Thailand has a population of over 66 million inhabitants, including Thais (75%); Chinese (14%); and Malay (3.5%).

Kuy people from Surin

Kuy people from Surin

The level of integration, cooperation and mutual respect between different ethnic groups in Thailand is a real inspiration.

Thai (Tai) people originally emigrated from southern China, settling in river valleys to cultivate rice paddy.

North-eastern Thailand is home to a majority of ethnic Lao people, who share many cultural similarities with the Thais.

The best known minority peoples are the Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand, such as the Karen, Akha, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Lisu, and Lawa peoples, famous for their unique languages, arts, crafts and ways of life. Lesser known, the Phu Tai, Khmer and Kuy peoples live in north-eastern Thailand.

In the south, along 3,000 km of coast, many families (largely Muslim) are fishers, with rubber tapping and fruit farming as other important occupations.

Yawi and Moken (sea gypsies) people constitute the main ethnic minority groups.

Visitors who take sufficient time to visit these ethnic groups can learn a lot from their customs, arts and indigenous knowledge, but should be cautious of the way they visit and interact with them, avoiding voyeurism and “zooification”. We strongly encourage you to watch this 20 min video, particularly the last part:

Moving into the new millennium, Thailand stands at the crossroads of development, balanced between traditional and industrial ways of life. However, community and social ties forged by traditional cultures remain strong across the country, and influence every aspect of daily life.