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Thai, Isan in New Zealand

Thai, Isan

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Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
9,100 Thai, Northeastern Buddhism 0.80 % 0.10 % No   

Thai, Isan in New Zealand

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Introduction / History
The Northeastern Tai, also known as the Lao Isan or Thai Isan, are dispersed throughout 17 provinces in northeastern Thailand. This area takes up nearly one third of Thailand's total land mass. It is basically a flat arid plain known as the Khorat Plateau with infrequent rainfall and few natural resources. The region is noted for its archeological relics and monuments dating back to Khmer influence under the Angkor wat regime.

Many of the present-day residents of the Khorat Plateau were forcibly relocated to this hostile region over a period of a hundred years from the Lan Chang Kingdom in what is now the People's Democratic Republic of Laos. Later the people, the region and their language was labeled by Siamese kings as Isan, the word for northeast. Even though this region is now fully incorporated into Thailand and all residents are Thai, the Lao Isan language, unique diet, ritual and culture continues to thrive among this people group.

A number of people that we call Thai Isan have migrated to other parts of the world, including New Zealand. These are usually women who are looking for economic security. Typically, they live in rural areas where local women do not want to live.

Where are they located?
Most of the Thai Isan people in New Zealand are in Wellington. They have their own Buddhist temple in Karori.

What are their lives like?
It is very common for Thai Isan women to move to Western countries like New Zealand to marry local men. This arrangement seems to work well, be it in New Zealand, Australia, Norway, or Iceland. However, the men need to understand that their wives are marrying for economic security, not love. Commonly a Thai Isan woman will marry a man who lives in a remote place where local Western women do not want to live. In New Zealand, she might find herself a farmer's wife, helping to tend sheep. Since the Thai Isan are from a rural part of Southeast Asia, this usually is not a big adjustment.

However, since she is probably the only Asian in a remote place where everyone else speaks English, this can cause her to be lonely. There is a Thai Association in New Zealand, and this provides them with some comradery with people from the old country. Ironically, it is called "Thai" though the people are actually Thai Isan, a different ethnic group from a different part of Thailand.

What are their beliefs?
More than half of them are Theravada Buddhists. They follow the teachings of Gautama Buddha and seek to eliminate suffering and improve their future by gaining merit in their present lives. Ultimately, they are in pursuit of nirvana, or perfect peace. They believe that merit can be acquired through feeding monks, donating to temples, and frequently worshiping in the temples.

Many of the Thai Isan continue to practice their traditional ethnic religions particularly for important rites of passage. They combine Buddhist teachings with folk religious practices, seeking help through the worship of spirits and venerated objects.

What are their needs?
The Thai Isan people in New Zealand need to understand their worth in God's terms, not man's terms. They rely on a religious system that blends animism and Buddhism where they and the spirit beings are simply using one another. God the Father has a far better way to live!

Prayer Points
Pray for Thai Isan people in New Zealand to put their worth in God, not in the world system.
Pray for those who will produce culturally appropriate art, music, and drama materials that will help the Thai Isan people to understand Jesus Christ.
Pray that God will call forth teams of long term missionaries and intercessors who will commit to seeing a Disciple-Making movement among the Thai Isan people in New Zealand.


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Country: New Zealand
Continent: Oceania
Region: Australia and Pacific
10/40 Window: No
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Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Thai, Isan
People Name General: Thai, Isan
Alternate People Names:
IssanKhon Tai
Lao IsanNortheastern Tai
Northeastern ThaiSiamese
Tai IsanThai-Khorat
ROP3 Code: 109994
Joshua Project People ID: 15460
Indigenous: No
Population in Country: 9,100
Population all Countries: 19,112,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster: Thai
People Name General: Thai, Isan
Ethnic Code: MSY49b
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
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Primary Language: Thai, Northeastern (9,100 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): tts    Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religions:
Buddhism95.00 % 
Christianity0.80 %(Evangelical: 0.10 %)
Ethnic Religions0.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam0.00 % 
Non-Religious4.20 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic0.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: 1972–1996
New Testament:
Complete Bible: None Reported
Possible Bible Sources: Forum of Bible Agencies
 World Bible Finder
 World Christian Resource Directory
 Gospel Go
Ministry Resources [7]
Audio RecordingsMegaVoice Audio Bible and Stories
Audio RecordingsAudio Bible teaching
Audio RecordingsIsan Bible Online
Audio RecordingsStory of Jesus audio
Film / Video / Animation
Film / VideoJesus Film: view in Thai, Northeastern
Film / VideoMy Last Day video, anime
Film / VideoThe Hope Video
Film / VideoWorld Christian Videos
GeneralGospel resources links
Ministry Activity
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Data Notes
Data Sources

Thai, Isan in New Zealand

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Thai     Australia and Pacific    
      Thai, Isan New Zealand    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Thai, Isan in New Zealand          
      Religion Language  
      Buddhism     Thai, Northeastern  
    All Religions                              

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