The Kui People of Cambodia and Siam. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Erik Seidenfaden   

SEIDENFADEN, ERIK. THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM. JSS. VOL.39 (pt.2) 1952. p.144-180.

 

 

                THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM                   144

 

                                                          By

                                             Erik Seidenfaden

 

The following notes are written partly in appreciation of
Monsieur Paul Lévy's outstanding work1 on prehistoric research
which he carried out in the region of Mlu Prei in North Cambodia,
and partly based on the writer's personal observations made from
contacts with our own Kui2 people in Northeastern Siam during
the years of 1908 to 1919 while serving as a Deputy to the Inspec-
tor-General of the Provincial Gendarmerie. These observations do
not claim to be complete as they were made during our somewhat
hasty passages through the Kui villages when on inspection tours
to outlying gendarmerie stations. Still, as nothing, so far, has been
published about the Kui people of Siam it may perhaps be worth-
while to publish them, especially as our Kui are rapidly changing
their language for that of Siamese (Lāo) or Khmer, a process which
has been going on for a long time, and which eventually may result
in the disappearance of their ancient Môn-Khmer tongue. The
schools are only teaching their children the Siamese language, which
is required by the civil administration, and the frequent intercourse
with the Thai-speaking people will hasten this process, also changing
or strongly modifying the original Kui customs and manners. A
study of M. Baradat's excellent monograph "Les Samré ou Péarr,
populations primitives de l'ouest du Cambodge"3 should prove useful

to an understanding of the material and spiritual conditions of
the Kui as these and the Samré or Pörr (Péarr) are ethnically, as
well as linguistically, identical people.

__________________________

        1. Recherches préhistoriques dans la région de Mlu prei par Paul

 Lévy, published by the École Française d'Extrême Orient, Hanoi 1943. 124

 pages with 65 plates and 50 figures in the text, a vocabulary and an index

          2. The Kui (K to be pronounced as a hard G) of N.E. Siam are by

 the Siamese called Soai (ส่วย) i.e., those liable to pay taxes.

          3. Vide Bulletin de l'Ecole Française d'Extrême Orient, vol. xxxx,

 reviewed in J.S.S., Vol. xxx by the writer.

 

 

 

 

 

                       THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM                  145

 

M. Paul Lèvy, whose activities and work have been men-
tioned several times in the J.S.S., is a young, energetic and particu-
larly gifted French ethnologist who has also in the domain of
prehistory and archaeology contributed considerably to our know-
ledge of things Indochinese. As will be known to readers in Siam,
at least, M. Lèvy has now been promoted to the high office of
Director of l'Ècole Française d'Extrême Orient. The prehistoric
investigations carried out by M. Lèvy took place in the region of
Mlu Prei which lies to the north of the town of Kampong Thom,
on the upper reaches of Stüng Sen. The latter is a considerable
water course whose sources are found in the Dong Rek range to the
southeast of the town of Khukhan in the southernmost part of
changvat Srisaket, Siam. The Stüng Sen flows into Thale Sap. Both
sides of the entire valley of the river seem to be occupied by Kui
villages and a few Khmer settlements. M. Lèvy's book contains 65

plates depicting stone, bone, bronze and iron implements, potsherds
with their various patterns of decorations, as well as archaeological
comparative pattern tables of implements and pottery styles, ranging
from Indochina to ancient Denmark! Among the plates are also
23 photographs of present-day Kui and of their poor primitive
dwellings — mere hovels to look at — besides some 50 drawings and
diagrams. In spite of the difficult times, it is a publication worthy
of the high traditions of the great Ècole Française d'Extrême Orient
of which M. Lèvy is such a distinguished member. M. Lèvy's
brilliant study is dedicated to the memory of his late eminent
teacher, André Vayson de Pradenne. The country of the Kui of
Mlu Prei was explored in 1876 by Dr. Harmand, a medical doctor,
who finished his career as Governor-General of French Indochina,
and, later on, by Dr. Dufossé, both of whom mapped out the
country with indications of the habitat of the various Kui groups.
M. Lèvy adds two modern maps showing the prehistoric sites
studied by him, and one giving the geological features of that region.

Only a few Europeans have explored the thinly populated
Kui country in more modern times and it is still insufficiently

known; a geological survey may, however, prove it to contain

 

 

 

 

 

146                                       Erik Seidenfaden

 

mineral resources of a certain value. It consists in the main of an
ancient plain of quaternary alluvial deposits surrounding a plateau
of sandstone. Here are found lignite, jet and petrified wood (the
latter is also found in the district of Phimun, changvat Ubon, North-
east Siam). This plateau is intersected by eruptive or metamor-
phised rocks composed of granite, rhyolite, porphyrite and other
kinds of those stones which were used by the ancient neolithic
people for the manufacture of their implements and arms. The Kui
country round Mlu Prei is a poor country which has been made

poorer still by man's wholesale destruction of the forests. Only thin
forêt clairiêre (our khôk forest) is now left. This is, however,
teeming with wild beasts, among them many wild elephants. Indeed
it is a veritable paradise for the big-game hunter.

The author asks himself whether this country, so full of
ruins of Khmer santuaries, was not more densely populated during
former times? We should think it must have been in view of
these ruins and the several ancient highways, which starting from
Yasodharapura (Angkor Thom) almost reached this region. One of
them, the great chaussée linking the famous old capital with
Cambhupura (Champasak) on the Mekhong, skirted its northern
limits. It must also be remembered that Sambor Prei Kuk, the great
ancient town of primitive Cambodian art and architecture, stands on
the banks of the Stüng Sen. The author says that in the days of
ancient Cambodia there existed here a social organization based on
semi-slavery, and coupled with an intense exploitation of the rich iron
mines at Phnom Dek. It is surmised that the arms of the old Khmer
armies were forged by Kui ironsmiths. The sandstone quarries, the

hunting for war elephants (the Kui of Surin are still accounted
among the best elephant hunters of Siam), and the utilization of
water reservoirs for irrigation purposes, all tend to show that the
country formerly held a much denser population than now. The
grand Shivaite Temple, Sikharisvara or Phra Vihar, which, like an
eagle's nest, crowns a spur of the Dong Rek hills, was most probably
built by Kui corvée labor, supervised by Khmer headmen,

architects and sculptors during the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries

 

 

 

 

 

                   THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM                     147

 

A.D. In spite of many hundreds of years of oppression by the
Khmer, the Kui have preserved their own language and customs.
They must have occupied vast territories formerly, and it was
almost certainly from them that the Khmers wrested the land lying
to the west of the Mekhong and northeast of the great inland lake
(Thale Sap).

The first finds of prehistoric objects were made in 1938
when some bronze bracelets and reddish-brown glass beads were
found in some old tombs to the northeast of Mlu Prei. M. Levy
was told by a French jet miner about the discovery of other tombs
containing sitting skeletons with bronze bracelets still around their
arms, and covered over all with a great wealth of glass beads. M-
Levy vouches for the correctness of this which, of course, is of great
importance to our knowledge about ancient burial customs. Local
myths and folklore tell much about a hero who fought with a huge
monster the skeleton of which is still in evidence. It is perhaps
the petrified remains of an extinct species of a huge animal. The
myths also connect the megaliths with tales about giants. M. Lévy's
own diggings resulted in a rich harvest of potsherds (decorated as
well as undecorated), implements (of polished stone as well as of
bronze), fragments of stone moulds, and even iron implements, as
well as a stone hammer (for beating bark cloth ?). In one of the
three places explored at a small watercourse, there has existed a
whole workshop for making tools and implements with many dwel-
lings and tombs nearby. Among the more interesting finds was a
stone bracelet. All the objects found were subjected to close study
by the author, and will be mentioned briefly here. The most com-
mon stone implements are shaped like adze heads, i.e. one side is
convex while the other is almost flat: only a few are bi-convex.
This is also our finding after examination of a great number of
such implements collected in Siamese Malaya (by the late Danish
gentleman, Mr. R. Havmôller). The first-named shape of these
implements permits, of course, its use in two ways, both as an adze
and as an axe. These Indochinese implements, lenticular or sub-

ellipsoid in shape, with asymetrical faces, are only polished on

 

 

 

 

 

 

148                                       Erik Seidenfaden

 

one side (the surface of the Hoabinhian pebble); on the other side,
the periphery and the part nearest the edge only are polished. This
semi-polished implement perpetuates the so-called Sumatra-type
which was the same as the Indochinese paleolithic Hoabinhian
implement. (We wonder whether such a semi-polished implement
should not be classified as mesolithic ?) The dimensions thicknesses
and shapes of the implements are quite variable, according to the
use they are intended for, as hoes, axes, chisels, or fighting and
hunting tools. The manner of hafting the stone adze-axes was
probably identical to that used by present-day Khmer.

