36. The Negrito of Thailand
edited and expanded by George Weber
Table of Contents
Foreword by the Governor of Trang Province, Kingdom of Thailand
Chapter 1: A People of Many Names
1.1. Meaning and Origins of the Names in use
Chapter 2: A People who look like Africans
2.1. A very different people: the Mani
Chapter 3: The Mani of the Forests of Trang Province
3.1. Mani Bands
Chapter 4: The Way of Life
4.1. Shelter and Housing
Chapter 5: Rites of Passage
Chapter 6: Language (by George Weber)
6.1. The Austro-Asiatic language family
Chapter 7: Beliefs
7.1. Beliefs about the Environment
This chapter has not been re-written in English and expanded from an original manuscript by George Weber. The original source was an article in Thai by Mr. Thonghom bdfore 1995 and then translated into German by Mr. Martin Pachner.
The German article reached me through the post from Austria in 2002. Mr. Parchner (whom I have never met) wrote to me that I could use and edit the text in any way we thought fit and that the Thai author was in agreement with this. I would like to thank both author and intermediary for their trust and hope that what I am presenting to the public here is not too far from what they had in mind.
The article covers a subject that has received inadequate scientific attention outside Thailand. Mr. Thonghom's text fills a gap and provides valuable new information. This is why I am delighted to be able present Mr. Thonghom's work to a wider readership here.
I had no intention to edit the article beyond correcting obvious spelling and grammatical errors. However, closer reading forced me to change my mind. Firstly, the author has obviously been rather badly served by his translators. In some places the text was such, that the meaning (which must have been there in the original Thai version) could only be recovered with difficulty or not at all. There were also a number of queries that could only have been cleared up by direct contact with the author. Unfortunately, despite my efforts to contact him, I have never managed to do so. If the author eventually appears, I shall be happy to re-edit his article in cooperation with him.
The original linguistic chapter was very short with much of it obviously garbled in translation. I had to re-write this chapter completely and have also added maps and linked it to an informative article by N. Burenhult on the Aslian languages.
The main value of Mr. Thonghom's article lies in his Chapters 3 and beyond where he provides details on the life, habits and beliefs of the living Thai Mani at the end of the 20th century that to the best of my knowledge have not been published before. A major vote of thanks to Suvat Thonghom for his splendid work!
Permission has been given to the Andaman Association to use 11 colour photographs taken by the British traveller, photographer and clinical psychologist, Alice Everett of Cambridge, England. Although the pictures were taken in 2003 (eight years after Mr. Thonghom wrote his original text), they fit his work to the dot. We are grateful to Ms Everett for her help and cooperation and would like to point out here that copyright of the pictures remains with Ms Everett.
All maps appearing in this Internet edition of Mr. Thonghom's article have been prepared by myself. Their use in a proper context is permitted if the source (The Andaman Association) is given.
Mr. Thonghom's original text sometime referred to AD (western years) as well as Thai BE (Buddhist area) years. The year count is calculated as BE = AD + 543 (e.g. AD 2004 = BE 2547). For dates before AD 1 remember that there was no year AD 0 and deduct or add (depending in which direction you are converting) 543. When in doubt, consult your friendly neighbourhood calendar mathematician.
The Mani have lived in the hilly interior of southern Thailand for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years. For the last several thousand years at least the have done so in close association with a succession of later arrivals, Veddoid, Mon-Khmer, Indian, Malay, Mongolid and other groups. Although the Mani do not seem to have intermarried much with outsiders (who mostly despised them), their contact was still close enough for them to have acquired some cultural traits from their neighbours. Yet these tiny groups have, amazingly, done so without losing their separate identity and tribal character. This article tells their story.
The two maps above are based on data provided by refs. 23 and 24, see also the more detailed Map for the precise location of the Mani territories today).
"The Past is the shadow of the Present and the Present the shadow of the Future"
The saying helps to stress the importance of the past which will enable us to understand the present and to forecast the future. After I have read the article "Mani: The Negrito of Thailand", I have felt like having watched a replay of the way of life and civilization of a people of antiquity. The Mani are regarded as descendants of people from ancient time. They are able to maintain their past culture and show it to the modem world since it has not been destroyed by time or modern civilization. The display of life in the past of this tribe deserves to be maintained and fostered, to educate the children and people of Thailand. This article, besides presenting valuable scientific evidence on humanity, is also offering a challenging question for students and the people of Thailand. How to organize a protective umbrella over the education of these people, how to preserve the culture of the Mani people, their contribution to world heritage and Thai society for the future. We should be hopeful that this article will activate new ideas and concepts and point us in the right direction.
Trang Province , Thailand
February 1995 "
Chapter 1: A People of many Names
1.1. Meaning and Origin of the Names in Use
Naming can be a method by a ruling group to demonstrate to a people their subservience, both physically and socially, while showing contempt for them and their culture or way of life. This unpleasant practice has been followed by people since ancient times. In the Ramayana Sutra, for example, the Aryan invaders of India called the aboriginal inhabitants "monkeys". Sadly, it is in this manner that many of the many alternative names used for the Mani and other similar people in the area are still employed today.
Forest People is another term used for the Mani by local people of Trang, Phatthalung and Satun provinces. The name, unusually, lays particular stress on the different environment that the Mani live in as compared to the general Thai population.
Goy is another term for the Mani. The term appears first in a text by Thai king Rama V (ruled 1868-1910) with the title "Mani of the Jungle". In the section "Brief Physical Description of the Mani", His Majesty noted that "there are several sub-groups of this people, which are not necessary to be mentioned here. Our objective here is to refer to the group calling themselves "Goy" (ref. 2). The Mani were also referred to as "Goys" in other chapters as well, such as "...the language in use had been genuinely that of the Goy people..." and "ordinarily the Goys are very productive of their progenies...", etc. The term "Goy", Jitr Phoumisuk (ref. 1, p. 409) notes, had parallels in the Mon-Khmer languages where there is a tribe calling itself "Kui" (or "Koye", "Kuay") which means "human being" but he did not conclude that the terms "Goy", "Kui", "Koye" or "Kuay" are one and the same. Duangjunt (ref. 7) made a study on the Mani languages and explained that "... no trace of Mani calling themselves "Goy" can be found in Thailand", and thought that "there is a term as used in all Mani dialects of Thailand which sounds most closely to the term "Goy" and that is "Kui", which means "hair" ". He concluded that t "Goy" should be thought of as archaic in the Mani language whose language is not written so that the pronunciation can change easily and quickly.
Mani is what the Thai Negrito call themselves. The word is of Mon-Khmer origin and means "human being" (ref. 1). We have used it wherever we could in this article to mean all Thai Negrito tribes speaking the Tonga' language.
Negrito is a collective term widely used among anthropologists, meaning Asian tribal people with a black complexion, short stature and "peppercorn" curled hair besides other characteristics (See also our FAQ)
Ngoh, Ngoh Pah and Hoh are more terms to be added to the wide selection already available. The term "Ngoh" is used both as a name for the Thai Mani, for the Veddoid Senoi of Malaysia and in yet another alternative for for all aboriginal populations on the Malay peninsula.
Sakai, Sakae, or Sakai-of-the-Jungle all mean "savage". The terms carry negative implications as shown by a quotation from the Thai king Rama II (ruled 1809-1824) who wrote that "the Sakais, the subservient weird kind of people, with curling rough hair and scaled body like a tiger cat" and "with scaled body like a tiger cat, he is afraid naught of anyone, with his hair disorderly entwin'd, makes his face looking like agog." Prof. Duangjunt (ref. 7) says that the term "Sakai" is mainly used by the Buddhist Thai and is derived from the term "Sakae" used by Muslims when referring to the Mani. Jitr Phoumisuk in his book on the sources of terms of Siam, Thai, Laos and Khom (Khmer) and the social aspects of names given to the tribes, says that "Sakai" in Malay means subservient people of a colony or people under occupation. The Mani are the original people of the Malay peninsula, who, after Malays had come to occupy their lands, became their slaves. The Malays also use the term "Orang Sakai" which means "slaves" (ref. 1, p. 454). The Encyclopaedia Britannica (ref. 25) defines the term as "a generic and pejorative Malay term for the various pagan peoples of the Malay peninsula, especially the Senoi and Jakun." The Senoi are Veddoids, the Jakun are Mongolids, i.e. not Negritos. Negrito groups are also very often referred to as "Sakai" - for example, the original title of this article was "Sakai (Mani) ...".
