Introduction / History Centuries ago, the Lao lived in China. However, relentless pressure by the Chinese gradually forced them southward, and many settled along the Mekong River in the eighth or ninth century. When the Lao Kingdom was replaced by a Communist administration during World War II, many Lao fled to Burma, and Thailand. There are a small number of Lao people in Thailand today.
What are their lives like? The Lao are traditionally distinguished from the surrounding peoples by three criteria: the sticky rice they eat (steamed rather than boiled), the skirts worn by their women, and their musical instruments. A bamboo wind instrument called the khene is the most widely known instrument. They also play the khouy, which is an end-blown flute. Music is part of every festival, and it is frequently heard as people work in the fields. Most of the Lao are wet-rice farmers. They grow rice both as a dietary staple and as a cash crop. They cultivate rice with wooden equipment drawn by buffalo, although they might also use the "slash and burn" method. Some of the Lao in Thailand are also blacksmiths, carpenters or fishermen. Their houses are typically made of wood or bamboo and are built high on stilts. Poultry, pigs, and goats are allowed to run freely underneath the houses. Farm lands are adjacent to the villages. The Buddhist Wat, or temple, is the center of Lao village life. Village leadership is usually divided; the chief has authority in secular matters, while the Buddhist monk has authority in religious issues. Lao society has no rigid social class system. Instead, their social structure is based on family units, with no widespread lineages or clans. Sexual promiscuity before marriage is common.
What are their beliefs? More than half of the Lao are Buddhists. They believe that right thinking, ritual sacrifices, and self-denial will enable the soul to reach nirvana (a state of eternal bliss) at death. They live in fear of their gods and constantly strive to appease them with ritual chants and sacrifices. One-third of the Lao are ethnic religionists, combining folk animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits) with Buddhism. They seek help through various supernatural beings and objects. Of major importance to them are territorial deities whom they believe have much power over their daily lives.
What are their needs? The Lao people are safer in Thailand than they are in Laos, but they still need protection from natural disasters and crop failures. Those who fled Laos as political dissidents are still in danger.
Prayer Points Pray for the Lord to show Himself to be Jehovah Jireh, the provider for the Lao people in Thailand. Pray for the Lao people in Thailand to have such a spiritual hunger that they will flee to the arms of Jesus Christ. Pray for a Disciple Making Movement among the Lao people in Thailand. Pray for Christ’s ambassadors to go to the Lao people in Thailand.