Nyaw in Thailand

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Most of the tribes in northwestern Thailand live along the lower slopes of the mountains. They speak various languages which come from either the Mon Khmer or Tai group. Most of the people are bilingual, speaking both their native language and Northern Thai. Many also use the Northern Thai script.

China is the original homeland of most of these tribes. They gradually migrated southward due to pressure by the Chinese. As they traveled, they conquered many peoples along the way. By the tenth century, a large number had settled in Thailand.

Northern Thailand is the site of the early Mon kingdom which was founded in the sixth century. The kingdom fell to the Thai during the thirteenth century, and this allowed the northwestern region to retain a degree of independence from Bangkok until the late nineteenth century.

Over the years, Thailand has had many governmental changes and military riots. For the peoples in northwestern Thailand, warfare and resettlement have caused massive social displacement.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Most of the tribes live in the mountainous areas of northern Thailand where they practice the slash and burn method of farming. Unfortunately, this has caused many of the tropical evergreen forests that grow naturally in this region to be destroyed. For this reason, the tribes must continually relocate their villages. Although the farmers have been encouraged by the Thai government to move to the plains and cultivate rice in irrigated fields, many have continued to use the slash and burn method.

Rice is the staple crop for most of these groups. Maize and opium poppies are also raised. Dry rice is cultivated with a digging stick, rather than with a plow or oxen. Those who grow rice for consumption and sale still use primitive, wooden equipment drawn by buffalo.

For years, opium was the main source of cash among the tribes. However, due to the gradual suppression of the opium trade, the government has encouraged the people to raise pigs and peppers instead.

The tribal villages are located either on raised ground surrounded by rice fields, or on high ground on either side of a road or pathway. Various types of houses can be found in the villages. The wealthier people often live in sturdy, mahogany homes that are raised off the ground and have plank floors and tile roofs. Those with lower incomes may live in thatched roof, bamboo houses that have dirt floors.

The single most important social institution in the village is the temple. It symbolizes unity among the villagers, and provides a wide variety of activities for the people.

The people of this region are very polite, respectful, and hospitable. The family is the basic unit of society. Beginning at a very young age, their children are taught proper social behavior. This code of conduct is based on having respect for those who rank higher. Additional emphasis is placed on becoming independent and self-reliant.

Their societies are very structured. Social rank is generally organized on the basis of age, occupation, and wealth. For example, rural farmers are ranked below craftsmen, merchants, and city government officials. The priests form their own separate class.

In particular, the Lu are clever silversmiths. Their men fabricate the famous Lu sword and the women's specialties include weaving and embroidery. The Khmu are respected as powerful magicians.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Buddhism was introduced into Thailand in 329 B.C. Except for the Yao, many of the tribal groups in this region began mixing elements of Buddhism with their traditional ethnic beliefs. For this reason, the people often seek help through supernatural spirits and objects. They believe that the spirits, known as phi, must be appeased with sacrifices and offerings.

Among the tribes of this region, the Khmu are the most spiritually respected. This is because the Thai and the Lao believe that the Khmu have a closer link with the land and its spirits than other groups.

What Are Their Needs?

Laborers are needed to work among each of these tribes.
There is a need for Bible materials in their native languages.
Many of the tribal women and children give themselves to prostitution so that they might earn a living. These precious people are in need of special prayer.

Prayer Points

* Scripture Prayers for the Nyaw in Thailand.

* Ask God to encourage those living in northwestern Thailand who have given their hearts to Jesus Christ.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will complete the work begun in their hearts through adequate discipleship.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth many laborers into the fields of northwestern Thailand.
* Pray for the women and children who are trapped in the bondage of prostitution.
* Pray that God will call out prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches within each of these tribes.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

Additional Info
Global Prayer Digest: 2008-06-29
People Name General Nyaw
People Name in Country Nyaw
Population this Country 81,000
Population all Countries 99,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per PeopleGroups.org)
Pioneer Workers Needed 2
Alternate Names Jo; Ngeou; Ngo; Nyo; Ou; Su; Tai No; Tai Nyo; Tai Yor; Yo; Yor
People ID 16148
ROP3 Code 111248
Country Thailand
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Udon Thani, Bueng Kan, Maha Sarakham provinces: Sa Kaeo province: isolated area on Cambodia border.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Thailand
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Udon Thani, Bueng Kan, Maha Sarakham provinces: Sa Kaeo province: isolated area on Cambodia border..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Primary Language Nyaw (81,000 speakers)
Language Code nyw   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Unknown
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Nyaw (81,000 speakers)
Language Code nyw   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Nyaw

Primary Language:  Nyaw

Bible Translation Status:  Translation Needed

Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (Global Recordings Network)
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religion Percent
74.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
1.00 %
Ethnic Religions
25.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
55.0 %
Roman Catholic
45.0 %
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2022  Peoples of Laos, Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  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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