Semang, Seemang and Siamang are Malay terms meaning "Langur" (a kind of long-armed tree monkey). The reason the ancient Malays referred to the Mani as Semang was probably because they lived in the jungle, were very agile and of dark complexion. No doubt the term was meant as an insult. Semang is also the accepted name for the majority of Malaysian Negritos and their language.
The Mani have also been called Senoi. There is a Veddoid group named "Senoi" in Malaysia, so that this use seems designed to create confusion.
The terms Tonga', Tongko and Mos appear in a book about the different ethnic groups of Thailand which was published for civil servants, police and military staff of the Anti-Communist Command of the Thai armed services. It mentions "Semangs in Thailand living in the mountain ranges of the southern provinces that are also called by the alternative names of Tonga', Tongko or Mos". In fact, Tonga' and Mos are alternative names for the language spoken by the Mani (see chapter 6 "Languages" below) while Tongko is just an alternative spelling of Tonga'.
1.2. Order in the Chaos of Names
On the Malay Peninsula, in Thailand and in Malaysia, there is an extremely complex mixture of aboriginal peoples intermingling with the dominant population of Thais and Malays, respectively. Unfortunately, the names for all these groups are confusing. The chaos of overlapping multiple names for aboriginal groups, languages, tribes and races in Thailand and Malaysia has hampered research, impeded progress and hindered understanding. The term "Sakai" for example has been used for almost any aboriginal minority group one cares to mention. A term so widely and indiscriminately used and misused becomes meaningless. Just write "Sakai" and you could mean almost anybody.
Wherever possible, we have therefore tried in this article to keep to the terms listed and defined below:
1. the Negritos and Negritoids (meaning people similar to Negritos) are people of generally short stature, dark to very dark complexion and with curly "peppercorn" black hair, speaking Aslian languages. They include
- the Thai Mani speak the Aslian Tonga' language (they really are Semang living in Thailand, the differences are not great and Tonga' is closely related to the Semang language)
- the Malaysian Semang are the "classical" Malaysian Negrito and speak a variety of different Aslian languages.
- the Orang Darat is a group rather similar to the Semang but is thought to have arrived in a later wave of migration and to be physically a little shorter than the Semang. They also speak Aslian languages.
Other Negritos outside the Malay peninsula are the Andamanese, the Aetas and other groups in the Philippines plus perhaps some groups in Indonesia.
2. the Veddoids are an ill-defined group (named after the Vedda people of Sri Lanka) of slightly larger stature than the Negritos but of a similar complexion. The most immediately visible difference to the Negritos is that their hair is straight rather than curly. It is an open question whether Negritos and Veddoids are related or whether their similarities (cultural and physical) are the result of living in the same area over very long periods. The questions surrounding the Veddoids and their relationship to the Negritos and the Australian aborigines (to which they have also been linked) are now being addressed through studies of their DNA.
- the Senoi are groups living in Malaysia and along the shores of Sumatra in Indonesia. They are often r confused with Negritos. In Malaysia they speak Aslian languages (of the Senoic branch).
Other Veddoids outside the Malay peninsula live in India, Sri Lanka and over much of Southeast Asia.
3. The Mongolids came from the north during prehistoric time, probably mostly from southwestern China. They replaced the then predominant Mon-Khmer ethnic group (whose languages have survived among the local Negritos). The Thais (Siamese) were the last Mongolid wave to arrive (apart from the Chinese) only around 1,000 years ago. They are now the culturally and politically dominant people in the part of the Malay peninsula belonging to Thailand.
4. the Malays are the people who have given their name to the Malay peninsula and the state of Malaysia. Originating probably in Borneo, they are thought to have settled in the peninsula relatively late in its prehistory and to have done so in two waves, reflected in their classification today:
- the Orang Asli (Proto-Malays), including the Jakun who speak an archaic Malay. The Malaysian government is trying to encourage the use of the term "Orang Asli" instead of "Sakai".
- the Malays are politically by far the most important group in Malaysia. Their language Bahasa Malaysia is the country's official language.
Chapter 2: Mani, People who look like Africans
The physical characteristics of the Mani people are superficially similar to Negrid Africans. There are major differences, however, nd the Negrito are not Africans or Negrids. What these differences are and how significant each is or is not. Anthropologists throughout the ages have given differing and controversial opinions as is illustrated by some of the following more or less enlightening quotations. The chaos in the terminology is particularly clear here. These are scientists writing. They may have been badly served by their translator - but not in every case.
A. Karr and E. Zeidenfaden (ref. 19, p. 5) in their book on the ethnology of different tribes in Thailand refer to "Negrito ethnics remaining in the southern part of Thailand, the Semang Tribe."
Jitr Phoumisuk wrote in his book (ref. 1, p. 18 ) that "in the southern sector of Thailand and in Malaya, there still exists a backward tribe of Negritos (same ethnic tribe as the Negros), that is referred to by the Malays as Semang. We have to distinguish carefully between the Semang and the different tribes of Sakai, who belong to the tribal family of the Austro-Asiatics. Most of the latter are living in Malaysia. In the Thai language, we like to refer to both the Semang as "Ngoh" or "Ngoh Pah". "
Chin Yodee is a Thai archaeologist who writes in his book (ref. 3, p. 17-18) that "the Negritos (Ngoh or Hoh) are of black complexion and of shorter build than the Australoids, only 145 cm in body height and with broad skull and curly hair. They live on the Malay peninsula and in Thailand in Trang, Phatthalung and Yala provinces. Carlton S. Coon has classified the Negritos as belonging to the Australoids ".
The Cultural Encyclopaedia of the Southern People, vol. 3 (ref. 15, p. 994) is a work of reference on prehistoric communities in the south of Thailand. It says that "in the Pleistocene period dating back to more than 8-10,000 years, a group of Australoid people, i.e. the Negritos settled in the plains near the coast and were later were pushed into the the hilly forest areas.
The Thai Encyclopaedia, The Royal Academic Edition, vol. 7 writes that the Mani people "are of short build and black complexion", "with curly hair, savage looking, ferocious like agog" . The Encyclopaedia also adds that there are "people of Negrito race who are living in the central and southern parts of the Indian subcontinent, in Sri Lanka, on the Andaman islands, the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, the Philippines and on different islands of the South Sea (ref. 12).
Despite differences of opinion, a majority of anthropologists have come to the conclusion that most of the minority groups with black complexion and curly hair living in the hilly areas and forests of the Malay Peninsula, should be classified as belonging to the Negrito race. The Malay peninsula has from time immemorial been a corridor for the passage for countless smaller and larger migrations and complex mixture of races has been the inevitable result.
2.1. The Mani : People of a different Racial Origin
In the following section a possible theory of successive migrations into the area followed by repeated mixing of populations is set out in broad outline. This theory is broadly accepted by many scientists in the area.
The Negrito and Veddoid people who live in the jungles of the Malay peninsula can be grouped as follows (for the Malaysian Negritos see Chapter 35):
- the Thai Mani
- the Malaysian Semang
- the Malaysian Orang Darat
- the Malaysian Senoi (a Veddoid group)
Members of these groups usually show a dark complexion with curly hair (straight hair in case of Veddoid groups) and an average body height of approximately 144-155 cm. It is thought that these groups represent the descendants of the earliest (or the earliest still identifiable) modern human migrants to the Malay peninsula.
