So in Thailand

Photo Source:  Ray Mason 
Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: So
Country: Thailand
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 75,000
World Population: 165,000
Primary Language: So (Laos)
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 1.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.60 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Mon-Khmer
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The So live along both banks of the Mekong River in Thailand and Laos. This is a rugged mountain region with many dense tropical forests. The Lao-Thai name So ("elder brother") refers to the fact that the So were present in this area long before their "younger brothers," the Lao. The So are bilingual, speaking So (a Mon-Khmer language) in their homes and Thai in social settings.

The Mon Khmer-speaking tribes were the original settlers of this region. However, they were pushed out of the best lands in the early centuries A.D. by Thai-speaking peoples. About 400 years ago, the Thai-speakers forced the So to leave their homes and re-settle on the banks of the Mekong River. The So people adjusted to the lifestyles of the Thai and the Lao.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The So of Thailand are primarily farmers. They cultivate a wide variety of crops, such as rice, fruit, and vegetables, for both consumption and trade. They are poorer than most of the surrounding ethnic groups and therefore depend on the Thai for many goods and services. So villagers frequently meet with the Thai to trade meat and vegetables for necessary items such as clothing and salt.

Over the years, the So began adopting the practices of the surrounding peoples, especially the Thai and Lao. This brought on many significant changes within their culture. For example, they no longer use their traditional farming methods of burning and clearing plots. Instead, they grow wet-rice on terraced plots, which is the agricultural method of the Thai. They also raise their cattle and till their fields, much like the Lao. They prepare the fields with plows drawn by buffalo or oxen. In addition, fishing and hunting have become important activities.

Such things as traditional dress, language, educational methods, housing, and public administration have also changed over the years for the So people. Only a few distinctive, cultural characteristics have remained, such as the silk scarves worn by the So women around a bun of hair at their necks.

The So consider the village the most significant political unit of society. A headman leads each village, and a father leads each family. A young married couple may live with the bride's family until they can establish their own home. The So typically live in thatch roof bamboo houses built on stilts. Their neighbors view them as dirty and disorderly.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Buddhism was introduced into Thailand in 329 B.C.; and today, most of the So profess to be Buddhist. However, most of them have mixed elements of Buddhism with their traditional animistic beliefs (the belief that non-living objects have spirits). They often seek help through supernatural spirits and objects. Ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for provision and guidance) is also common. If not appeased, ancestral spirits cause illnesses. Families usually have small altars near their homes where they make sacrifices and offerings to the spirits. The people also believe that each village has a guardian spirit, as well as various spirits that are linked to the elements of nature.

What Are Their Needs?

The So people are vulnerable to destructive floods. They need a water management project in their homeland.

Prayer Points

Pray for the So people to overcome fear of being punished by the spirit world so that they will be free to embrace the King of kings.

Pray for spiritual hunger that will give the So people the willingness to give up whatever it takes to enter the Kingdom of God.

Pray for an abundant rice harvest that will help the So people in Thailand that the Lord is both loving and all-powerful.

Pray for "persons of peace" among So leaders that will open their communities to those who want to take Christ to them.

Text Source:   Joshua Project