Introduction / History The Sakai are a small group of people that lives in small scattered groups that live in the forest of Southern Thailand and in Malaysia also. Southern Thai people call them wild Rapatan fruit, because this fruit looks a lot like the hair of the Sakai. Sometimes they are called forest people or Sakay, this mean barbarian or strong wild person. But the Sakai people like other people to call them "Orang Asli" This name comes from Malaysia. "Orang Asli" means "The people who were here first" The Sakai like to call themselves the "Mani" This means Human or our group. The Sakai have characteristics of a Nigrito race of people. They are much like the people of Papua New Guinea.
Where are they located? They are near the boarder of Malaysia and Southern Thailand. They are in the provinces of Naratiwat, Yala, Satun and Patalung.
What are their lives like? In Thailand there are 250 to 300 Sakai people in Thailand. There are many more in Malaysia. A Sakai community usually has 20 to 50 people in it. They are hunters and gatherers mostly. If a person dies they are afraid of that area because of the spirit of the person. They are also afraid that a tiger will come and eat the body and then come and eat other people. If a person relieves themself close to a persons house, they will leave and move out. If a Thai person comes and asks that they send their children to school, they will leave the location. They are afraid of other people stealing their children.
There are 4 dailects of Sakai. These different dialects are not able to understand each other, they are in the same family, but very different. Gunsiu: is the first dialect. It is used in the Province of Yala. Danan Dayai and Yahi are the other three. They are used in the provinces of Satun Patalung and Trang. But, now days Sakai people use the Southern Thai and Central Thai more than the language of their ancestors. It is slowly disappearing. This is do to the fact that it is not a written language, oral only.
What are their beliefs? All four of these groups have the same name for a god like deity. They call him "Bagayba" It means "God the most High creator of all things and is the one who takes care of the Sakai people". They a animistic people that worship other spirits that are under the main spirit "Bagayba" They believe these spirits live in the rivers, mountains and certain trees.
When a Sakai person is sick they have a certain ceremony that they do. The head man or the chief of the community will be like a priest for people to worship and pray to Bagayba. He has the ability to heal people in the name of Bagayba. This healing ceremony is called "Sahos"
More than 60 years ago Paul Fleming (The founder of New Tribes Mission) went and worked with the Sakai in Malaysia (Then Micronesia), but never worked with the Sakai in Thailand. He only worked with the Sakai for 4 years and nothing is really known about any Sakai believers from this work.
As far as is know there are no missionaries working directly with the Sakai to do church planting or evangelism. If a missionary could come, an African American or African person would be best. The Sakai would feel more open to them since they look like an African person.