Based on anthropological evidence many specialists believe that the modern Negrito represent the first modern human group to arrive in the Southeast Asian region, followed by the Veddoids in a second wave. All this remains speculative and will be subject to revision as new evidence comes to light. Whoever the first modern humans to enter the Malay peninsula happen to be, they will certainly have met met Homo erectus, already in residence there for hundreds of thousands of years.
What the relationship, if any, betweeen the young Homo sapiens and the ancient Homo erectus was remains one of the major unanswered questions of human prehistory. Recent genetic evidence indicates that at least the Andamanese Negrito have been living in relative isolation for the last 30,000 to possibly 60,000 years. No such evidence is yet available for the Negritos of the Malay peninsula. The enormous eruption of Toba volcano some 73,000 years ago must have been a major event in Asian and possibly even world prehistory but it did not cause the extinction of Homo erectus since that species seems to have survived in Java until as late as 30,000 years ago. It is not clear whether the earliest modern Homo sapiens arrived in the area before or after the Toba cataclysm. Homo erectus, on the other hand, had been there long before. In either case, the two groups would have had tens of thousands of years to mix,. If they could and did, the evidence could be found in the DNA of living Negritos. Only tantalising hints but no solid evidence for such mixing has been found so far but work is proceeding.
2.1.1. Thai Mani and Malaysian Semang: the first modern humans to enter the Malay peninsula
Ref. 5 (p. 5) remarks on the original people of the Malay Peninsular that about 4,500 years ago the Proto-Malays moved south from the Yunnan province area of China into Southeast Asia where they met the Negritos who, for a long time, may have been the only modern humans to live in this area .
Ref. 15 (p. 993-994) remarks on the subject of prehistoric communities in southern Thailand that the first Homo sapiens groups moving into the area after Homo erectus were of Negrito type, short build, black complexion and curly hair similar to the Australians.
2.1.2. Malaysian Orang Darat: the people moving in after the Mani and Semang
Orang Darat are also another group of Negritos living in Malaysia - as with every other group, they are also likely to be called "Sakai". Jitr Phoumisuk (ref. 1) states that they are of shorter stature than the Semang, but also have dark skins and speak Austro-Asiatic languages. They are thought to have moved into the Malay peninsula from India. He thinks that it is an error to regard them as belonging to the Semangs. He thinks they are clearly a separate group. "Orang Darat" (meaning "People of the Land") and "Orang Buket"(meaning "People of the mountains") are two names they give themselves.
The Thai Encyclopaedia (ref. 12-14) says that the Orang Darat (which it calls "Sakais") are people speaking Austro-Asiatic languages who moved into the area after the Semangs.
The Southerners Cultural Encyclopaedia (Ref. 15-16) says that 7,500 to 4,000 years ago there were Orang Darat (called "Sakais") or Senois moving into the southern part of the peninsula. Mixing up the Orang Darat with the Senoi is yet another indication of the confusion in the nomenclature of these groups.
2.1.3. Malaysian Senois: a crossbreed between Semang and Orang Darat
When the Malaysian Orang Darat intermingled with the Semang , their progeny is thought by some to have developed into the third Negrito group, the Senoi. This, however, is rather unlikely since the Senoi are Veddoids and an intermixing of two Negritoid groups is most unlikely to produce a Veddoid group! The Encyclopaedia Britannica (ref. 25) also says that the Senoi are Veddoid.
The Thai Encyclopaedia (ref. 12-13) does not help to clarify matters when it says that the Senois are "a type of Bushmen in the Malay peninsula" (whatever this may mean) and refers to them as "Ngoh". According to the Encyclopaedia, the Senoi are descendants of both Semangs and Orang Darat (again having two Negrito people intermingling to produce a Veddoid group).
2.1.4. Negrito and Veddoid: progenitors of Malaysian and the Thai tribes
The following sub-chapter gives some of the beliefs about the earliest modern humans that are widely current in Thailand on our subject.
Originally, the area we now know as the Malay peninsula was known as the "Sakara Mazen Peninsula", meaning the "area of the salty sea". The old term was changed when a group of Indian people who had earlier moved to live in Java also took possession of the Malay peninsula. Their voyage was called "Malaya" in Sanskrit and from then on the name of the land was changed to Malaya in remembrance of the trip taken by that group (ref. 4).
Phraya Samanta Rathburint (no ref. given)
claims that his study of ancient Malay material indicates that in
"approximately" the year BE 734 / AD 191 four tribal groups came to
the area and gave rise to the aboriginal natives of the country.
- the Kahazi, tall man-eaters, referred to as giants (not identifiable)
- the Mani, dark skinned, with curly hairs, living in huts in the jungle
- the Siamangs or Semangs, dark skinned people with curly hair, living in the high areas of the mountains (clearly the Mani and Semangs)
- he Orang La-Ode, nomadic people, living on the sea along the coastal areas and islands (the Moken?)
(ref. 4 and 15).
Put in less legendary terms: the evidence is said to support the contention that 4,000 to 10,000 years ago there was a group of Negrito people living in limestone caves of the Malay Peninsula (ref. 5) that are thought to be the direct ancestors of today's Negritos in the same area.
Around 4,500 to 3,500 years ago, another group of people moved into to the Malay peninsula: the first Malay people or Proto-Malays who brought a neolithic culture with them (ref. 10). Their culture is characterised by the Terra cotta ware today unearthed at archaeological sites in Thailand and Malaysia. It is thought that the Proto-Malays came from southern parts of China, perhaps Yunnan Province, and that they were of Mongolid stock (ref. 5).
About 3,500 years ago, there was another large-scale movement of people into the Indochina peninsula from the West, i.e. from India. After the Aryan migration into India, some aboriginal populations speaking Mon-Khmer languages seem to have moved towards the east to Indochina (19). It is also said that 7,500 to 4,500 years ago and again around 4,000 years ago, groups of people moved from Indochina into the Malay peninsula and some think that these later became known as the Manis. However, the migrants from India would make rather more convincing ancestors (as one ingredient among others) for the Veddoid Senoi than any of the Negrito groups would.
More groups followed around 4,000 years ago (ref. 15 and 16).
These population movements took place over long periods and resulted in much intermixing (ref. 10). Thus the people today referred to as the ancient Malays or Proto-Malays are people who represent a mixture of racial traits and cultures. They are the people who had pushed the earliest aboriginal people, the Negritos, to move further south where there was further mixing with other people, resulting in the Senois (refs. 12-14).
Around 2,300 years ago the Malays appeared in the peninsula that now bears their name. They probably came from coastal Borneo and were experienced seafarers who knew the lands they wanted to conquer and settle. The new Malays belonged to the same stock as the Proto-Malays (i.e. they must have moved to Borneo from southern China at some stage in their prehistory) but unlike the neolithic Proto-Malays they carried a much more advanced technology: their tools were made of metal. They settled in what is now Malaysia around 2,300 years ago. With their advances technology, they rapidly pushed all the older groups out of the way and into the jungle and mountainous areas, where they remain until today. The New Malays who are still at their original level of technology are today are known as the Jakuns. They live in the southern part of Malaysia and are regarded as the ancestors of the sea people, also known as Moken or Orang Laut. The modern Malaysians are people of mixed blood, from the Negritos, the Veddoids, the Proto-Malays and the new Malays. There was also continuing migration from India, especially into the Indonesian area around BE 10 (ca. BC 530).