There are in M. Lévy's book 25 plates illustrating in a clear
and precise manner the various stone, bronze and iron implements,
thus facilitating the reading very much. It would take up too much
space to go into details so we shall here only point out some of the
most important features. It is interesting to note that the type of
axe shown on plate II 5, or a similar one, is still used by the
Australians. On many of the adze-or axe-heads are clearly seen the
notches made for their hafting. Among the specimens collected by
M. Lévy are also a number of the so-called shouldered celts (i.e.
adze-or axe-heads) which at their backs are more or less deeply
notched, often at right angles, leaving a tenon for the hafting of
this kind of tool. It seems, says M. Lévy, that in the world's
prehistory Indochina has been the center of the use of this type.
(It should be remembered that the shouldered celt is characteristic
of the Austro-Asiatics' stone culture. We have ourselves collected
a few shouldered celts at Chiengmai and in changvat Roi-Et)-
Among the stone implements are many scrapers, borers and graving
tools as well as knives (of flint). The abundance of stone sickles,
found in the three places excavated by M. Lévy, testifies to the
importance of agriculture among the prehistoric people here. Sickles
of exactly the same shape are found in the prehistoric layers in
China. Quartz was employed for boring and perforating purposes,
or as gimlets, just as in modern Cambodia; quartz was also used for
polishing and rough-hewing. Other interesting finds included clay

pellets, probably used in slings; stone pearls, bits of a fire-producing

 

 

 

 

 

 

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tool (a fire piston), whetting stones; stone bracelets, and moulds for
casting bronze. The material used for tool making was flint besides
hard sandstone and, sometimes, petrified wood, Other stone tools
were grinders or roughly fashioned hammers. The hafting of one
of the latter is shown on page 26. (We remember having seen an
itinerant Lāo or Kui blacksmith using a raw stone as a hammer
during his work.) The grinding stones with accompanying slabs
were used both for grinding corn and vegetables; a quantity of
pounders were also encountered. Among the finds were many re-
utilized implements.

That the prehistoric Kui used bark cloth is proved by the
presence of stone beaters. (Such have also been found in Siamese
Malaya where the art of beating cloth from the bark of certain
trees has not quite died out.) It seems that bone was also used for
various implements during the neolithic period of the prehistoric
Kui. Bone polishers were thus employed in the making of pottery
for handles, and especially for arrow heads. Arrow heads of stone
have not yet been found in Indochina (but we take it that this does
not prove their non-existence during the neolithic age). Teeth of
animals were used as instruments for decorating pottery while a
piece of a jaw bone with its teeth may have been used as a scratch-
ing comb! The Kui, still today expert iron miners and ironsmiths
(vastly superior to our primitive Lawā workers in North Siam),
were quite good at bronze casting, to wit their finished products and
their stone moulds. Their bronze implements include axe heads,
bracelets and artistically wrought armlets, as well as slave arm rings.
The Kui technique for melting and working iron was no doubt
influenced by their Hindu civilizers as they still today use Brahma-
nical rites and incantations. When the Kambuja of Çambhapura
revolted against Funan in the 4th century A.D., the proximity of the
Kui iron mines and their blacksmiths may have been of great
importance to the Khmer for the arming of their troops, says M.
Lévy rightly. Lots of stone shuttles and spindles were also found.
The prehistoric people knew how to weave, and the late M. Groslier

the distinguished expert on Khmer art and material culture, opines

 

 

 

 

 

 

150                                      Erik Seidenfaden

 

that the Kui received both the cotton plant and the loom from
ancient India.

The author's three plates with samples of stone and bronze
implements and body ornaments (bracelets and torques) comparing
their forms and patterns with corresponding ones in Occidental
Eurasia is very instructive. To find practically the same form
and pattern for stone and bronze implements in such widely
separated places as Finland and Cambodia; Denmark and Lāos
and Cambodia; Sweden and China and Lāos; Caucasus, Hungary
and Cambodia (or take the ancient Danish rondelle - - a woman's
circular spiked breast ornament--which is identical in shape
and pattern with those found in Müang Puan--Upper Lāos),
cannot possibly be due to pure coincidence but can only be explained
as descending from a common ancestral type (originating perhaps
somewhere in Central or Midwestern Asia, from where the art
spread west and east through diffusion). A connection between the
Nordic culture and the Far East was already thought to exist by the
great Danish archaeologist Worsóe. Professor Jansé and Dr. Siren
have proved this for Sweden and China. Baron von Heine-Geldern
the brilliant theoretician on the migration of cultures and peoples,
who, crossing the Central Asian steppes, went as far as to the islands
of the distant Pacific, makes one believe in the existence, during
neolithic times, of a common material and spiritual culture which
spread as a wave over the old world.

M. Lévy has also made a minute and profound study of the
innumerable potsherds which were encountered during his diggings
at Mlu Prei, and he classifies his finds according to the profile of
the necks of the earthen vessels, the form of their bodies and the
profile of their supports. This examination was carried out both for
the debris and the complete vessels which were of many shapes and
kinds, such as cooking pots, jars, cups and vases; large, medium or
small in size. With regard to the supports of pots and jars these were
seldom parts of the vessels themselves but were generally separate.
Very interesting, too, is M. Lévy's study of the multitudinous patterns

of decoration of the pottery, including the necks as well as the bodies

 

 

 

 

 

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and supports of the vessels. One of the decorative patterns, called the
basket pattern, was produced by applying to the wet clay a cord-rifled
wooden beater (as first proved by the late learned Dr. Madeleine
Colani). Other decorations were either stamped or painted on the
ware. M. Lévy says that the oldest type of pottery in Indochina,
used together with dried gourds and the watertight baskets (in Siam
called khlù) was the so-called basket- or string-marked pottery.
Later on, India (for form) and China (for decorations) would have
played an important role. Comparative study of the Kui pottery
with the somewhat superior Khmer and the vastly more primitive
Moï or Khā pottery, as has been made by the author, is of much
interest in this connection. We would here add that the type of
vase (No. 7), on plate XXXIX, is well known in changval Roi-Et
where it has been found in no small quantities within or near old
Khmer temple ruins, This vase is there called hai khā

M. Lévy also makes a comparative study of the patterns of
ceramic decorations of the Far East with those of the rest of Eurasia;
and though he modestly calls this only a sketch, it is certainly
very valuable and interesting. This kind of study has hitherto
mainly been undertaken by Scandinavian research workers, such as
Gunnar Anderson, Arne, Mrs. Hanna Rhyd, Olov Jansé, etc., and
they ought, says M. Lévy, to be co-ordinated with the recent Russian
discoveries in central Asia and the Anglo-Indian and International
researches in Western Asia. He is also of the opinion that the
painted pottery of Kansu, because of its decoration, is closely related
to the Indochinese. Mr. Jansé has even wondered whether the
polychromie Chinese ceramics have not entered China through Yunnan
or Indochina. All this is important for determining from which
common source—more or less occidental--the prehistoric cultures of
China and Indochina have come. The study of the various patterns
of pottery decoration must, as we shall see, necessarily lead to the
same conclusion as that reached in the comparative study of stone
and bronze implements. A great part, if not all, of the painted
pottery was used for funerary purposes. We know, according to
the narratives of Chinese travelers, that the ancient Khmer had

 

 

 

 

 

152                                         Erik Seidenfaden

 

that custom. The large earthenware jars found in the sand dunes
at Sa-huyenh, in South Annam, served the same purpose, and both
at the well-known prehistoric site at Samrong Sen, in Cambodia, and
at Mlu Prei many tombs have been found. Also the Chinese vases
seem to have been mortuary receptacles.

Using no less than seven plates the author next gives a
comparative survey of pottery decorations which, though hailing
from widely different places in the Far East and other parts of
Eurasia, are of identical patterns. To cite a few: South Germany
and the Malay Peninsula, Russia and Cambodia, or that of the
so-called death pattern in China, Cambodia and Denmark, etc. It is
now of historical interest to see the Nazi swastika painted on a
prehistoric vase from Kalāt in Western India, the other decorative
details of which may be found on a jar from Sa-huyenh. Indeed,
the study of ancient potsherds is a very fascinating one. (As Mr.
Shipton of the British Museum, himself a pottery expert, said to the
writer, when we were visiting the excavations at Megiddo, Palestine,
in June 1934, "The knowledge of man's history and culture depends
very much on the right study of prehistoric potsherds.")

M. Lévy's description of the Kui country is short but to the
point. It seems to be much poorer in natural resources, with the
exception of iron ore, than the country inhabited by the Siamese
Kui to the north of Dong Rek range. M. Lévy relates a myth about
the Tonlé Mrech--the Pepper lake—lying to the north of Kampong
Thom. (This lake is probably an ancient Khmer water reservoir and
it has the ruins of a sanctuary on an island in its middle, concerning
which the local Kui have a superstitious fear). Where now lies
Tonlé Mrech there stood formerly a rich and prosperous village.
However its inhabitants killed and ate a white barking deer and a
terrible earthquake destroyed the village and all people with the
exception of a widow and her only son. They had not taken part
in what evidently was an unholy meal, the animal being a sacred
one. We have been told almost exactly the same myth in explana-
tion of the coming into existence of the two large inland lakes, called
Nong Hān Yai and Nong Hān Lek, respectively, in Northeast Siam,

 

 

 

 

 

 

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changvat Udorn and Sakŏn Nakhon. The only difference is that a
white squirrel or white eel here takes the place of the white barking
deer of Tonlé Mrech. In the Sakŏn Nakhon myth it is said that
the eel was a son of the Serpent King, Phya Nak. The same myth
is told in one of the Northern Thai chronicles explaining the
destruction of the oldest Chieng Sen; and in Kashmir a myth tells
how the offended Serpent King caused a great earthquake to swallow
up a whole district with its sinful inhabitants, leaving the present
great inland lake near to Srinagar. The destruction of Vineta in
North Germany, and even that of Sodom and Gomorrha belong
evidently to the same mythic cycle though in the latter case the
Biblical account has been substantiated by actual fact.

