Though the six main tribes represented in this
website are the largest in Thailand, there are many other smaller
minority groups, mostly of Mon-Khmer linguistic stock, scattered
throughout the country. Below is information about a few of these
Kui, Kuoy, or Suay
Kui were originally located in the northern region of the city of
Kampongtohm, in Cambodia. The Kui were once a free nation. In the year
523 B.C. they sent ambassadors to trade and sell in Ayuttaya
(Thailand). The Kui once helped the Cambodian king to squash a
rebellion. In nice form, Cambodia later rewarded them sacrifices by
using its military might to conquer the Kui and seize the Kui's land as
their own, making it a part of Cambodia. The Kui prefer to migrate
perpetually in search of better land to farm. The Kui migrated north to
the city of Attabeu Saenpang Jampasak and Sarawan in southern Laos.
They then crossed the Mekong river into Essan (Northeastern Thailand)
at the Sapeu islet in the Amphur of Kong Jiem.
Following the move to Essan, the descendants of those first Kui
migrants began spreading out and establishing their own households.
This wave of Kui migrants occurred between 1702-1783 A.D., towards the
end of the Ayuttaya period. The Thais refer to the Kui as "Khamane Pa
Dong," whereas they refer to themselves as "Kui," "Koy," or "Kuoy,"
which means "person." At present the Kui can be found in the provinces
of Buriram, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakorn Sri Thammarat, Mahasarakham,
Surin, Sri Saket, and Suphanburi.
The Kui's religious tradition is an interesting mix of Buddhism and
spirit worship. In a traditional Kui village there is both a
wat (Buddhist Temple) and a spirit shrine present. Genies,
monsters, and ghosts (of the mountains, of the forest, of the pathways,
etc.), are among the many different types of spirits worshipped. Each
village, it is believed, has its own spirit. The Kui believe that pain
and sickness arise from the actions of the spirits and so they take
extra special care to do whatever is necessary to appease the spirits.
Traditionally, an elder woman serves as the spirit doctor, taking care
of these patients. There is a special type of dance known as maw,
which must be performed as an act of supplication to impress and
appease the spirits. Before the maw dance can be
done, however, the participants must perform a special ceremony in
reverence to their teachers.
The Kui have a long tradition of raising elephants, passed on from
generation to generation. The elephants which the Kui raise come from
deep in the forest. They use a sort of round-up method known as "pone
chaang" to capture the elephants. There is an elephant "doctor" who
uses a lasso ("cheuak bpa gaam") made from water buffalo leather. The
lasso is considered a very sacred object, enchanted and possessed by
the spirits of the Kui's ancestors. To catch the elephant using the
lasso, the elephant trainer simply slips the enchanted object around
the elephant's foot and then quickly ties the other end to a tree. Once
the elephant has been tied down it is ready to begin its training,
preparing it for work.
Traditional Kui dress, for an older woman, consists of a patterned
skirt and an open-collared shirt. Silver-beaded jewerly is worn around
the neck. Beautiful scented flowers tucked behind the ears is quite the
fad. Traditionally, the Kui weave their own fabric. One type of fabric,
known as "jik-ga-noi," looks and feels similar to a squirrel's tail and
is of one universal color. As for the Kui men, they generally only
dress up for important ceremonies. Their dress consists of a sarong,
folded into a pleat in front. Weaving is done in a seated position,
legs stretched out straight in front, pulling the loom back and forth
over the lap. The base color for women's fabrics is brown, with a clear
border and red thread interwoven. At the bottom edge is a black border
with white, yellow and red stripes running down it. Ja ga-wee
fabric is similar to the Khmer anlusim, with a
vertical pattern. This type of fabric would be worn by women at special
Indicative of the confusion surrounding many tribal names, the Khamu
and ethnic Lao of northern Laos refer to the Lahu of that area as "Kui"
or "Gui", though they are clearly part of the Lahu tribe descendant
from Tibet, not part of the Kui ethnicity from Cambodia.
About 1,300 years ago, before the Mon brought
civilization to the Ping river-basin, the ancestors of the Lua had
already established their homeland. The Lua, or "La-wee-ah," as they
refer to themselves, are part of the Austronesian family. It is
uncertain where the Lua originated from, but it is generally believed
that they emigrated from the southern regions of Thailand or from
Similarities in language, body structure, and
dress have led to the belief that about 2,000 years ago the Lua were
part of the same ethnic group as the Wa located
in the northern region of Myanmar (Burma) and Southern Yunnan (China).
The Lua migrated into Thailand and settled in
Chiang Mai. Approximately 900 years ago Mon from Lopburi--whom
established the kingdom of Lamphun and Lampang (Thailand)--attacked the
Lua, forcing them to retreat into the mountains. The Lua became a
hill-dwelling people from that point on.
Later, in the 13th century AD. the Thai migrated
into this region and defeated the ruling Mon and established friendly
relations with the Lua. The Lua believe their ancestors once resided in
Chiang Mai and built Wat Jedi Luang before the
Thais emigrated to this region. The Lua had their own royal lineage of