The Buddhadhas Bhikku of Suanmoke Phalaram (no ref. given) has said that "the Negritos are the true owners of the Stone Axe Culture as found in the south; while the Proto-Malays are what we call the "Phela", the "Kheepoul" or the "Thai Yah". They now live in the highland jungles of the area around the headwaters of the rivers from the Phelat mountains (in the Pakmark subdistrict of Chaiya district of Suratthani province in southern Thailand). These Proto-Malay people had cross-bred with Thais who came from the central part of the country and with Indians who very early had come to live there and also became part of the Thai people of today (ref. 15 and 16). Phra Boriharn Dhepdhanee (ref. 4) mentions in the section on Muang Nakhornsithammarat province that "the original people were the "Ngoh" (in this case meaning the Mani and Semang who had settled in the southern provincial areas), the Sea People (Moken, Orang Laut) and the Mon (now settled mostly in Burma); and later on still there were the Glingaras moving in as refugees from the war risks in India (in the reign of the Asoke Maharaj King); and also there were other Indian Groups such as the Tamils who came to live among the people living there; while the Thais had moved from the Suwannaphoum Kingdom to live throughout the Malay Peninsula."
On the prehistoric communities in the south it is also said (ref. 15, 16) that "the Orang Laode had cross-bred with the Mani and the Semang to become the native people of the south, or the Orang Laode had cross-bred with Thais to become the native population of the south." Malays regard the dark-skinned aborigines as their ancestors. Malaysia is now trying to help them survive by encouraging them to apply for help to centres for assistance. The official designations for the aborigines has also changed: the "Sakais" (meaning "servant "or "slave") have become the "Orang Asli", meaning "original people "or "native people", a respectful form of address towards what are accepted to be ancestral people.
Thais - especially those living in the southern provinces who are descendants of the aboriginal people - are they thinking of ways and means to assist the Mani as their ancestors? Or are they thinking of these people as "Semangs", which means monkey, who have no concern with us who are human beings?
Chapter 3: The Mani in the Forests of Trang Province
In the jungles of southern Thailand, in the Banthad Mountain Chain and around the Malaysian border, in the provinces of Trang, Phatthalung and Satun, are areas where the Manis have lived from time immemorial. We have asked Mr. Sung of the Mani and he told us that that his people had lived in this area since "primeval days".
The Banthad Mountain chain became a base area for communist insurgents during the 1970s and thus a battleground between communist guerillas and Thai government forces. Especially during the years of BE 2518-2520 (AD 1975-1977), the insurgents were battered in ground and air attacks. The Mani suffered terribly during this war with government forces frequently mistaking the smoke of Mani camp fires for insurgent activity. Those living in Trang and Phatthalung provinces had to move to the sanctuary of Thoungwan district in Satun province.
3.1. Mani Bands in Trang Province
A survey on the Mani living in the Trang forest area in December BE 2535 (AD 1982) found that there were three groups:
1. the "Above Klong Thong River" band of 9 males and 6 females
2. the "Khlong Hindaeng River" band of 11 males and 7 females
3. the "Jaopha" band, of 9 males and 9 females.
By questioning them, we have learned that in Trang Province there had originally been 5 groups. Two of them had moved away:
4. Mr. Sung's group from Ban Naitra village
5. Mr. Yung's/Mrs. Yum's group from the vicinity of Ban Hin Jork village had moved into the area of Manung in Satun Province.
Only three groups remained in the Trang village area in the early 1990s.
Mani bands are made up of several families and usually comprise between 15 and 30 persons. They seem to regard this as the most convenient size for a band to make a living. Each family in a band has their thub or shack (which the Mani call ayah) as living quarters. Ayahs are built in a circle, all are facing inwards to form a circular village center. Normally, a band consists of parents, their children, and other close relatives such as nephews and nieces. The band is led by a chief elected by all adult members. Members of the band must follow the instructions of their chief. while youngsters are, of course, also expected to listen to their parents.
3.1.1. The "Jaopha" Band
This band is organised differently from the other groups. One difference is that the band is made up of members of families of elder brothers and sisters joining together. Another is that members of the band can marry each other as long as they are not blood relatives. Such practice is different from that of the other Mani where no marriage among band members is normally allowed. The "Jaopha" band in the early 1990s consisted of 5 families under the leadership of Mr. Khai who is brother-in-law to one member and uncle to other members of his band.
Name list of the band members
Mr. Warng moved to join Mr. Loh's band at Hin Daeng River, after his marriage with Mrs. Khiew. Mr. Theng moved to join Mr Sung's Group north of the Tong River after his marriage with Mrs. Yoo.
This information was collected BE 14th May 2536 (AD 1993).
3.1.2. The "Above Khlong Tong River" Band
This band consists of 5 families of relatives and descendants. It is led by Mr. Sung who is father, grand-father on his wife's side and great-grandfather of other members of the band.
Name list of the band members
Mrs. Far is married to Mr. Dum Puksee, a Thai villager. Together they have four children: Masters Watthana and Sakda and Misses Wundee and Patree. The family is not moving away and they have built themselves permanent houses near to the "Above Khlong Tong River" locality.
This information was collected BE 14th May 2536 (AD 1993).
3.1.3. The "Khlong Hindaeng River" Band
This band consists of the 4 families of the son, the nephew, elder brother and wife's brother (who is still single). It is led by Mr. Sung who is also father, brother, brother-in-law, grandfather on the mother's side and great-grandfather of members of the group.
Name list of the band members
Misses Turn and Daeng are living in the same household with Mr. Leh and eat with the members of Mr. Loh's family. Mrs. Yome, whose husband has passed away, has returned to Mr. Loh's Family. They are eating together but each person has his own ayah (hut). Mr. Yar and Mr. Heng, moved away to join the "Above Khlong Tong River" band.
This information gathered from survey of BE 14th May 2536 (AD 1993)
3.2. Family Lines
The three Mani groups living in Trang Province are closely related. By studying their families, we have discovered that they are the descendants of three ancestral families through the present-day parents as follows:
3.2.1. First Family Line
In this family there are Mr. Chou and Mrs. Narng as head of the line. They have 5 descendants, 1 male and 4 females.
1. Mrs. Na (wife of Mr. Sung, chief of the "Above Khlong Tong River" band)
2. Mrs. Khied (wife of Mr. Daeng, of the "Jaopha" band)
3. Mr. Um (son-in-law of Mr. Loh, chief of the "Khlong Hindaeng River" band)
4. Mrs. Pao (passed away)
5. Mrs. Sah (mother-in-law of Mr. Sing, chief of Tra Village, at present living in Satun province).
3.2.2. Second Family Line
In this family there are Mr. Phoom and Mrs. Wun as head of the line. They have 6 descendants: 4 males and 2 females.
1. Mr. Loh (chief of the "Khlong Hindaeng River" band and brother-in-law of Mr. Sung, chief of the "Above Khlong Tong River" band)
2. Mr. Daeng (brother-in-law of Mrs. Bah, wife of the chief of the "Above Khlong Tong River" band)
3. Mr. Reh (moved away to marry a woman of the Phattalung group; he is adopting father of Mr. Cha, son-in-law of Mr. Sung, chief of the "Above Khlong Tong River" band)
4. Mr. Leh (unmarried, living in Mr. Loh's "Khlong Hindaeng River" band)
5. Miss Turn ( unmarried, living in Mr. Loh's "Hindaeng band")
6. Mrs. Hiang (wife of Mr. Khai, chief of the "Jaopha" band).
3.2.3. Third Family Line
In this family, there are Mr. Nah and Miss Noui as head of the line. They have 5 descendants: 3 males and 2 females.
1. Miss Daeng (unmarried, living in Mr. Toh's "Hindaeng" band)
2. Mr. Sung (chief of the "Above Khlong Tong River" band, brother-in-law of Mr. Loh, chief of the. "Khlong Hindaeng River" band.)
3. Mrs. Taeng (wife of Mr. Loh, chief of the "Khlong Hindaeng River" band.)
4. Mr. Khai (chief of the "Jaopha" band and brother- in-law of Mr. Loh, chief of the "Khlong Hindaeng River" band)
5. Mr. Loh (passed away).
It is clear that the Mani in the three bands in Trang province are related by blood. In recognition of blood relationship. They normally give equal weight to both parental sides.