M. Lévy's photographs are the least successful of this other-
wise very outstanding publication. His description of the Kui
house is good. As a matter of fact the Kui houses are not worthy

of the name "house" as they are but rather miserable huts. In
this they resemble very much the hovels of the Siamese Kui though
there are exceptions, as we shall See below. The Kui women of
Siam also know how to weave, and the large water-tight baskets for
storing water or paddy are found in Siam too. From M. Lévy's
photographs it will be seen that the Kui women in Cambodia still
carry their burdens on their heads as in India and the Near East.
The Kui women in Siam, like their Thai sisters, carry their
burdens in a yoke over their shoulders. The custom of carrying
burdens on the head has not quite died out in Siam (excepting the
Malays of southernmost Siam) at least not until quite recently. In
1919, while inspecting the district of Dān Khun Thot (formerly
Phan Chana) lying to the northwest of the town of Korat, we saw
the Thai girls there carring their water pails, called khlù môn, on
their heads, the pails resting on circular cushions. The custom
was said to have been adopted from the Chao Bŏn or Nia Kuoll
jungle folk who live to the west toward the border of Petchabun,

at the outskirts of the large Phya Yen forest.

M. Lévy's photographs of the individual Kui are interesting.
He remarks on the straight-set, only slightly Mongoloid, eyes of the

 

 

 

 

 

 

154                                       Erik Seidenfaden

 

Kui Women and the sometimes very good straight noses and high
foreheads of the men giving them an almost Europoid appearance.
Other types, however, with their curly hair, broad and flat noses
with deep-set nasal roots, heavy lips and short necks, indicate
Negroid blood (see the Péarr or Pörr on plate LXIII). We shall
treat this "racial" problem later on.

The maps of Drs. Harmand and Dufossé, as well as M.
Lévy's own, are of great interest as they show the distribution of
the Kui groups in the Mlu Prei district. With regard to the Kui
of Upper Lāos, concerning whom Dr. Dufossé asks himself whether

they may be a branch of our Kui left behind during their migratory
movements, we would remark that there is also a people called Kui
in India. They may all belong to the same Austro-Asiatic human

family? We believe, however, that the Kui of Upper Lāos are
Mongols of the Tibeto-Burmese branch; this notwithstanding M.
Lévy's statement that, as the art of casting bronze is essentially of
a northern origin, Dr. Dufossé's idea is not too daring. The name
Nanak, as given one of the Kui clans said to live in Siamese
territory, is unknown to us, but we know that in Siam there are
many Kui clans with various other names. The Kui tribes, or
clans, living in Cambodia along the bridle path leading from
Kampong Thom northward to Chom Ksan and Phra Vihar are,
according to M. Lévy's modern map, the Kui N'tra, Kui Danirei
and Kui Ô and again Kui Damrei and Kui N'lur (the Damrei live

nearest to the Dong Rek range; Damrei is, by the way, elephant in
Khmer, whereas in Kui an elephant is called chiam). The tribal
names given by the two doctor-explorers differ from M. Lévy's
whose Kui N'lur seem to be identical with their Mnoh and Malor,
while the doctors' Kui Hah or Dek, Ntoh, Auk and Autor should

be the same as M. Lévy's Kui Ô and N'tra. The name Manik is
unknown to us but there are Kui Mahay or M'ai to the north of
the Dong Rek range too. There is a curious feast celebrated by
the Kui Damrei (elephant-hunting Kui) during the months of
February and March, called the elephant's feast, which commences
with the driving away of the evil spirits and ends with a seance of

 

 

 

 

 

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spirit possession, a symbolic elephant hunt and much promiscuous
intercourse between the two sexes. This least is, we believe,
unknown among our Kui elephant hunters of Surin though the
latter are zealous spirit worshippers like their Kui Damrei brethren.
The women seem here to be the provocative element as among the
Péarr and the Samré-ride M. Baradat, op. cit.

In conclusion M. Lévy underlines two facts relating to the
prehistoric and protohistoric cultures and their intercommunications.
Firstly, that almost the whole coastline of Indochina is bathed by
the waters of what he so aptly calls "the Mediterranean Sea of the
Far East"; secondly, that this sea made possible the cultural
communications between Indochina and India on the one hand, and
by China via the Eurasiatic steppes with the Near Orient and the
Occident on the other hand. This is worth remembering.

In an additional note on the implements studied M. Lévy
treats the principal raw materials from which they were made and
the technique used for their manufacture. Ho also enumerates tho
various kinds of tools and implements found. He remarks that the
archaic cultural relations with the Occident were probably established
over land more than by sea routes, and he comes to the conclusion
that, due to their nature, the finds made in the throe places explored
must be classified as belonging to the central part of the neolithic
period of Indochina. Between that period and that of the iron age no
long time has elapsed. Nowadays the iron mines and the forges of
the Kui are, more and more, being deserted. They cannot--alas !--
compete with the cheap Chinese or Occidental stuff imported in
ever increasing quantities. M. Lévy's book ends with a vocabulary
of the N'tra and Ô dialects of the Kui language. We have gone
through it carefully, and found that the words therein contained
differ only slighly from those in our list of the Kui M'loa dialect
of the Srisaket region. So far M. Lévy. His book is of a great value,
a brilliant example of how such work should be carried out. We
would recommend that would-be Siamese prehistorians study it
carefully and use it as a model when undertaking similar work
themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

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In the subsequent notes we shall try to give a sketch of the
Kui of Siam. Our Kui are worth studying so much the more
because, as has already been mentioned, they are now rapidly
changing their proper language for either Thai (Lāo Viengchan or
Lāo Kāo) or Khmer, and they do so quite voluntarily, thinking that
the Thai or Khmer language is superior to their own tongue;
furthermore after having so changed over they do not like to be
reminded of their true origin. Perhaps in a generation's time, or
two at the most, there may be no Kui-speaking people left in the
whole of Northeast Siam! The Kui, whether still using their
ancestral tongue or that of the Thai or Khmer, live in great numbers
in all three changvat of the former circle or monthon, of Ubon, and
that both to the north and south of the Mūn river. They are found
in all the amphö (districts) south of the river perhaps with the
exception of that of Phimūn Mangsahān. On the northern side of
the Mün river not much of the former Kui population is left by
now. Here they have been almost entirely displaced or assimilated
by the southward pushing Lāo or Thai.

The principal area in which the Kui live is to the north
bordered by the Mūn, to the southeast and south by the mountain
range of Dong Rek, and to the west, partly by the Lam Chi and the
changvat of Buriram, partly by the Khmer-peopled amphö of Surin,
The "Kui country" is rolling and generally reaches a height of
only about a hundred meters above sea level. A few very low
isolated hills are met with not far to the north of the mighty
barrier of Dong Rek. A long, low and fairly broad ridge, consisting
of red decomposed basalt, called Dong Din Daeng (i.e. the forest of
the red earth) runs almost the entire length of this territory, from
the northeast in amphö Det Udom southwestward into the territory
of amphö Sangkhà, where it ends. The soil of the remaining
territory is sandy on a latérite subsoil, but there is, in places, a
tolerably fertile sandy loam. Up to the time when the railway line
from Khorat to Ubon was opened (in 1924) the greater part of the
surface was covered with thin forest and jungle; since then vast
areas have been cleared on both sides of the railway line to make

 

 

 

 

 

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possible extensive paddy cultivation. The slopes of the Dong Rek
hills are clothed in dense virgin forest, which during the rainy
season is very unhealthfnl. Virgin forest is also found here and
there along the water courses. Much valuable timber and several
kinds of precious wood are found in these forests, such as Dipthero-
carpus (mai yāng), mai takien (excellent for boat building), mai bak
and mai bok, as well as mai krayung, the rose-wood so eagerly

sought for use in making Chinese furniture. On the Dong Din Daeng
ridge are growing pine trees which in amphö Sangkhà take the form
of a real forest. The dwarf palm, ton kracheng, from the leaves of
which rice bags are woven, is another feature of this curious ridge
and in the fertile soil grow many giant tubers which in time of bad
harvests help the local population to tide over until the next rice
harvest. A kind of wild linchi (litchi) is also found in these forests.

The country — we are still speaking of that part which lies to
south of the Mūn River-is intersected by a number of smaller
watercourses which are all born on the Dong Rek, run northward
and flow into the Mūn. These streams, taken in order of succession
from east to west, are as follows: Dōm Noi, Dōm Yai, Krayung
(the sources of the latter being at the very foot of the stupendous
Phra Vihar temple), Samrān (near whose confluence lies the town
of Srisaket) Taptan and Chī, the last one being the border of the
provinces of Surin and Buriram. There are also some Kui living
to the north of the Mūn river; they are thus fairly numerous in the
two amphö of Khemarat and Suvarnavari, mostly living near the
Mekhong river, between this majestic stream and the low jungle-
clad mountain range of Phu Phān. The country here is very wild
and cut up, trackless and unfertile. Kui also live in the flat open
country, that vast plain of Suvarnaphum stretching away westward
of the Mūn's large northern tributary, Lam Chī or Sī. The Kui
live here in the following amphö, taken from east to west: Kantra-

rom, Kham Khüan Kaeo (both east of the Chī), Mahachanachai,
Rasrisalai, Suvarnaphum, Chumphonbnri, Phakhaphumphisai and
Vapiprachum.

