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Phu Thai in Laos

Phu Thai

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Phu Thai in Laos map
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
223,000 Phu Thai Buddhism 0.50 % 0.40 % No No   

Phu Thai in Laos

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The Phutai live across three countries in Southeast Asia: Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Phutai may also live in south-west Yunnan Province, China. A number of Phutai refugees were granted asylum in the USA. A small community has lived in the Los Angeles area since the late 1970s.

In all of the countries where they live, it is difficult for researchers to identify the Phutai because they have merged with other communities. In Vietnam they have not been granted status as a distinct ethnic group, but they are one of many subgroups lumped together under the official 'Thai' minority. In Laos, the 1995 census listed a population of 472,458 Phutai people, but this inflated figure included groups such as the Tai Dam (Black Tai), Tai Kao (White Tai) and Tai Deng (Red Tai). Although ethnically they are distinct, there are only slight differences between the languages of these groups. The name Phutai has a generic meaning, 'Tai people', which further complicates attempts to classify them. Despite this murky situation, some other ethnic groups envy the Phutai because of their rich cultural heritage. They are a proud people who still preserve their traditions.

Many Phutai in Vietnam, and to a lesser degree in Laos, remain animists, with minimal Buddhist influence. Buddhism is stronger among the Phutai in Thailand, but worldwide only about 50 per cent of Phutai people identify themselves as Buddhists.

Each Phutai village in Thailand has one or more female shamans, called moi yau. They are responsible for mediating between the Phutai people and the spirit world. During certain times they go into trances and give messages from the spirit world or from the Phutai ancestors. The moi yau are both feared and highly respected by the Phutai.

Even those Phutai who say they are Buddhists mix their faith with the worship of 25 different spirits. 'Every year during the third lunar month the Phutai gather for the Pi Tian ("Spirit of Heaven") festival. People relax and unwind by riding horses, elephants and shooting arrows, etc. The focal point of the festival is a ritual at which the whole community gathers and offers sacrifices and prayers to the spirit that they believe resides in paradise above. After waiting for some time, the Phutai believe there is a moment when the spirit actually comes down from heaven. The normally reserved Phutai dance and jump for joy, and often healing takes place. Despite this remarkable ceremony, there are few Phutai who have ever accepted Jesus Christ, who is the Holy Spirit who gives lasting joy.'

Today there are several hundred Phutai Christians in Laos, both Catholic and Protestant, and a similar number in Thailand. The vast majority of Phutai people, however, have never heard the gospel. Their strong sense of community often results in the Phutai being resistant to change and outside influence. Consequently, few have ever broken away to follow Christ

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Global Prayer Digest: 2017-06-07
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Country: Laos
Continent: Asia
Region: Asia, Southeast
Persecution Rank:20 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:They live across three countries in Southeast Asia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Phutai may also live in south-west Yunnan Province, China.
(Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, 2004)
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Country Map:Political map
Ethnolinguistic Map:University of Texas or other map
Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Phu Thai
People Name General: Phu Thai
Alternate People Names:
Phu TaiPoutai
ROP3 Code: 108016
Joshua Project People ID: 14383
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 223,000
Population all Countries: 1,020,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster: Tai
People Name General: Phu Thai
Ethnic Code: MSY49z
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
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Primary Language: Phu Thai (223,000 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): pht    Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religions:
Buddhism79.50 % 
Christianity0.50 %(Evangelical: 0.40 %)
Ethnic Religions20.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam0.00 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent5.00 %
Protestant75.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic20.00 %
(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
GSEC Status:Level 1   Less than 2% Evangelical. Some evangelical resources available, but no active church planting within past 2 years
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: Help start a Bible Translation
New Testament: None Reported
Complete Bible: None Reported
Ministry Resources [7]
Audio RecordingsMegaVoice Audio Bible and Stories
Audio RecordingsAudio Bible teaching (GRN)
Ministry Activity
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Data Notes
Data Sources

Phu Thai in Laos

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Tai     Asia, Southeast    
      Phu Thai Laos    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Phu Thai in Laos          
      Religion Language  
      Buddhism     Phu Thai  
    All Religions                              

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