3.3. Mani Lands in Trang Province
In Mani society there is no right, apart from tradition, to assert land ownership. Yet in their hunting-gathering activities, the bands hardly ever intrude into territories belonging to other bands. Members of a band learn early about the areas that they are allowed to use for themselves and force would not be used to expel or punish trespassers. At times not suitable for hunting or for collecting wild potatoes, "we live temporarily with other bands to share food with them." (Mr. Loh, BE 2535 / AD 1992). In normal times, each Mani hunting band sticks its own territory for hunting and gathering activities.
3.3.1. The "Jaopha" Band
This group is living off plants and animals found in the area around Narn Jaopha, along the Rouei Meng ravines and north of the Liphang river. They are the Mani group with the closest relations to the general (Thai) population because their territory is close to "Jaopha" village with Santiras Bumroung school.
Through such close contact, the way of life of the "Jaopha" band has changed a great deal recently. Some members of the group have taken to heavy drinking, becoming a sad sight for others.
3.3.2. The "Above Khlong Tong River" Band
This band gathers and hunts its food in the jungle along both banks of the Tong River which joins the Songkae river to form the the Palian River in the Samngam Hills, north of the Tone Teh and Naam Paan waterfalls.
Animals are hunted and other products gathered. During lean time, this band moves to the lowlands to sell its labour to the villagers in the vicinity of the Khuanmaidum and Klang villages. Bamboo (phai sang in Thai) is common and is used to make blow pipes for hunting. Bamboo is especially abundant in the area north of the Palian river or above the Tone Teh water fall. From a story told by Mr. Sung, we also learned that his group had been living in this area for so long that, as he said, "in our childhood when our parents were living, our people were here already, above the Tong and Songkae rivers, in the Samngam Mountains, around the Tone Teh water fall. At that time, the people (non-Mani villagers) were not as populous as today" (Mr. Sung, BE 2525/ D 1992).
In BE July 2506 / AD 1963 M. L. Amphorn Sanitwong published a note about meeting with a Mani band in the area of the Samngam Mountain of Village Number 4 in Palian Subdistrict of Trang Province in the Be September 2506/AD 1963 issue of the Tourism Organisation Newssheet. It seems that the Mani group that was noted by Mr. Sanitwong in 1963 is the same group that we refer to here as the "Above Khlong Tong River" band of the early 1990s.
3.3.3. "Khlong Hindaeng River" band
The "Khlong Hindaeng River" band draws its food supplies from the area on both sides of the Hindaeng and the Liphang river banks and the Phaitong cave area. Throughout the jungled area around Tha Khao village there has been an abundance of wild animals. In recent years, however, there has been much trespassing and forest clearance for commercial plantings of rubber trees and peppers. This has adversely affected the basis of the Mani hunting and gathering economy.
Chapter 4: The Mani Way of Life
The Mani people have scarcely begun their journey from their simple way of life to the modern world of today. They know nothing about agriculture, or about animal husbandry and they remain dependent on what their jungle can offer them. The social groups of the Mani people are very small, normally including only the parents and their children and sometimes relatives that had joined them.
Let us consider some aspects of the Mani way of life as it was in Trang province in the early 1990s:
4.1. Shelter and Housing
The Mani are jungle dwellers of nomadic in habits. They are on the move most of the time to hunt and gather in their forests. It is a way of life that does not need or allow elaborate buildings. They have only very simple methods of constructing their shelters which come the in form of a huts that are open on the sides, with thick leaves for roofing. During the rainy season with its heavy rains the Mani also seek the shelter of caves.
4.1.1. Locating a Camp Site
Although the Mani are nomadic and do not need to establish permanent housing for themselves, they still must choose a suitable location for their temporary village. For an appropriate choice, procedures in accordance with their ancient traditions and beliefs are carried out before a decision is taken:
1. The site must be on slightly sloping terrain and not within a hollow where rainwater could gather.
2. The site must be near a source of fresh flowing water (standing water &endash; which the Mani call "dead water" &endash; would not be acceptable and is regarded as unhealthy). The Mani also shun water from a canal or a river or below a waterfall, for fear of flash floods. The sleeplessness caused by the roaring rivers during the rainy season as also be mentioned (Mr. You, 1992) as a reason for shunning such locations. Even if a proper water source has been found, the taste of the water will also be a consideration.
3. The site must be shaded by trees that are big enough to provide cool air and shelter but not so big that they endanger the Mani and their huts during a storm.
4. There should have been no human death at the chosen place - and no haunting by evil spirits. The Mani believe that evil spirits are the cause of sickness and to ensure that a place is free of such influences they require:
- that the place under consideration does not cause the hair to rise in fright (i.e. that the area not be "spooky"), but instead that it gives a feeling of cosiness and freedom
- that the place under consideration shows plentiful secondary growth of young trees. If the area has sparse or no secondary growth, living people should stay away - an evil spirit must be there that is capable of causing illness. "When even young trees cannot grow there, how could a human?" (Mr. Sung, 1992).
- that the place under consideration has no white ant (termite) hills, especially not one of a rather darkish species, as it this could be the abode of an evil spirit and could cause disease among humans.
5. There must be abundant food resources in the area under consideration and it must be not too far from an area where bamboo grows.
4.1.2. Constructing an Ayah (Hut)
After a proposed location has been found to fulfil all requirements after it has been decided to set up the village there, the Mani immediately begin constructing their ayahs (huts). All available men help the head of the family in cutting down wood and in collecting large poud (banana) leaves for the roofing. The women and children clear the ground and gather lianas which are used to hold the construction together.
An ayah is simply made, a hut with a roofing of leaves. Within it, there is a a bed platform, a panong, that is also a status symbol for its owner. A single panong means that the shack belongs to an unmarried person while a double-panong singifies a married person. The panong is built at about one arm's length from the ground on one side, and touches the ground on the other side. The higher side of the construction is at the back of the hut so that anyone lying would be facing towards the outside with the feet in the same direction. They believe that in case of an attack by a wild animal or an enemy, they would still get to their feet in time for running away. This is also an example of the importance that they attach to their feet, as "without feet they could not go anywhere and could not find their food" (Mr Yoo, 1992) - (in Thai society, feet are not regarded as a "polite" part of the human body).
4.1.3. Moving to a New Place
The Mani are nomadic in habit which means that they do not live permanently in he same place. Having to move to a new place is a normal event in Mani life. The decision on whether to stay put or to move is based on several considerations. The most important reason for thinking of moving is shrinking productivity of the environment around the settlement, when animals and wild potatoes are getting hard to find. There are other reasons for considering a move, such as:
1. When someone has died in or near the current location, a move away has to be made quickly.
2. When sickness strikes a member of the band and persists for some time despite treatment, this means that an evil spirit haunts the area. The current location has to be abandoned quickly and a new one found as far away from it as possible.
3. When a child is born in the band, the Mani believe that the blood shed during birth causes sickness (especially "dead blood", meaning blood with a strong smell) (Mrs. Bah, 1992). The band will then move to a new location as soon as the new mother has regained her strength, 5-7 days after giving birth.
4. After an outsider (a non-Mani) has come to their village and asked for their child in a threatening manner. Such an event is considered a bad omen.
When the decision to move has been taken, the Mani help each other with packing and with carrying their possessions. The men are responsible for moving heavier items while the women look after lighter items and the children. Each owner carries his own blowpipe and other hunting implements. Smaller items (clothing, knives, salt, etc.) are carried in bags made of wrapped Pandanus-leaves, kajong. Lengths of rattan are tied to the bag so that it can be carried over the shoulders like a backpack.
