Ethnic groups in Thailand
Thailand is a country of some 70 ethnic groups, including 24 groups of Tai peoples. According to the Royal Thai Government's 2011 Country Report to the UN Committee responsible for the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, available from the Department of Rights and Liberties Promotion of the Thai Ministry of Justice,:3 62 ethnic communities are officially recognised in Thailand. Twenty million Central Thai (together with approximately 650,000 Khorat Thai) make up approximately 20,650,000 million (34.1 percent) of the nation's population of 60,544,937 at the time of completion of the Mahidol University Ethnolinguistic Maps of Thailand data (1997).
The 2011 Thailand Country Report provides population numbers for mountain peoples ('hill tribes') and ethnic communities in the Northeast and is explicit about its main reliance on the Mahidol University Ethnolinguistic Maps of Thailand data. Thus, though over 3.288 million people in the Northeast alone could not be categorised, the population and percentages of other ethnic communities circa 1997 are known and constitute minimum populations. In descending order, the largest (equal to or greater than 400,000) are a) 15,080,000 Lao (24.9 percent) consisting of the Thai Lao (14 million) and other smaller Lao groups, namely the Thai Loei (400-500,000), Lao Lom (350,000), Lao Wiang/Klang (200,000), Lao Khrang (90,000), Lao Ngaew (30,000), and Lao Ti (10,000; b) six million Khon Muang (9.9 percent, also called Northern Thais); c) 4.5 million Pak Tai (7.5 percent, also called Southern Thais); d) 1.4 million Khmer Leu (2.3 percent, also called Northern Khmer); e) 900,000 Malay (1.5%); f) 500,000 Ngaw (0.8 percent); g) 470,000 Phu Thai (0.8 percent); h) 400,000 Kuy/Kuay (also known as Suay) (0.7 percent), and i) 350,000 Karen (0.6 percent).:7-13 Khmer and Mon-Khmer make up approximately 6%, the Malays of southern Thailand make up around 3%. Among the groups categorized as hill tribes in the northern provinces, Hmong (Mien), Karen and other small hill tribes make up over 1%.
In official Thai documents the term "hill tribe" (chao khao) began to appear in the 1960s. This term highlights a "hill and valley" dichotomy that is based on an ancient social relationship existing in most of northern and western Thailand, as well as in Sipsongpanna and northern Vietnam. For the most part the Dai/Tai/Thai occupied the more fertile intermontane basins and valleys, while the less powerful groups lived at the less rich higher elevations. This dichotomy was often accompanied by a master/serf relationship.
List (sorted by language family)
- Siamese (Ayutthayan, Tambralingan, Khorat Thai)
- Laotian (Isan)
- Thai Lü
- Phu Thai
- Thai Yai
- Tai Khün
- Tai Nyaw
- Tai Dam
- Tai Ya
- Northern Khmer
- Sakai (Negrito)
Listed by language group
The following table comprises all the ethnic groups recognised by the Royal Thai Government in the 2011 Country Report to the UN Committee responsible for the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, available from the Department of Rights and Liberties Promotion of the Thai Ministry of Justice
Five ethnolinguistic families of Thailand recognised by the Royal Thai Government
|24 Groups||22 groups||11 Groups||3 Groups||2 Groups|
|Kaleung||Kasong||Guong (Ugong)||Malay (Malayu / Nayu / Yawi||Hmong (Meo)|
|Kammuang / Yuan (Northern Thai)||Kuy / Kuay||Karen (7 subfamilies)||Moken / Moklen||Mien (Yao)|
|Tai Dam||Khmu||- Sgaw Karen||Urak Lawoi|
|Nyaw||Thailand Khmer, Northern Khmer||- Pwo Karen|
|Tai Khun||Chong||- Kaya Karen|
|Central Thai||Sa-oc||- Bwe Karen|
|Thai Korat||Sakai (Kensiw / Manique)||- Pa-O Karen|
|Thai Takbai||Samre||- Padaung Karen|
|Thai Loei||So (Thavuang)||- Kayo Karen|
|Tai Lu||So||Jingpaw / Kachin|
|Tai Ya||Nyah Kur (Chaobon)||Chinese|
|Tai Yai, Shan||Nyeu||Yunnanese Chinese|
|Southern Thai||Bru (Kha)||Bisu|
|Phu Thai||Plang (Samtao)||Burmese|
|Phuan||Palaung (Dala-ang)||Lahu (Muzur)|
|Yoy||Mal-Pray (Lua / Tin)||Akha|
|Lao Khrang||Mlabri (Tongluang)||Mpi|
|Lao Ngaew||Lamet (Lua)|
|Lao Ti||Lavua (Lawa / Lua)|
|Lao Wiang/Lao Klang||Wa|
The above table has not yet been harmonised with the alphabetical listing of languages below and is more comprehensive.
The following table shows all the ethnic groups of Northeast Thailand, as recognised in the same report.
Ethnic groups of Northeast Thailand by language family
|Tai Language Family||Persons||Austroasiatic Language Family||Persons|
|Lao Esan / Thai Lao||13,000,000||Thailand Khmer / Northern Khmer||1,400,000|
|Central Thai||800,000||Kuy / Kuay (Suay)||400,000|
|Thai Khorat / Tai Beung / Tai Deung||600,000||So||70,000|
|Kaleung||200,000 for||Ngah Kur / Chao Bon / Khon Dong||7,000|
|Yoy||Kaleung, Yoy and Phuan||So (Thavaung)||1,500|
|Tai-dam (Song)||(not specified)|
|Cannot specify ethnicity and amount||32,888,000|
Note that population numbers are for the Northeast region only. Languages may have additional speakers outside the Northeast.
Incomplete alphabetical listing of groups:
- Tai–Kadai – Siamese (Thai Chinese, southern Thai), Laotian (Phu Thai), Lanna, Lü, Saek, Shan, Tai Dam, Tai Nüa
- Mon–Khmer – Bru, Khmer, Khmu, Kuy, Lawa, Lua, Mani, Mlabri, Mon, Nyahkur (Nyah Kur, Chao-bon), Palaung (De'ang), Phai, So
- Sino-Tibetan – Chin Haw, Akha, Karen, Lahu, Lisu, Lolo (Yi)
- Malayo-Polynesian – Cham, Malay, Moken, Urak Lawoi
- Hmong–Mien – Hmong, Yao
- Thai Indians (kaek)
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention: Thailand (PDF) (in English with appended Thai government translation). United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 28 July 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
- World Bank Group. (n.d.). Population, total [Thailand]. Washington, DC: Author. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=TH
- Ethnolinguistic Maps of Thailand (PDF) (in Thai). Office of the National Culture Commission. 2004. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
- Draper, John; Kamnuansilpa, Peerasit (2016). "The Thai Lao Question: The Reappearance of Thailand's Ethnic Lao Community and Related Policy Questions". Asian Ethnicity: 1. doi:10.1080/14631369.2016.1258300. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
- Kusuma Snitwongse & W Scott Thompson eds. Ethnic Conflicts in Southeast Asia, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (14 October 2005) ISBN 978-9812303370, pg. 157