 

 

 

 

 

158                                        Erik Seidenfaden

 

The forests along the Mekhong, as well as those to the south
are still teeming with all sorts of game. There are wild elephants
in the jungle adjoining the Dong Rek hills; in 1917 one might meet
them in the great forest to the north of Surin. Sambhar, eld deer
and the barking deer were plentiful, and wild buffaloes were living
near the hills in the Kahtraraks districts; Gaur and banteng (red
cattle) were numerous. In these far stretching forests there were,
and still are, many tigers and black panthers, both being very bold
and dangerous. Tigers have been known to carry off people from
inside their villages. Wild dogs are also numerous and one might
meet packs of them hunting the sambhar or eld deer. That curious
little animal, the flying squirrel (toa pang), is also a denizen of
these forests, as well as the python and the deadly cobra. Peacocks,
jungle fowls and hornbills are very common, as are large swarms of
small green perroquets. The Kui people are called Soai (ส่วย)
by the Thai, but they call themselves Kui (men). There are pure
Soai, Lāo Soai and Khmer Soai, During the reign of Phra Nang
Klao (1824-1851) a census was taken of this part of Northeast Siam,
and the population was divided for taxation (เสียส่วย) purposes into
Lāo, Khmer and Soai (Kui). Today, or rather already more than
forty years ago, the name Lāo Soai and Khmer Soai have come to
signify Kui who have changed their mother tongue for either that
of Lāo (Thai) or Khmer,

While scientific research work, carried out in French Indo-
china has done much to clear up the various "racial" problems there,
very little has been done in Siam, with the exception of exploratory
work carried out by Dr. Fritz Sarasin (1931) who found the imple-
ments and traces of a former palaeolithic Melanesian population in
caves both in Central and Northern Siam. There can, however,
hardly be any doubt that the same "racial" complex that obtains
for present French Indochina also holds good for the remainder of
this subcontinent. This matter will be taken up for further consider-
ation in our concluding paragraph. The prehistory of Northeast
Siam has not yet been studied at all. In 1912 stone implements

and ancient pottery was dug up at Bān Lamduau Yai, a large old

 

 

 

 

 

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ortified village lying to the south of Srisaket, but we had not the
opportunity of seeing the finds. From the intimate knowledge we
posess of the country north of the Dong Rek range we are convinced
that digging for prehistoric material would yield a rich harvest.

The broad stretch of country lying to the south of the Mūn
River, which we have spoken of as the country of the Kui, is far
from being uniformly occupied by this people. In all the amphö
(districts) there are living side by side with the Kui either Thai or

Khmer. This living together of several ethnic elements has led
very much to the denationalization of the Kui who, in contrast to
their countrymen in Cambodia, do not respect their own language
or customs. Still, as we shall see, in 1917 there were at least a
hundred thousand Kui - speaking people left.

Generally speaking, the Kui give the impression of being a
very decadent, dirty and morally low-standing lot with some few
exceptions, and their change to Lāo or Khmer language and culture
does mean a real advance for them. When well nourished and
tolerably well-to-do, as a few Kui groups are, they look quite
attractive, expecially the young girls with their lithe well-shaped
bodies and limbs, well-developed busts, large masses of bluish
black, often slightly curled, hair, and, sometimes, large expressive
eyes. Their skin is generally very dark but fair-skinned individuals
are not rare either. As M. Lévy says, the Kui have very little of
the Mongoloid in their appearance. They are of medium height, and,
as far as we have been able to observe, tend to dolicocephaly. From
what has been said above concerning the various human groups
which, each in its turn, submerged the various preceeding popula-
tions and settled in this country, one should expect to find some
particular inherited characteristics in the present one (i.e., the Kui)
showing affinities with their predecessors. As M. Lévy and M.

Baradat have shown, the Cambodian Kui and Samré represent a
very mixed "race"; so is also the case Avith our Kui. Individuals
with almost woolly hair, flat broad noses, thick lips and an almost
black skin colour point to a distinct heritage from their Negrito or
Melanesian predecessors. Other types may show high, narrow

 

 

 

 

 

160                                        Erik Seidenfaden

 

noses, tall foreheads and small mouths, thus being almost "Aryan"
in features. Such individuals, however, are few in number. Features
like these with a fair skin colour and longish heads may mean a
Weddid-Indonesian (Europoid) blood component, while a heavy
build and square shoulders means the Austro-Asiatic Môn-Khmer
mixture which represents the majority.

The Kui are all agriculturalists and, generally speaking, not
very diligent ones, though they understand well the breeding of
buffaloes and cattle, as well as pigs and poultry. Some of them, are
clever and bold elephant hunters, as we shall see further on- Be-
sides paddy some of the Kuï grow sugar cane, cotton and mulberry
bushes (for the silk culture). They take up such activities generally
only upon becoming Lāo or Khmer-Soai. The Kui house, or hut,
is in most cases a low, badly constructed building thatched with
grass, the walls being of the same material or bamboo wattle.
These hovels are very dirty and full of vermin. The girls know
how to weave both cotton and silk, and in some villages the men
are clever basket makers who not only make the water-tight baskets
(khlu) for carrying water but also very large ones for holding
considerable quantities of paddy. The men dress like the Lāo or
Khmer but the women all wear short (kncelength) phā-sin or skirts
Thirty years ago it was quite a common sight to see women with
uncovered breasts, when inside their villages, where young girls
might be seen running around quite naked ! Still the Kui were not
particularly lax in their sexual behaviour, much less so than the
neighbouring Lāo. The food of the Kui consists of rice, both the
ordinary and the glutinous kind, dried fish and pepper sauce, and
also fresh fish, when obtainable. Meat of game such as deer, wild
pig, hare, various birds, and even iguanas, snakes, frogs, toads and
larvae are a welcome addition to an otherwise simple fare. The
many kinds of edible tubers in the forest have already mentioned.
Some of the Kui know how to make sugar with which they do a
little trade. The canes are crashed between two upright standing-
cylinders set in motion by a buffalo moving around in a circle.

    The juice from the crushed cane runs down into wooden troughs,

 

 

 

 

 

                        THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM                  161

 

afterwards to be boiled in large open iron pans. The finished
product is made up into small cakes. In some Kui villages quite
good bullock carts were built. Speaking in general the Kui are
but mediocre farmers, non-traders and rather primitive artisans and
craftsmen. It is our impression, from the experience we had with
hundreds of Kui gendarmes (privates as well as non-commissioned
officers, under our orders) that this human group is far from being
unintelligent, and that schools and simple instruction in better house
building and personal cleanliness would, effect a distinct improve-
ment in their lives. The Kui are, however, much prone to drink
and illicit gambling, and in many districts they had a bad reputation
as thieves and cattle lifters.

In religion the Kui arc Buddhists, like their Lāo and Khmer
neighbours, but up to 1919 the great majority of their villages were

without temples or monks. Their real religion is animism; they
are zealous spirit worshippers, and in their forests and hills dwell
many powerful and redoubtable spirits who must be suitably propi-
tiated in order not to call down their anger on the poor Kui. Tabu
exists among the Kui. A woman may thus be declared kamal, or

untouchable, for some time, and we have heard of one case resem-
bling couvade, where the father shifts with the mother of the new
born babe to lie on the "fire-bed". We have not, however, been
able to find out anything about a state of semi-slavery having
formerly existed among the Siamese Kui, as was the case with the
Cambodian Kui.

Our Siamese Kui are generally divided into four main
groups or tribes; the Kui M'ai of the east with some scattered clans
in the west; the Kui M'lô in the east, center and west and the
north, the Kui Yö of the center and in the north and the Kui M'loa
in the center and the west. As a matter of fact we shall see that

they are divided into several more tribes or clans. It seems that
the largest groups were the M'lô, the Yö, the M'loa and the M'ai.
However many large tribes formerly occupying vast, spaces in the

former three circles of Ubon, Roi-Et and Udorn may have disappear-
ed long ago, having been assimilated by the southward sweeping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

162                                         Erik Seidenfaden

 

Thai. The consciousness of belonging to this or that tribe seems
also to have been on the wane for a long time because of their
present intermingled habitats as in the former Ubon circle.

We shall now treat the various Kui groups from east to
west according to the amphö (districts) in which they live, or were
living back in the years of 1917-19 when we were in contact with
them. In doing so we shall begin with the northeastern part of
changvat Ubon, with amphö Khemarat, which, as will be seen from
the accompanying sketch map, comprises a long stretch of country
lying between the low forest-clad range of Phu Phān and the
mighty Mekhong river. The Kui living here are of the M''lô tribe,
their villages lying in the southern part of the district, in 1917 they
numbered about 3,550 souls, and they could still speak their mother
tongue besides Lāo. They cultivated rai (clearings in the jungle),
hunted and fished, but had a bad reputation as cattle thieves and
opium smokers. The remainder of the population of this ampho
were Thai or Lāo Kāo in the central part, and Phuthai in the

northern part, where also lived a small colony of Khā Brao and
Khā Lovae who had come over from the other side of Mekhong. In
our time they had become orderly, settled people though still
speaking their own guttural tongue.