In the old days before matches had reached the Mani, dry rattan rubbed on a piece of dry wood was used to make fire - a difficult undertaking. When moving camp, the Mani had to take a burning piece of wood along with them. During rains, the fire was sheltered with a cover of broad leaves sewn together. Today, the use of matches or cigarette-lighters has become widespread and firewood is no longer carried on moves (Mr. You, 1992). Immediately before setting out, parents rub ash from the extinguished camp fire onto the children's bodies and faces. This is to protect and hide the children from evil spirits during the move. The spirits, even if they do see the child, will not think it human. The Mani believe that if the spririts recognised a child as human, it would follow it and would later attack it at the new location.
The food eaten by the Mani is all found growing wild or living in the jungle - the Mani have no knowledge of agriculture and animal husbandry.
Vegetables form the staple diet, supplemented occasionally by meat after a successful hunt.
4.2.1. What is Eaten
Vegetables eaten by the Mani can be classified into two groups:
1. The staple diets of starchy foods are derived from plants of the yam family which have edible underground tubers. Investigation into the types of wild yams eaten by the Manis has revealed no less than 10 kinds as follows:
Ta Kobe is the most popular yam among the Mani because the yam has a firm texture when grilled, beside being more aromatic than other types.
2. Supplementary food items include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. We have been able to observe the following plants gathered by the Mani:
Vegetables (or Paak)
Beside these, many other kinds of vegetables are also eaten.
Beside these, many other types of fruits are also consumed.
Meat is not a staple of the Mani. It can be eaten only after a successful hunt &endash; which may not be for several days at a time.
Mammals hunted and eaten are
In addition to the mammals listed above, the Mani eat the meat of many other kinds of animals:
Reptiles that are hunted and eaten include lan (monitor lizard) and turtles, including the soft-shelled turtle.
Birds that are hunted and eaten are limited to relatively large species, such as the kaa bao, ka haang, ngeuk, chon hin, ka pood and koo ke birds.
Marine animals that are hunted and eaten include various species of fish found locally (such as the too nah, the nguad, and other fish).
Molluscs that are collected and eaten include the hoy loh and the hoy kaab.
Crustaceans such as fresh-water crabs are also collected and eaten.
4.2.2. Hunting and Gathering
The distribution of duties between the sexes among the Manias is as is commonly found in other hunting and gathering societies. Men hunt and are responsible for gathering fruits and vegetables and for digging up wild yams. Women are thought of as being inferior to men in hunting ability. They are, instead, responsible for looking after the children. Breastfeeding and pregnancies also do not allow long hunting trips to distant places.
Outsiders often think of the Mani as backward and uncivilised when it comes to food. Mani eat only well-cooked food; they abhor raw food. The Mani explain that "those who eat raw food are barbarians not friends" and "when the Thai villagers visit us and our children are afraid of the visiting grown-ups, we tell them to fear not, for the villagers eat cooked food just the way we do." In the old days when association with the Thai villagers was not as common or close as it is now, the Mani daily diet consisted of wild animals, fruit and vegetables.
The Mani used to have only one method of cooking but today they know know how to curry, boil, fry and roast in bamboo joints just like their Thai neighbours. No matter how many cooking methods the Mani have recently learnt, when they have successfully hunted an animal, they cook it the old-fashioned Mani way by simply throwing the meat into a fire. When they think that the meat is ready, they pull it out of the fire and eat it immediately. When "cooking" in this way, the animal is not skinned, but its hairs are merely scorched away. Before eating, the Mani are adept at removing the last remaining hairs. Next they cut open up the animal and share out the meat to every family (i.e. every hut). Usually they burn the meat in an open space, with all family members around the fire, waiting and eager to finish the food. Should there be leftovers, they will be shared out to every hut for later consumption. Mani do not normally store food to consume the following days. Instead they finish all available meat in one long feast and without wasting thought on whether food will be available the following days. As long as food is available, eating will continue until it is finished. The Mani enjoy their eating and they do not observe specified meal times. .
4.2.4. Food Sharing
In Mani society there is an amicability, a feeling of kindness among equals, sharing the results of hunts and other food among members of the group, regardless of who had caught or gathered the food and who had not. Those who have food willingly share with those who do not.
Food sharing has two aspects. "Immediate-Return Subsistence" is a production system that is found in ecosystems where food plants are abundant and hunting is possible throughout the year, as in a humid tropical climate. Human beings in this kind of environment need not worry much or often about food because it is naturally plentiful throughout the year in most years. In such societies, food sharing is an outstanding characteristic (ref. 8). "We cannot let others starve; if they find food, they will also share food with us. If we cannot find animals, they will give food to us." (December BE 2535 / AD1992). Observation of food-sharing among members of a group reveals that people gave others the best part of what they had caught or found. If the food was a hunted animal, they would share to others the meatiest portions. The hunters keep for themselves only the head and the back portions with the least meat on it. "We must share out to others the good cuts; when they give us, they will also give us the good cuts (Mr. You, of the "Above Khlong Tong River" Clan, BE 2535/AD 1992). Mr. Sung, a clan chief, also said that if someone caught animals and did not share them with others, after his death he would be reincarnated as a ka poh or a paeng tree (BE October 2534/AD 1991).
The Borlao blowpipe in the hands of a visiting western tourist, a spear in the hands of a Mani man.
Every adult male Mani man has his own personal hunting tools: the blowpipe borlao, the hunting spear and finishing pole (also known as lord pao, mai saang and touk dok among other Negrito people of the Malay peninsula). Unlike the blowpipe and the spear, the fishing pole is not an exclusive male prerogative.
4.3.1. Borlao - the Blowpipe
The blowpipe of the Mani (kra bork tud in Thai) has a mouthpiece made of wood and a "barrel" made of ong, thin stalks of a special bamboo. The Thais call this kind of bamboo mai pai saang ("blowpipe bamboo"). The borlao consists of an inner and an outer parts.
The outer part is a long, hollow bamboo cylinder with an interior diameter of about 2.5 cm (1 in.). It is made of 2 to 3 connecting parts (depending on the length of the bamboo stalks available) with a total length of about 2.5 m (a little more than 8 ft.). The junction between each section of bamboo is fastened and sealed by the sap of the ton sai tree or ton haan tree.
The inner part, or "barrel" proper, is made from the same kind of bamboo, with the same length as the outer part but with a smaller diameter. The inner part is inserted into the outer part. A piece of polished bamboo or wood is fastened to the lower end of the bamboo "barrel" to protect the mouth of the user and to funnel the burst of air blown into the "barrel" to propel the dart (bila).
The borlao is typical of the Mani, one might almost call it their 'trademark' tool. Some observers think that the Mani have invented this sophisticated tool (ref. 17) while others doubt it. The latter group think that bow-and-arrows (as among the Andamanese Negrito who do not know blowpipes ) are be a more likely weapon. It has also been pointed out that even though the Negritos have known for a long time how to use implements made from bamboo, but blowpipes especially are difficult to make without metal tools. There is no agreement to the origin of blowpipes, nor is it known who has first used blowpipes and when or where this might have been.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica (ref. 25) has the following to say on the subject of blowpipes (under "blowguns"):
Primarily for hunting, it is rarely used in warfare. Employed by Malaysians and other South East Asian aboriginals, in south India and Sri Lanka, in Madagascar, in northwest South America, in Central America north to central Mexico, among southeastern American Indians, and in Melanesia (rarely), it also may have been used prehistorically in the Antilles. Apparently invented by Malaysians (i.e. in the region of the Malay peninsula), blowguns were pre-Columbian in both hemispheres; whether their occurrence in the New World represents reinvention or introduction remains
The poisoned Bila darts
4.3.2. Bila - The Poison Dart of the Blowpipe
Bila is the ammunition of the blowpipe &endash; an arrow-like dart. It is made from a kind of palm wood which the Thai villagers call mai tao (Tao wood). To make a bila, a piece of mai tao wood of 30 cm (12 in.) length and a diameter of around 2.0 mm (1/16th in.) is cut and sharpened at one end. Counting from the sharp end 3 cm (1/8th in.) inwards, a cut is made so that when the dart is blown and impacts on an animal, it the end will break off and remain inside the animal. After making the cut, the dart is treated with fire to harden it. The other end of the bila is also sharpened and fitted with a conically shaped piece of Zalacca wood that fits precisely into the borlao barrel.
