rainfall to water their fields. Men clear the fields for planting, build houses, fish, and hunt; while the women weed the fields, help with the harvest, and carry on most of the trading. Very few of the Saek have moved to the cities. The Saek remain in frequent contact with the Lao by bartering goods such as meat and vegetables in exchange for clothing and salt. The most significant political unit in Saek society is the village. Each village is independent from the others and has a headman who decides important issues. The nuclear family, headed by the father, is also a vital part of the Saek culture. Intermarriage with the So in Laos is also a common practice within Saek society.
Because the Saek are isolated from the mainstream Lao society, they are looking for improved cultural, economic, and educational opportunities. Communist forces supported by the Lao, North Vietnamese, and Chinese have disrupted life in the villages since the l950s. The constant battles between government forces and indigenous Communists have left a painful mark on Saek society.
What are their beliefs?
Although they are surrounded by Buddhism, most of the Saek in Laos adhere to their traditional ethnic beliefs. For example, ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for help and guidance) is a common practice. Because these spirits are thought to cause illness, they have to be appeased through offerings. It is believed that each village has a guardian spirit as well as various other spirits that are linked to the forces of nature.
What are their needs?
Since the 1980s, pressures from Communist forces in Laos and Vietnam have created quite a stir in northeastern Thailand. The impact has been especially great in the Nakorn Panom Province where the Thai Saek live. The Saek's first loyalty is to their village rather than to the Lao or Thai nation as a whole. Therefore, the government fears the Saek's strong ties to Laos.
The Saek need to be healed from the wounds of war. They also need better education and increased political wisdom as they deal with their government and its leaders.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Laos.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Saek.
* Pray that God will grant Christian missionaries favor with the government.
* Pray that God will give the few known Saek believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Saek church for the glory of His name!