Khorat Province

Khorat province is located roughly 150 miles northeast of the capital city of Bangkok, and is the largest of Thailand’s 76 provinces, occupying an area of about

7,900 square miles at the western edge of the Khorat plateau.  It is a semi-arid plain having relatively poor-yielding soil.  Approximately 2.5 million people reside in Khorat province.

Traditionally the people of Khorat province have made their living as farmers raising crops such as rice, sugar cane, tapioca, corn, jute, peanuts, sesame, and fruits.  More recently, there is a tendency among Khorat’s younger generation to take jobs in Bangkok.

The vast majority of the people of Khorat province identify themselves as Buddhists, although many of their religious practices and beliefs are actually rooted in Brahmanism, Hinduism, and animism.  Less than 1% of the people in Khorat province identify themselves as Christians.Day-to-day life for villagers in Ban Dong Phlong is intricately bound up with the local Buddhist temple or wat.  For a Buddhist, the only way to improve one’s lot in life (or the next one) is to accumulate more “good karma” than “bad karma.”  Thus, to make merit (in Thai, tam boon)  is an important aspect of Buddhist life.  For young men, a primary way to make merit is to become a Buddhist monk for a period of time (typically only a few months).  Additionally, giving daily food to the monks, or giving money, clothing, or other items to the temple is another way available to anyone to make merit.

Most rural Thai, however, do not practice a strict or pure form of Buddhism.  Practices based on appeasement of various spirits, as well as worship of deceased ancestors, are common non-Buddhist elements of religious or spiritual life.  Nearly every house and place of business in rural Thailand has at least one “spirit house,” a miniature replica of a house that is thought to serve as a dwelling place for the spirits of the land.  These spiritsare thought to be helpful to the people living there, protecting the people and granting their wishes—as long as the spirits are kept happy by offerings of food, drink, and other gifts.

This belief in spirits, often referred to as animism, is thought to be the oldest belief system among the Thai people.  Later, when the Thai were exposed to Hinduism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism, these other religious practices were grafted onto the animistic beliefs.  Thus, rural Thai religious practice is a complex mixture of animism and Buddhism, with Hindu and Brahman influences as well.  Ideas based on Buddhism, however, clearly shape much of the Thai way of thinking about the world.

Rural Thai family life is centered around the extended family.  Several generations of a family may live in the same house or in adjacent houses.  Thai children generally live in their parents’ home until marriage.  This is particularly true for young women, since it may lead to gossip for an unmarried young woman to leave the family home and live on her own.