Before the dart is used, its tip is covered with a poison that will kill the animal. The poison, known to the Mani as ipoh, is derived from the saps of two kinds of nong trees (of the Moraceae family), and the bark of ton chon chaang (Chon Chaan tree, of the Strychnaceae family). The nong sap is mixed with the cho chaang bark in a ching leaf (a kind of palm), until a sticky, black mixture results. The poison is then smeared on the tip of the dart and left to dry before the dart is put in the quiver that the Mani call manneu.
4.3.3. Manneu - the Quiver for Keeping Darts
The dangerous poison darts need to be stored and this is done in a cylinder with ca. 12 cm (4-1/2 in.) diameter and a length of ca. 35 cm (13-1/2 in.). The cylinder is called manneu. Inside it are several holders, called holly, for encasing the darts, one holder for each dart. The holly are arranged along the inner wall of the manneu, leaving the middle portion for putting pui tao raang, a fluff affixed to the dart in the blowpipe to help it go further when blown.
4.3.4. Mai lua - the Digging Stick
The gathering of fruit and vegetables does not often require the use of a tool beyond the gatherers' own hands, but digging up yams does. For such work digging sticks called mai lua are used by Mani women. These wooden sticks are usually around 3-5 cm (1-1/8 - 2 in) thick and 50-60 cm (19-1/2 - 23-1/2 in) long.
From the 19th century onwards, a few researchers went to meet the Mani in their forests to record, among other things, the way the Mani dressed. These researchers included Karr and Seidenfaden (ref. 19) who wrote that the Mani men "wear underdrawers made of tree bark wrapped around the body with an end piece covering the front. Women wear short shirts made of grass or leaves." Prof. Duangjunt has interviewed Mr. Dub Sritharntoh (a former Mani chief in Yala Province) about Mani dress . He reports (ref.7) that "in the old days, Mani wore leaves and moss in the form of a sheet. Women wore skirts reaching down to the knees or half the thighs: they clothe their breasts or leave them bare. Men wear waist-to-knee-length garments that leave the upper body bare. Children wear nothing." Duangjunt added that this description agreed with the writings of John H. Brand who had noted, that "the dress of Negritos is made from materials obtainable from nature, including twigs and leaves which are woven into a fabric. Knee-length clothing is worn around the waist with the upper part of the body bare. Children, however, are naked."
In his book about the Mani (ref. 20), Thai king Rama V gives his account of Mani dress as follows: "men wear a piece of cloth covering the pubic area between the legs reaching from the front to the rear; this is called nung loh leah. The end of the cloth that suspends covers the frontal part is called kor loh. This type of dress resembles that of the Khmers at Wat Nakorn as they appear in stone carvings. The cloth may be used narrower or wider depending on what is available. A woman wears an inner underdrawer called jawad, featuring a waist-band; a piece of cloth strapped between the legs and around the outside waist. When cloth is scarce or unavailable, leaves are used; when cloth is available, a type called horly, wide or narrow, is used. The narrow cloth reaches just above the knees. Women have blankets called si bai, which seems to have been added to their dress only since closer association with (Thai) villagers developed" (ref. 20).
Mr. Sung, chief of the "Above Khlong Tong River" band has given us an account of Mani dress as follows: "... my father told me that in the past, Mani collected strips of tree barks like that of the sine tree to make clothing." (BE December 2535 / AD 1992). This agreed with the account of Grandma Pod Choo Nun who said that in World War II when clothing was scarce, some of the Mani soaked the bark of the sine tree in water, beat it until soft and then made it into trousers.
The Mani of today have growing contact with Thai villagers and their dress is modelled after that of Thai villagers. In Trang province in particular, Mani men wear pa tae sarongs or wear loin cloths and leave their upper body bare. Women also like to wear the same sarongs and a shirt. Children still go mostly naked. Young men and women dress in accordance with the latest fashion they see trendy young Thai villagers wearing, i.e. jeans, canvas shoes and sunglasses.
4.5. Medicine and Health Care
Despite growing outside influences, the Mani still lead lives close to nature. They not only get their food and housing materials from their forests, they also get their medicines from it.
King Rama V (ref. 20) notes some detail on Mani medical remedies. He wrote that "prevention of forest fever involves applying a white powder on chin, cheeks and forehead, or strapping a rope around the the neck." He also added that "the Mani wonder medicine which helps with child delivery. Mani experience many pregnancies, normally once a year. They have a herbal medicine that is much sought-after by Thais and Malays in the region. As for illnesses, the Mani do not use much medicine but they do use a sort of hydrotherapy and a fire therapy".
Based on our inquiries in 1992 we have found that the three Mani groups in Trang province use 18 kinds of herbs and four kinds of animals for medicinal purposes:
Collection of data on herbs used by the Mani was done in a limited time and is unlikely to be complete. We noted that not all Mani medicines have a Mani name; some are known only by their Thai name or by their medicinal properties.
The Mani know how to use plants growing in their jungle to cure a variety of diseases. They believe that the cause of disease is an evil spirit. Their medicines, therefore, work by driving out such spirits. The Mani believe that the same effect can also be accomplished by wearing hua plai or kled klin, or by smearing ash on the sufferer's body and face, or by doing the same to everybody involved before moving an entire village to a new location.
Today, the Mani are increasingly accepting new beliefs and values. Before setting out to hunt or to gather honey, for example, the hunter-gatherers now prefer to take stimulants as advertised on television, and when they become sick, they take modern medicines, rather than the herbs used by their ancestors. It is therefore all too likely that most of the traditional medical knowledge will vanish in the foreseeable future.
Chapter 5: Rites of Passage
The Mani social system does not accept incestuous relationships and is built on the principle of monogamy. When their children enter puberty, the parents build a new and separate hut for them to live in. A girl who has started menstruation is considered marriageable while a boy who has developed facial hair is said to be ready to take a wife.
The first steps towards selecting a partner among them Mani are left to the young people themselves. In the old days, a woman selected her marriage partner based primarily on the man's hunting prowess. Today, a woman tends to make her choice of a mate more on the basis of good looks and a modern style of dressing. A young man wearing sunglasses and jeans is considered more desirable than one not doing so.
However, young people cannot simply marry once they feel mutual affection for each other and declare their wish to become a couple. Before marriage and cohabitation is possible, a formal proposal has to be made and the consent of the girl's parents has to be sought. Should they oppose the union, the two young people cannot marry, no matter how much they love each other. In such a case, it would be considered bad form for the young man to show his annoyance at the decision of the girl's parents.
5.1.1. Marriage Proposal
When a couple has fallen in love, a marriage proposal follows when the man asks for the woman from her parents. In Trang Province in 1991 we have been able to record a marriage proposal among Mani. Mr. You, son of Mr. Sung of the Above Tong River Clan went to ask for Ms. Theng, daughter of Mr. Kai of the Jaopha Clan. Mr. You, the would-be groom, personally asked for the would-be bride in a rather informal proposal in which Mr. You simply told Mr. Kai that he loved Ms. Teng and that he would like to marry her. The father of the would-be bride consented and thereby finalised the marriage proposal ceremony. Later inquiry from Mr. Leh and Mr. You on the discussion between Mr. You and Mr. Kai revealed the following approximation of the dialogue:
Mr. You: "Mr. Kai, I have come to ask for your daughter to be my wife."
Mr. Kai: "Which daughter are you referring to?"
Mr. You: "I am asking for Theng to marry me."
Mr. Kai: "And do you love her?"
Mr. You: "Yes I do. That is why I come to ask for her."
Mr. Kai: "But you are not to mistreat her."
Mr. You: "No, I will not. I shall not harm her. I am taking her to live with me."