South of the district of Khemarat lies the wild mountainous
and tiger-infested amphö Suvarnavari that extends right down to the
Mûn at its outlet in the great river, and for a short distance below
the same. Wild elephants used to abound in district, as well as
other big game. The inhabitants, besides Lāo Kāo, were Kui M'lô,
numbering about 4,600 individuals, and they seemed to be of quite

a good sort. Both sexes are rather tall people, the girls being fair
skinned with often almost regular features. They wore their hair
long in contrast to most of the other Kui women of that time.
These Kui were of cleanly habits and had frank and attractive
manners. Some Lào Vieng were also living here. They seemed
superior to the ordinary Lāo, several of their young girls being
very handsome. The Kui call this amphö Khōng Chiam. The latter
word means elephant, and the first is part of the name of the great

 

 

 

 

 

                      THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM                  163

 

river Mekhong. At a certain place along the river bank the elephants,
both tame and wild, used to swim across the river but as many of
the tame elephants were severely bitten by a kind of ferocious river
tortoise, called, in Siamese taphāp nām, the big pachyderms are now
ferried over on a timber raft. Old people, when questioned, replied
that formerly the entire territory of the two amphö of Khemarat and
Suvarnavari were inhabited solely by Kui, probably all of them
M'lo. There were also living some 800 Lāo Soai, former M'lô, in
this district and on the small strip of land south of the mouth of
river Mūn there was a colony of Khā Hinhao who had crossed over
from the French side of Mekhong.

We will now ourselves cross over the Mūn river to the
amphö of Phimūn Mangsahān. Though at present peopled by
numerous Lāo Kāo there can be no doubt that it really is old Kui
territory, the present Thai inhabitants having dispossessed the

former Kui owners, and as a matter of fact there were still over
2,300 Lāo Soai, former Kui M'ai, living there. To the west of
this amphö lies that of Warinchamrap, just opposite the large,
prosperous town of Ubonrajadhani, capital of the former circle of
the same name (the town lies on the northern bank of the Mūn
river). The terminus of the Bangkok - Ubon railway line is in
Warinchamrap. In 1917 the population of this amphö was made
up of Lāo Kāo and Phuthai, besides 11,400 Lāo Soai, former Kui
M'ai, and 2,300 pure Kui M'ai, still speaking their mother tongue.

The Kui of this district possess in many cases quite Melanesian
features, being dark-skinned and curly-haired. The belief in black
magic (phi pôb) so common among the Sô of changvat Kalasin,
Sakol Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom, is also held by the Kui here.
Along the cart track leading from Warm to Khukhan, lies a group
of large villages: Bān Khilek, Nā Nôn, Nā Suang, etc., inhabited by
the so-called Lāo Soai who speak a peculiar singing kind of Lāo.
The whole territory of Warinchamrap, I was told, was formerly
Kui M'ai. The inhabitants of the said group of villages seemed
to be somewhat progressive, their fields being well tilled, and they
were the owners of many fat, red cattle. Besides this there were

 

 

 

 

 

164                                      Erik Seidenfaden

 

temples in all their villages, each with a good clean salā (rest
house).

To the south and southeast of amphö Warinchamrap is the
extensive amphö of Det Udom which includes the sub-amphö of Ban
Boa Buntharik, the territory of the latter extending right down to
the Dong Rek range. Amphö Det Udom is a densely forested and
very wild district, ill-reputed for its savage man-eating tigers and
its aggressive wild elephants which have been known to enter and
attack the miserable collections of hovels, which the Kui call
villages, making much havoc. The whole district is moreover
considered very unhealthful and fever-ridden. Its population
consisted in 1917, besides Lāo and Phuthai, of some 6,700 Lāo Soai,
former Kui M'ai and Yö and 3,800 pure Kui, M'ai. Some of the Kui
M'ai lived to the northeast of the amphö headquarters right on the

border of amphö Phimūn in Bān Nön Kham and also Bān Sôm
Sa-at to the southwest; to the south the Kui M'ai are mixed with
the Phuthai settlers of Bān Buntharik, and a lot of intermarriage
between these two groups has taken place. The Kui M'ai are often
as black as chimney sweeps, ugly and negroid looking, but indivi-
duals with fine regular features do also occur, especially among the
women. There seems to be a slight diffierence between the
dialects of the M'ai and M'lô.

The amphö of Kantraraks (formerly Uthumphornphisai and
more recently called Nàm Ôm) lies to the southwest of Det Udom.
It is a wild rugged country, covered with virgin forest or jungle
and extends right down to the Dong Rek range (which is the border
of the Kingdom of Cambodia). Near the hills, in some places, is
rolling grass-covered land deeply intersected by many small
rushing water courses that descend from the slopes of the hills. The
district used to teem with big game such as wild buffaloes, gaur,
banteng, sambhar eld deer, bears and tigers; there were also many
wild elephants. The population consisted in 1917 of 15,000 Khmer,
14,800 Kui M'lô, 850 Kui Kantoa and 1,000 Lāo Viengchan
colonists, the latter living in a large well-built village surrounded

by a broad natural moat, whence comes the name, Nām Ôm. The

     Kui here looked very decadent, living in miserable hovels, and the

 

 

 

 

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cultivation of their fields and rai being most primitive. They had,
like their Khmer neighbours, a very bad name as cattle lifters.
They are an unhealthy people too, suffering much from skin
diseases, especially the children, some of whom were covered from
neck to feet with what in the sunshine resembled silvery scales!
This kind of skin disease is very common among the Sakai of the
Malay Peninsula. The Kui possessed many humped cattle of
which they seemed to be quite fond. Living among the Khmer
were some Khmer Soai, former Kui M'ai.

To the north of amphö Kantraraks, lying between the
amphö of Warinchamrap and Srisaket, is the amphö of
Kantrarom which has territory on both sides of the Mūn river. Its
southern part is covered with dense forest with only a few habita-
tions; it includes a portion of the Dong Din Daeng ridge, as also
does amphö Kantraraks. There use to be many ferocious black
panthers living in the big forest which did much harm to the Kui's
cattle, and at time attacked people too. (We had once a black

panther inside our camp, but he was scared away by the blazing
camp fire). The population consisted of Thai people and Kui, the
latter being in the majority. There were 3,530 M'lô, 2,600 M'loa,
2,500 M'ai, 1,630 Höt and 1,120 Yö, besides 7,600 Lāo Soai, former

Kui M'lô, Yö and HĆt; the Thai element numbered some 5,300
persons, Lāo Kao and Vieng; Thai Korat and Phuthai (4,400). The
Kui M'loa here, whose dialect differs slightly from that of their
southern and southeastern brethren, the M'ai and the M'lô, seemed
more progressive than these. A good example is seen in the large
Kui M'loa. village, Ban Döm, where the houses are well built and
solid, and the inhabitants look clean and orderly. During the cold
season when the northern monsoon is steadily blowing, this vicinity
is recognizable from far away by the humming sound of the multi-
tude of kites flying high up in the air; the humming sound, not dis-
agree able to one's ears, is produced by a musical bow attached to
the forepart of the kite.4

                    ______________________

         4 Lord Raglan, in his excellent "How Came Civilization?" says that

 the origin of this humming instrument is, to some primitives, the sacred

 bull roarer (op. cit. pp. 129-130). Did the Kui inherit it from the Melane-

 sians ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

166                                         Erik Seidenfaden

 

The amphö of Srisaket is the head district of the changvat
of the same name, and the town is, today, qnite prosperous because

of its trade in paddy and timber, for which it finds an outlet
through the railway connection with Bangkok. The amphö of
Srisaket was formerly all Kui. Even today, when all the inhabi-
tants speak Thai or Lāo (with a peculiar accent) they are commonly
called Soai Srisaket. The Srisaket girls are known for their good
looks and fair skin, and many of them used to marry Siamese
officials. Already as far back as in 1911 most of the so-called
Lāo Soai did not know to what Kui tribe their parents belonged.
The population in 1917 numbered over 27,000, of which only one-
seventh were of pure Thai blood: there were approximately 17,000
Lāo Soai, former Yö and M'lô, with a sprinkling of Khmer who
now all speak the Lāo Kāo dialect, furthermore 5,850 Kui M'lô,
110 M'ai and 800 Khmer. To the east of möang Srisaket, in Bān

Phônsai and Dôn there lived Kui Yö mixed with Phuthai settlers.
Bān Nôn Kwanv and four more villages were also said to be Kui
Yo,
though some thought the villagers were rather Thai Yüai
come down from the north (amphö Akāt Amnuey in changvat
Nakhon Phanom is peopled by Thai Yüai). The large old

fortified village called Bān Lamduan Yai, south of möang Srisaket,
on the road to Khukhan, is inhabited by Lāo Soai, former Kui
M'l
ô, though we suppose them rather to be former Yö as they

possess the old Yö tradition about which more anon. Another
Lāo Soai village is lying south of this old fortress, but further
south all is Khmer, right down to the border hills. The Srisaket
people, whether Lāo, Soai, Kui or Khmer, did not seem to be the
best material for a conscripted gendarmerie as they had, at least
formerly, a bad reputation as cattle thieves and gamblers. From
the point of view of intelligence, however, they do not lack any-
thing, and we have had very good gendarmerie. officers who were
Soai born at Srisaket.

