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Thai People In East Northeastern Thailand (Isan)

The Lao Isan People

  • The Lao, or Tai- Lao or Lao Tai, are members of the Tai-Kadai Austro-Asiatic language group. In Thailand these Lao Isan are the same people linguistically and culturally as the Loation Lao only they live in different countries.
  • In 1995 there were 26 million ethnic Lao, of which 23.5 million live in Thailand and 2.4 million live in Laos. The Lao language is closely related to that of the Tai Yai and Tai Yuan of North Thailand and the Shan State of Myanmar. It also borrows words from Pali, Sanskrit and Khmer. The Lao have a separate script based on the ancient writing system Lao Deoum which was the language of the Lan Xang Kingdom founded in 1353.

Lao Beliefs

  • The Lao are Buddhists (but not all). These Buddhists also maintain a strong link with animist beliefs. The Lao believe in 32 spirits (or Kwans). Kwans are body spirits of which 20 are inherited from the father and 12 from the mother. Each spirit is a guardian of an organ in the body. Ceremonies are performed to ensure the Kwan are present in the body and attached when one is away from home or one has some important event or new undertaking. Every village has a Shaman to deal with spirit relationships.