Thai in Malaysia

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Thai live in northern Peninsular Malaysia bordering Thailand. Living in a tropical, mountainous region, they dwell along rivers or near roads. They speak a tonal language called Thai and are part of a larger people group known as the Tai.

Originally from China, the Thai emigrated south due to unending Chinese pressure, conquering many peoples and cultures along the way. By the tenth century, they were in southern Thailand in substantial numbers. Eventually, they moved as far south as Peninsular Malaysia.

The Malay culture has been strongly influenced by that of other peoples, including the Thai. The city of Bangkok has played a major role in Peninsular Malaysia since the thirteenth century, and mutual respect exists between Thailand and Malaysia. Originally, the rivers were the means for political and diplomatic relations. Today, however, highways and railways maintain trade and communication between the two nations.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Wet-rice agriculture and cattle production dominate Thai economy. The people are also skilled gardeners, famous for their large fruit plantations. In addition, they now have large rubber plantations. Some Thai work in tin mines, while others are good fishermen, delivering a quota of salted fish for export to Singapore. In the north, rubber and coconuts are the most important products.

Traditionally, Thai social structure consisted of a somewhat feudal organization with distinct class divisions between nobility and commoners. Although the head of a village was a commoner, he was required to report to a nobleman who was the overseer of a district. Weakness of power on the part of the overseer led to the breakdown of this system. The nobility has now been replaced by appointed and elected officials subject to a parliament, but class distinctions are still a notable part of Thai society.

The Thai are mainly a rural people, living in villages rather than towns. Houses are usually built on stilts four to eight feet high and have thatched roofs. The wealthier Thai, however, have homes with plank floors and tile roofs. The typical household consists of a husband, his wife, and their children.

In general, the Thai are very polite, respectful, and hospitable. Children are taught from a young age to accept a code of social behavior based on respect for those of higher rank. Independence and self-reliance are also emphasized. Traditionally, marriages have been arranged by the parents.

The Thai, especially in northeastern Peninsular Malaysia, enjoy participating in popular puppet performances. Thai instruments, which include drums and small bell cymbals, are used, and Hindu-based prayers are offered to the gods in the Thai language. The actual play, however, is in the more common Malay language.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The official religion of Malaysia is Islam. Despite the claim of religious freedom, there is severe pressure for radical Islamic reforms and the formation of an Islamic state. There are also discriminatory laws and actions against all non-Muslims. A relatively small number of Thai have given in to such pressures and have converted to Islam. The majority, however, have remained Theravada Buddhists. In addition, some remnants of their ethnic religion can still be found, such as their constant attention to guardian spirits and their various ceremonies for good harvests or good weather.

What Are Their Needs?

Although there are many Christian resources in the Thai language, it is illegal to witness to Muslims in Malaysia. Every effort is made to prevent the conversion of the small ethnic communities to Christianity. There is also much discrimination and bureaucratic obstruction. Worship services in private homes are strongly discouraged, and churches are closed on the weakest of pretexts. Governmental restrictions make it extremely difficult for missionaries to work in traditional ways. Urgent prayer is needed for the spiritual climate of Malaysia to be reached with the light of the Gospel.

Prayer Points

* Scripture Prayers for the Thai in Malaysia.

* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send Christians who will witness with their lives to the Thai of Malaysia.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to give creative ideas for evangelism to missions agencies focusing on the Thai.
* Pray for the Lord to use the Jesus film to soften the hearts of the Thai towards the Gospel message.
* Pray that God will give Thai believers courage to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong Thai church for the glory of His name!

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Thai
People Name in Country Thai
Pronunciation TIE
Population this Country 30,000
Population all Countries 23,586,000
Total Countries 29
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
Alternate Names Bangkok Thai; Central Tai; Khon Tai; Lao Song; Siamese; Siamese Thai; Tai Noi; Thai Khom; Thai Klang; Thai Song
People ID 11277
ROP3 Code 101940
Country Malaysia
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 46  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Country Malaysia
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 46  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Primary Language Thai (30,000 speakers)
Language Code tha   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Thai (30,000 speakers)
Language Code tha   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Thai

Primary Language:  Thai

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1834-1967)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1843-1977)
Bible-Complete Yes  (1883-2020)
Bible-NT Audio Online
Bible-NT Text Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio Recordings Online New Testament (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video Come to Me
Film / Video Creation to Christ
Film / Video Fathers Love Letter
Film / Video God's Story Video
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Thai
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels
Film / Video Magdalena (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime)
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)
Film / Video The Hope Video
Film / Video The Prophets' Story
General Four Spiritual Laws
General Got Questions Ministry
General Walk with the Prophets and meet the Messiah
Mobile App Download Audio Bible app as APK File from FCBH
Mobile App Download Audio Bible app from Google Play Store
Text / Printed Matter Bible: Biblica Thai
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religion Percent
90.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.40 %)
0.50 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
6.00 %
3.50 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
5.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
5.0 %
30.0 %
Roman Catholic
60.0 %
Photo Source Deepak Meena - Pixabay  Creative Commons  Used with permission
Map Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more


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