The amphö of möang Khukhan, which formerly gave its
name to the present province of Srisaket (due to its being the

provincial heaquarters), lies almost due south of Srisaket with its

 

 

 

 

 

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territory extending down to the Dong Rek hills. It is, especially
to the south of the town of Khukhan, a wild forest and jungle-
covered country full of wild animals, and much feared for its
malignant fevers. The population consisted in 1917 of 32,000
Khmer, 6,2(30 Lāo Vieng settlers and 17,800 Kui, divided in 12,450
M'lô, 2,250 M'ai, 1,240 Yö and 470 Pörr, besides 1,400 Lāo Soai
(formerly Kui M'lô). The Khmer living to the east of the town

included some Khmer Soai. To the northeast of Khukhan town
lie the villages of Bān Damyae and Boa Ralum from which came
the leader of the fanatical Phu-mi-bin uprising in 1903. A much
smaller and less dangerous movement broke out in amphö Kantra-
raks in 1916, the leader of this movement also declaring himself to
be the possessor of supernatural powers. Such ideas are very
characteristic of the—in a spiritual sense—somewhat unbalanced Khā
or Moi population of the wild back lands of Cambodia, Annam and

Laos. There are both Kui M'loa and M'lô villages west of Khukhan
on the way to Sangkha.

The amphö of Rasrisalai, sometimes called möang Không,
after a large, old fortified place (now deserted) lies to the northwest
of Srisaket, on the northern bank of the river Mūn. It is an open
fertile country dotted over with villages which are situated amidst
groves of tamarind and mango trees, bamboos, cocoa palms and
banana plantations The population consisted in 1917 of some 2,700
Kui Yö and 23,000 Lāo Soai (formerly Yö) who had changed
their language to that of Lāo Kāo, but even the "pure" Yö were
30 years ago quickly forgetting their ancestral tongue, and now, in
1948, there are probably none left speaking the Kui Yö language.
We remember that already in 1913 the so-called pure Yö could
often only remember a few hundred words of their proper language
and were unable to count to more than ten in Yö.

The Kui Yo of Rasrisalai and elsewhere have a curious
tradition (also known in Bān Lamduan Yai) the literal authenticity
of which seems doubtful. According to this tradition-or myth—a
certain Phya Takaxila left Burma about the year 1810 A. D. with
500 Yö followers of both sexes due to the oppression of the

 

 

 

 

 

 

168                                    Erik Seidenfaden

 

Burmese king. He emigrated to Vieng' chand, then governed by
King Anu. However, not being treated well by him the Yö people
left again and went down the Mekhong river to settle at Champa-
sak on the island of Khong. Again suffering oppression here the
Yö wanderers moved up to Khukhan and from there to their
present habitat. In the Khukhan district there are still a number
of Yö villages, and in Rasrisalai there were twenty of their
villages in 1917. However, old men in that year estimated the
total number of Kui Yö-speaking individuals to be about 4,000
souls only. Their dialect resembles that of the Kui Ô and N'tra
at Mlu Prei but with some important differences. A detailed

study of the various dialects of the Kui language would probably
show that Kui Yö, together with the language of the Chao Bŏn
or Nia Kuoll, comes nearer to the Môn language than most of the

other Môn-Khmer languages. Is the above tradition not a rather
confused recollection (these people forget quickly) of the Kui
tribe's emigration from India more than 3,000 years ago, when the

Aryan conquest drove so many Austro-Asiatic peoples out of India?
The connection with the name of (Ta) kaxila might be a hint in
that direction. A large Yö family has taken Takaxila for a family
name.

The Yö are well and strongly built with a yellowish-brown
or even copper-red skin colour. Their gay women went often with
their breasts uncovered, smoking large cigarettes (like the Bur-
mese women). It seems that the morals of the Yö suffer when
they change over to Lāo, witness the daring proposals exchanged
(in song) between the two sexes, which is strongly in contrast to
the decent and timid behaviour of the Khmer girls. Still the
change-over to the Lāo culture does mean a considerable gain
from the material point of view. In 1917 the pure Thai elements
in this amphö were only about 2,200 Lāo Kāo, 300 Thai Khorat,
and a thousand Phuthai settlers. That the Yö language was

formerly spoken further north is proved by the existence of the
Lāo Soai in the amphö of Mahā Chanachai, which lies to the

 

 

 

 

 

                 THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM               169

 

amphö Kham Khüan Kaeo, lying to the northeast of the latter and
on the eastern bank of Lam Chī. In the Mahā Chanachai district
there were in 1917 some 1800 Lào Soai to 30,000 Lāo Kāo, while
in the Kham Khüan Kaeo district there were 37,500 Lāo Kāo to
900 Lāo Soai, who lived in its southwestern part. These Lāo Soai
were all former Kui Yö.

Amphö Uthumphornphisai (formerly Pachin Srisaket, i.e.
Western Srisaket) lying to the southwest of Srisaket and thus
south of Rasrisalai is a fertile, well-cultivated and densely
populated plain with already in 1917 over 56,000 inhabitants. Of
the 29 tambons (village groups) 22 were Lāo Soai with 38,380
former Kui Yö, M'lô and M'loa; 3 were pure Kui, 2 were Khmer
Soai,
and 2 were Khmer mixed with Lāo and Phuthai. The Khmer
Soai
were former Kui M'loa; the pure Kui were divided into

5,780 M'loa, 2,090 M'lo, 1,720 Kandruu, 900 M'ai and only 100 Yö.
Thai people included 1,450 Phuthai and 1,200 Lāo Vieng. The
Soai of this large district were an industrious and not unattractive
people who had rapidly adopted Thai culture and language. In
ancient days this district may have played an important role.
The large old fortified village, called Bān Srà Kampheng Yai with
its Khmer temple ruins and Brahmanic sculptures, may have been
the chief Cambodian town north of the Dong Rek range, perhaps
next to Phimai. Such a conclusion seems valid in view of
inscriptions in the Phra Vihar mountain temple dating back to the
9th-llth century A.D.

The Kui girls, like their Khmer and Siamese sisters thresh
the paddy by pounding it in a mortar (a hollowed-out piece of a
tree trunk) while the Lâo girls all use the kruk kradüang, a sort
of tipping hammer or pounder which is moved upward by a
pressure of the foot whereafter it is left to fall down by its own
weight into the mortar containing the paddy which is thereby
threshed. When the Kui change over to be Lāo they adopt their
manner of threshing the paddy also, whereas if they become Khmer
they stick to the accustomed one. As the Soai of Uthumphorn-

phisai are very prolific their numbers may now, more than 30

 

 

 

 

 

 

170                                      Erik Seidenfaden

 

years later, have doubled. They are essentially a paddy-growing
people and should by selling their grain gain a handsome return,
if not tricked by the all-pervading foreign middlemen who, today,
seem to have become the economic masters of Northeastern Siam
too. The trunk railway from Ubon. to Bangkok passes right
through the center of this amphö.

Amphö Ratanabur is situated to the northwest of Uthum-
phornphisai, having for its northern border the river of Mūn. It
was formerly a densely wooded district full of wild animals,
among them many elephants, but its thrifty population has, by
clearing the jungle, changed most of it into fertile fields. The
population in 1917 numbered 24,000-odd persons; viz: 21,780 Lāo
Soai, former Kui M'lô, 2,440 Kui M'lo, 130 Khmer Soai, also

former M'lô and 420 Khmer, besides a sprinkling of Thai Khorat
traders. The people of Ratanaburi produced much sugar and

probably still do so. It is to be noted that the physiognomy of
the Kui of Ratanaburi is absolutely different from that of the Lāo,
the girls often being fair - complexioned and very handsome. Facing
the district of Ratanaburi, to the north of the Mūn, lies the
extensive Suvarnaphum plain, partly included in the amphö of the
same name (changvat Roi-Et). In 1918 the population consisted
of 44,000 Lāo Vieng, 150 Lāo Soai, former Kui Yö, 540 Yö and
400 Khmer. The Yd may by now have become quite assimilated
by the large Thai population.

To the south of amphö Ratanaburi is the ampho of Sikha-
raphum with its civil headquarters at Bān Anan. Thirty years
ago its extensive plains were already fairly well cultivated. The
numbers for the various ethnic groups were then given as follows :
13,000 Kui M'loa, 4,300 Kui M'lô, 5,900 Lāo Soai, former M'loa,
4,300 Khmer Soai, former M'lô and 3,200 Lāo Vieng, the latter

being newcomers; there were also 3,900 Khmer. The Kui M'lô
(some say they really are M'ai) living in the large prosperous

village of Bān Samrongtap were very attractive people, being
clean, honest and industrious. Their fine strapping girls were
nice, gay, but modest persons. The Kui of Samrongtap were well

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM              171

 

known for their huge watertight baskets for storing paddy and
rice, some of them being breast high and holding considerable
quantities. In the Kui M'loa tambon at Bān Prasat is situated
the fine old Khmer sanctuary, called Prasat Rngai, with its five
towers, one of the best preserved Khmer monuments in Siam.

Amphö Suraphinikhom lies to the northwest of amphö
Ratanaburi and north of amphö Sikharaphum and amphö Surin.

Its territory is partly covered by forest, the extensive and high-
lying Khôk, the western part of which grows on the tall clay-ish
ridge on the bank of the broad Mūn river plain, called Phu Din
and. Phu Dong Salā. The population numbered in 1917 some
45,000 individuals, mostly Môn-Khmer people. The figures given
were 11,200 Kui M'lô, 1,560 Kui M'ai, 12,600 Khmer Soai, 8,250
Lāo Soai, and 1,500 Khmer. The Thai elements included 8,250
Lāo Kāo, 420 Lāo Vieng and 400 Thai Korat. The Khmer live in
the three Mûn river villages Bān Dǒm, Bān Dai and Ban Prasat
where the amphö headquarters are.

Though these Kui are not very good at house building or
farming they still seem to be somewhat superior to their kinsmen
in the neighbouring amphö. Quite a lot of them are bold and
successful elephant hunters, for instance those in Bān ChômPhra,
and especially their Kui M'ai or Kui Eng brethren from the three
large palisaded villages, Bān Taklāng, Chandā and Kachau, standing
on the western spur of the Phu Din-Phu Dong Salā ridge. In
1917 the villagers here were the owners of more than 90 big
hunting elephants. The Kui hunters used to go down into the
Champasak territory every rainy season, and they generally
returned with 20-25 wild elephants caught there. In 1916-17 Kui
hunters caught 30 of these huge pachyderms on the Thung Kan-

hŏng in Champasak. Thai Yuan (North Siamese), Shans and
Burmese came from far away to buy elephants from the Kui to
sell to the European timber companies for work in their teak forest
concessions. Prices were not high and some few years before (in
1914) the Kui sold 10 elephants for 20,000 Baht only. The Kui
are a gay and thoughtless lot. When they have received money

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

172                                        Erik Seidenfaden

 

they spend it quickly. There are tam buns (merit-making cere-
monies) to be held in the temples, gifts to be presented to monks,
and their own gatée girls to be given golden and silver ornaments,
necklaces and bracelets; much feasting and drinking goes on in their
villages. Sometimes one might meet a long file of elephants walking
south to Surin; in the howdahs sat smiling Kui men and their
women; they were on their way to make purchases in the market of
the provincial capital. We remember meeting, just at the beginning
of the rainy season many years ago, a whole procession of 13
elephants, garlanded and decked with flowers and coloured paper
tinsel, and manned by a not quite sober but very jovial company.
They were Kui underway from Bān Kachau to the wat or temple
in Ban Tako with several young nak buot - candidates for entry
into the Buddhist priesthood. At Bān Dong Krapô there used to
be held an annual thankgiving feast in honor of the powerful local
guardian spirit. Several hundreds of festal-clad people of both
sexes gathered there (this was in February 1917). Alcohol and a
fish were placed in the sān tabu chao bān or spirit house, a simple
wooden construction outside the village, without any kind of an
image. An old man officiated at the ceremony, leading the prayers
to the thepharaks (spirit); wax candles were lit, alcohol was drunk,
while the assembled people saluted the spirit with mighty roars of
shouting. Soon everyone was rather tipsy.

The young Kui girls of these elephant hunters' villages are
rather tall and fairer than the Khmer or Lāo girls whom they are
guite unlike in physiognomy. They look very attractive in their
vertically striped silken pha sin (skirts) yellow and pink silken scarves
round their prominent breasts, and arms and necks adorned with
their gold or silver trinkets, not to speak of the white or red
flowers stuck coquettishly behind their ears. We wonder from
whom these Kui girls could have inherited their good looks?
Could it be from the "Enropoid" Indonesians or the Weddahs?
(The young Sakai girls are often very pretty). Everything
pertaining to the hunting of elephants in Siam (also by the Kui
and Khmer) has of course been minutely treated in a most scholarly

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM               173

 

manner by His Excellency Phya Indra Montri Sri Chandra
Kumara (Mr. F.H. Giles) in his well-known paper in the Journal of
the Siam Society, which has forever become a classic.5 At the
big elephant drive at Lopburi in May 1938 there were among others
a batch of Kui elephant hunters with their well-trained animals.

Amphö Chumponburi lies on the northern bank of the Mûn
river, to the west of Suraphinikŏm. It is open country consisting
of rolling plains almost devoid of forest or trees; the villages are
nearly all built on the tops of hillocks in order to avoid the annual
inundations caused by the river Mūn. Many of these hillocks were
fortified places in olden days. In 1917 there were living in this
district about 13,000 Khmer Soai, former Kui M'lô. as were also
the 1,900 Lāo Soai, some 400 Thai Khorat and about 6,000 Lāo
K
āo. They were mostly a rather lowly lot living in miserable

hovels; they were furthermore lazy and had a bad name in the
records of the authorities. The thieves of three circles (Nakhon
Rajasima, Ubon and Roi-Et) were said to find an asylum here. The
tilling of the fields here was very primitive, and often, after the end
of the harvest and the threshing of the rice, these Soai used to brew
much liquor with the sad result that during the months of
December-January one might find whole villages happily drunk—
and that from the early morning. The Soai (and Khmer) here are
a polyglot lot, many of them speaking both Khmer and Thai
besides Kui. At their spirit festivals much dancing, shouting and
drinking go on, during which the girls are very daring.

Amphö Phakhaphumphisai is the most southwestern of the
amphö of changvat Roi-Et. It is a country of rolling plains with
low ridges and numerous hillocks, generally but sparsely wooded.
It borders to the south on amphö Chumponburi and to the west on
Phutthaisong, changvat Buriram. Its population in 1917 consisted
of 2,000 Kui M'lo, 1,100 Kui Yö, 400 Lāo Soai, former M'lô.
There were 1,350 Khmer and many Thai; viz: 14,500 Lāo Kāo and

1,350 Thai Khorat. This population had formerly a very bad
name as cattle thieves, gamblers and vagabonds. The amphö

5. Vide J.S.S. Vol. XXIII, part 2.

____________________

 

         5. Vide J.S.S. Vol. XXIII, part 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

174                                      Erik Seidenfaden

 

headquarters lie inside a large old fortified place with tall
ramparts and broad water-filled moats. Môang Súa is another old
fortified place in this district. Remains of a former Kui popula-
tion are also found in amphö Wapiprachum, lying to the north of
Phakhaplmmphisai, where in 1917 lived some 2,700 Kui M'lo,
besides 5,700 Khmer and numerous Thai population; in the amphö
of Kasetvisai ( also in changvat Roi-Et ) there were no Kui left

but still some 1,150 Khmer.

From this northern excursion we will go south to the ampho
of Surin, which is westernmost of the amphö of the changvat of

the same name; it is generally accounted to be a Khmer district
par excellence, as all the inhabitants of its 15 tambols are Khmer.
In the middle of the district arc vast fertile paddy fields, while to

the north and south extensive forests cover the ground. Möang
Surin is an important railway station for the export of paddy. In

1917 the Khmer population numbered some 47,000 individuals;
they are decent and industrious people. The Khmer of Battambong
and Phnompenh used, however, to talk somewhat disparagingly
about them, calling them Northern Soai because of their dialect.
The language spoken by the Khmer north of the Dong Rek range
is real Khmer and not Kui though with a dialectical difference
from the tongue spoken in the central part of the Kingdom of
Cambodia.

Amphö Sangkhà is the last Kui-peopled district to be
treated. It is situated to the south of amphö Surin and. Sikhara-
phum and thus west of Khukhan; its western border adjoins the
territory of amphö Prakhonchai of changvat Buriram while to the
south it borders on Cambodia. The Dong Rek range here peters
out into low earthen ridges. The long Dong Din Daeng ridge ends
in this amphö too in a broad sandy pine-wooded spur. In 1917 the
wild elephants used to frequent the Sangkhà district, and their
deep foot prints often made riding and walking difficult along the
cart tracks. Amphö Sangkhà must have been an important part
of the old Cambodian empire, witness the many brick or stone
sanctuaries which are found here. The population in 1917 numbered

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM                   175

 

altogether 23,400 individuals, of which number 13,200 were Khmer
and 10,200 Kui M'lŏ. The southeastern portion of the district, that

nearest to the frontier, was not well known in our time, and was said
to contain many interesting things. Among them was a lone peaked
hill, called Phu Salā, on the top of which, we were told, was a cave
wherein stood the image of a goddess with buffalo horns jutting out
from her temples! She was mistakenly called Phra Phikuni. Near
the border, as well as further east, south of Khukhan, we were told
that there lived Khā people--others said Chām. We suppose they
were simply Kui Pörr. It may be added that the Khmer living
along the frontier, the so-called Khmer Dong or Khmer Pā are in
general not culturally superior to the Kui at all. The Kui M'lô
girls of Sangkhă, are rather tall, swarthy complexioned and full

breasted with strong limbs but ugly faces, having flat noses, coarse
mouths and often high cheek bones. They cut their hair short
and dressed only in a very short, knee-length skirt. They were,
however, modest, a little shy and very soft-speaking creatures. Also
among these Kui a few individuals with almost regular features are
met with. The Kui men, tall, ugly fellows, are good walkers,
striding along for hours at six kilometres an hour.

Before concluding these notes on the Siamese Kui a few
words might be said about the so-called Soai of amphö Mukdahān,
changvat Nakhon Phanom. These people are in reality a mixture
of Phuthai and Sô, and are thus distinct from our Kui or Soai of
the former circles of Ubon and Roi-Et though the So also belong to
the Môn Khmer group, We regret never having had the opportunity
of visiting the Soai of Mukdahān, and are thus unable to give any
information as to their numbers or distribution.

 

CONCLUSION

What are the Kui, ethnologically speaking? According to
Professor H.J. Fleure's thoughtful and rather convincing theories, as
set forth in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of
Great Britain and Ireland,6 man (i.e. homo sapiens) most probably

6. Vide J.R.A.I. Vol. LXIII, 1937.

                    ________________


          6. Vide J.R.A.I. Vol. LXIII, 1937.







    176                                         Erik Seidenfaden


evolved in North Africa or Southwest or West Asia. Sahara, which
in late Pliocene was a richly watered and fertile country, should be
the ideal place for the cradle of modern man, and from here he
emigrated to all the four corners of our earth. (Because of the ice
then covering Central. Asia this part of the earth must be considered
as unfit for the development of homo sapiens). Both Pithecanthro-
pus Erectus (Java man) and Homo Pekinensis were drifts from the
west. The earliest drifts from the west (after these pre-men) were
the Negritoes (who wandered as far as Southeast Asia and New
Guinea); the Proto-Australians and the Weddahs. The latter two
groups are dolicocephalics and this head form is also found among
the Indonesians, Melanesians and the Ainu of Japan. From what
Dr. Fromaget7 has discovered of skeletal remains in Tham Hang
(Lāos) one might hazard the following chronological order as regards
the migratory movements to this country: first (when exception is
taken to a possible cross between P. Erectus and H. Pekinensis)
came the Negritoes, followed by the Proto-Australians, next the
Weddid and the Papuan drifts, and thereafter the Melanesians. The
pre-men may already have arrived in the Far East some 400,000
years ago, when Insulinde was still connected with the rest of
Southeast Asia. The Melanesians, who, like their predecessors,
came from India, were followed by the Indonesians coming down
from the north. The result of all these crossings and recrossings
of those human groups produced, says Dr. Fromaget, a primitive
neolithic man who united in himself Europoid (Ainu, Polynesian
and Indonesian) with his Negroid, Papuan, Weddid, Australoid and,
especially, Sakai traits.

Then about 1,200 years B.C. would the Môn-Khmer peoples have
come over from India, and they in their turn superimposed themselves
on the now strongly Melanesian-Indonesian marked population.
That this overlying was not complete is seen from the several Indo-
nesian Khā or Mol tribes, as well as the Chāms, who do not seem
either physically or linguistically to have been influenced to any
considerable extent by the Mon-Khmer wave. The latter consisted

____________________

        7. Vide proceedings of the Third Congress of Prehistorians of the

Far East (Singapore, January 1938)


 

 

 

 

 

 

                     THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM                     177

 

of various Khā or Moi tribes in French Indochina and of the Kui,
the Chao Bŏn, or Nia Kuoll, the Lawà besides the Môn and

Khmer proper, all in Siam. The Kui preceded the Khmer, who,
to begin with, may only have been represented by a warrior class.
By and by the Khmer immigrants probably wrested from the Kui
the Mekhong valley and most of the Khorat plateau, as well as

Central and Eastern Cambodia. In our particular case we should
think it reasonable to suppose that prior to the coming of the
Khmer the former circles of Ubon, Roi-Et and Udorn were popula-
ted by Kui of various tribes, while the former circles of Nakhon
Rajasima, or Khorat, and Phetchabun were inhabited by Chao Bôn
and perhaps some Phi Tong Luang or Yumbri. During historical

times, from the 9th or 10th century A.D. and onwards, we are witness
to the continuous strong southward push of the Thai along the
Mekhong river. This movement of conquest was intensified and
quickened during the reign of the energetic and warlike Lāo king,
Phra Chao Fa Ngŏm (1353-1373), who enlarged the kingdom of Lān
Chang (Luang Phrabang) to embrace the whole of Northeast Siam.
As we have seen from the foregoing this conquest of the Thai is
still going on by peaceful means, culturally as well as linguistically.

From the description of the physical traits of our Kui it
will be seen that not a few distinct traits characteristic of their
forerunners may be recognized in the present-day Kui. Thus we
find the Melanesians' and Negritoes' curly hair, broad flat noses,
thick lips and swarthy complexions in numerous individuals and
perhaps also in a few cases the Australians' heavy orbital ridges
coupled with a wavy-curly hair; but we also encounter the finer
features of the Indonesians cum Sakai (Weddid) with the fairer
skin colour accompanied by the Môn Khmer square-shouldered
build. It may be added that besides the real dwarf population
represented by the few hundreds of Semang living on the divide
between Patalung and Trang, and perhaps a few in Patani in
Siamese Malaya, there are said to live some other small or smallish
folk in the depths of the extensive forest of Bang Ee that covers

large tracts of Northeastern Ubon and Roi-Et. These people

 

 

 

 

 

 

178                                      Erik Seidenfaden

 

are called But Daeng (i.e. the red children) by reason of the short
red hair that covers their bodies. This kind of hair is, of course,
characteristic of the Pygmies of Asia and Africa. We regret very
much that due to pressure of our duties we never had time to visit
these interesting small folk.

When adding up the figures given for the individual ampho
of Roi-Et and Ubon we arrive at the following numbers for the Kui
population some thirty years ago.

Kui M'lô                     72,000       Soai  (Lāo & Khmer)  82,900

Kui Yö                         6,800           „          ,,            „         58,250

Kui M'loa                  23,620           „          „             „         18,300

Kui M'ai & Eng        11,170           ,,          „             „         17,050

Kui Höt                       1,630           „           „             „           2,530

Kui Kandrau              1,720

Kui Kantoa                    880

Kui Pörr                         470

Kui Mann                       370

Kui Bai                          100

                                ______                                                _______

TOTAL KUI            118,760             TOTAL SOAI          179,030

Based on above figures the biggest Kui tribe was that of
the M'lô which, on the other hand, had lost more than half of its
original numbers, as far as these can be ascertained. The Yö seem
rapidly to lose their language and only about one-eighth to one-ninth
of their original number spoke their proper language as far back as
in 1917. There may now, a generation later.be none left talking Yö!
The M'loa had lost nearly half of their iiw-speaking numbers,

while the M'ai were down to two-fifths of the original number
speaking their old tongue. The Kui Höt had lost three-fifths of the
already small number who spoke Kui. By the way, Höt is really a
nickname-the word meaning asthma-and these Kui really speak in
an asthmatic manner. Whether they were Kui M'lô, M'loa, M'ai or
Yö we were not able to find out. Say that, as late as 1919, there were
still 118,000-odd Kui speaking their ancestral tongue how many
would there be left now (30 years later) who can speak their old

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      THE KUI PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA AND SIAM                        179

 

language ? Considerably fewer, no doubt. Of the 179,000 "Soai''
the greater number were speaking Lāo (146,000-odd) and only about

33,000 had adopted Khmer as their new language. The gain from
the Kui since then will surely be in favour of the Thai language.
The Khmer, unlike their Kui cousins, do not give up their proper
language. It would certainly be interesting from the purely
scientific point of view if an up-to-date linguistic census could be
taken now before it becomes too late.

In the year 1947 the Kingdom of Siam had a population of

  1. million. (Experts thing that the true figure comes nearer to the

  2. million mark.) Of this number, 6.3 million lived in the four
    former monthon or circles of Northeast Siam. As far as we have
    been able to analyze this figure, as regards ethnic origins, the result
    should be as follows :

Monthon Nakhon Rajasima           1,276,000 Thai               80,000 Mon-Khmer
Udorn                                                 1,772,000     „                   60,000        „

Roi-Et                                                 1,264,000     „                   40,000        „

Ubon                                                  1,068,000     „                 740,000        „

or a total of 5,380,000 Thai and 920,000 Môn-Khmer. In the first
figure are included the numerous Annamite and Chinese immigrants
whose exact numbers are unknown to us. With regard to the Thai
of Nakhon Rajasima (besides the Lāo Vieng) these people were
formerly classified as Lāo Klang (Middle Lāo) though they are not
Lāo at all. As a matter of fact the Thai Khorat are former Khmer
who long ago changed their original language for that of Thai of

the central provinces though their speech is still dialectical as
regards intonation and certain, mannerisms, Estimating their
numbers roughly at three quarters of a million one may say without
exaggeration that at least one and a half million of the inhabitants
of Northeast Siam are of Austro-Asiatic origin. The number
conscious of being so, or speaking their original tongue, is, as will
have been seen from the foregoing, considerably smaller.

Although this paper intended only to treat of the Kui
people a little information as to the numbers of the other Mon-
Khmer
elements in Northeast Siam may be found useful. In 1917

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

180                                           Erik Seidenfaden


the Khmer in the former circle of Ubon numbered 115,800; today, a
little more than 30 years later, their number would be double that.
In 1917 there were about 40-45,000 Khmer in the former circle of
Nakhon Rajasima; today there would not be less than 80-85,000. In
the same year there were about 11-12,000 Khmer and So in Roi-Et;
their number today would be, say, 24,000 (to about 10,000 Kui).
Finally in the former circle of Udorn there were in 1915 some 30,000

Khalöng, Sô, Soai, Saek and Khamu (Phu Thüng); their actual
number would today not be less than about 60,000. But-do they all
speak their original tongue? We should say: far from it. They
are fast becoming Thai in language and culture.

 

Sorgenfri, Denmark
6th October 1948.



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