Mr. Kai: "In that case, I agree. I shall give my daughter to be your wife. But does she know about this?"
Mr. You: "Yes, I have told her about this."
As told by Mrs. Bah, mother of Mr. You, in old days when monkeys and langurs where readily available, the parents of the bride used to ask the groom's side for a dowry in the form of a specified number of monkeys and langurs for the groom to hunt and catch. Later in the proceedings, he would be helping to eat his catch at his own marriage feast. In the case of Mr. You, the groom and the bride went ahead to live together first and later, after having found the required langurs, they called the woman's parents and relatives to join in a delayed wedding party.
For the marriage party, both bride and groom don their most beautiful dress. Relatives of both sides sit in front of the couple as they tell them to live well together and not to fight. After this session of matrimonial advice, all start eating the monkeys and langurs the groom has provided, leaving no leftovers. A few days later, relatives of the bride say their farewells and go back to their own homes.
To the Mani, a pregnant woman is a person of great importance. Once a woman is known to have conceived, she will not be allowed to engage in heavy work. As here time for delivery draws closer, the group's care for her intensifies.
Shortly before the baby is due, the husband goes into the forest to look for a herb called tum toke that eases delivery. He then prepares and administers the herb on instructions from his wife. During this period, the women of the community sit near the hut where the pregnant woman lives, waiting and ready to help. Supervising the delivery is the duty of a female elder, generally the wife of the clan chief. During delivery, the woman in charge runs her hand over the stomach of the birthing woman. If the birth is difficult, she makes the mother-to-be chew more tum toke and sprinkles water on her while reciting incantations, until the baby is delivered. Occasionally, the husband helps in the delivery, as we could observe in 1991, in the case of Mr. Chai who helped his wife, Mrs. Wah. If the husband does not know how to help in the delivery, he will instead offer assistance nearby, e.g. in taking care of the fire, in bringing water and in going to fetch the medicines required. When the baby has arrived, the senior woman uses a thin slice of bamboo to sever the umbilical cord and will hold the baby until until he afterbirth has been disposed of. She also washes and dries the new-born baby. At the same time, it is the husband's duty to bury the afterbirth in a hole in the ground, ca. 50 cm (20 in.) deep, that he had dug up earlier for the purpose.
5.2.2. Post-delivery Nursing
The Mani believe that loss of blood from the delivery lowers the mother's body temperature. Thus, after giving birth, the mother has to remain by a fire tended by her husband. Should the woman feel pain, a coconut sized stone is fire-heated and wrapped in a piece of cloth and is placed on her body to warm the painful body parts. Throughout the time when the mother is near the fire, she has to take boiled herbs to control blood pressure and "nourish her blood". It is her husband's duty to collect and store these herbs known as ching dok diao, fai doen kong and khun senah before delivery. The three ingredients are boiled together and drunk in hot water as a kind of tea.
During this time, the mother is prevented from eating certain meats, such as monkeys, langurs and baboons as these are considered to have a "hot" property that could increase her blood pressure. The new mother is allowed to eat fish and vegetables only. Her time of having to be near a fire s normally lasts about about 7 days. When she is strong enough tor travel, the family abandons camp and moves to a new place to live. It is believed that the blood shed during the delivery of a baby, after some days days, will bring illness to people living near it.
The mother pays close attention to her baby at all times. Initially it is breast-fed, but after 4-6 months, the mother feeds her child with honey, believing that honey helps digestion. Feeding the baby with honey is called beukpaak.
Still later, the child's parents start feeding their baby with more grown-up foods, such as pre-chewed, burned potatoes or yam, the daily staple of Mani diet. The mother takes the inside of a burned tuber and blows on it to cool it down. She then chews it to a mash and feeds it to the infant. During this period, the mother will alternate between feeding the baby with pre-chewed tubers and breast-feeding. Women have a duty to go into the forest in search of potatoes suitable for babies. As soon as the mother is healthy and strong enough, she returns to her usual duties around the village. When searching for food in the forest, she takes her new-born along with her. The baby is placed in a sling made of a loin-cloth and held around her neck and nestling safely on mother's chest.
When not out hunting and while the mother is cooking, fathers will also look after babies. Childcare among the Mani involves holding the baby to one's chest while embracing it. Holding a baby in this way may be in imitation of the behaviour of whose young always cling to their mothers' chests. Mani babies are also protected from the harm threatened by evil spirits by the placing of a hua plai or kled un around the their necks. Other possible protective ornaments and amulets include turtle shell cut into squares and small animal bones with a hole pierced for a piece of string.
According to refs. 3 and 7, the Mani bury their dead. However, in our study of the Mani in Trang Province, burial of the dead is not practiced. Instead, we found cremation of the dead together with their worldly possessions. We also found that this practice is firmly rooted in the Mani belief system.
When a clan member dies, no matter from what causes, the hut in which the dead person had lived will be closed with leaves. Sometimes a new hut is built specially to receive the body. Once the deceased has been placed in the hut with his or her personal possessions, the hut is closed on all sides with leaves and then set on fire. After the cremation, the members of the village will at once abandon their village and move to a new location. Before they do so, they will tell the corpse: "Don't follow us. You stay on your own here and we on our own. You and we cannot stay together." When moving away, they will keep looking back in the belief that the dead in the form of an evil spirit would otherwise follow them.
On our question as to why the Mani do not bury the dead we were told the following. "If we buried the dead and anyone walked over the corpse, it would be a sin. Also, we do not know whether a buried dead has died or not". The Mani believe that in the case of a "real death", bones will be left behind while in the case of an "unreal death", no bones are left behind. In "unreal death", the dead is believed to have gone in the direction of Wan to return to his/her mother (see following Chapters 6 and 7). If death is "real" and bones are left behind, the dead person will continue to reside in this world among big trees, but he or her will do so as an evil spirit.
Uncle Vivhien Puksee, a Klang villager of Tambon Lamkrang, Palean district, Trang Province, told us that in the early 1980s there was a Mani, a sibling of Mrs. Bah, who was running away from an elephant when he fell into a fireplace and seriously injured himself. The clan members tried to nurse the man back to health but he could not be cured. As his condition worsened, the band decided that they could not continue to support him since they would all starve otherwise. So they all moved to a new place, leaving the sick man behind. Before departing, they left some food for him and told him: "You stay here for the time being; if you get better, then follow us." The patient died there, alone. About four months later, clan members came back to find the man's bones. They concluded that he had had a "real death." Until today, the Mani have never lived there again, believing that the dead man was still haunting the place of his death (told by Mr. Vivhien Puksee, BE 2534 / AD 1991).
Chapter 6: Language
This chapter was completely written by George Weber. It replaces the very short chapter supplied by Suvat Thonghom.
6.1. The Austro-Asiatic Language Family
The Mani differ from their Thai and Malay neighbours not only in looks, dress, customs, beliefs and way of life, but also in their language. The Mani language is called Tonga' (or Mos) and belongs to the Aslian branch within the Mon-Khmer group of languages within the Austro-Asiatic language family. This family is sometimes grouped with other language families in the Austric phylum, although this highest-level grouping is not universally accepted among linguists.
Many of the linguistic groups to which Tonga' belongs show a scattered, irregular distribution over a wide area. Just like Tonga' itself, most are minority languages spoken by a variety of groups and grouplets. Only three members of the phylum are official languages of their respective countries (we disregard the Austronesian languages here): Thai (Siamese), Vietnamese and Khmer (Cambodian).
The geographical pattern of many languages in Southeast Asia is thought to represent the remnants of many waves of prehistoric migrations inside and into the area. Genetic and dental studies of minority groups on the Malay peninsula have brought to light an enormously complicated pattern that has yet to be interpreted (refs. Refs. 26, 27). The distribution of languages no doubt reflect the same prehistoric complexities.
The most likely scenario at our present state of knowledge is that today's speakers of Aslian- and Andamanese languages represent the descendants of the first modern humans to arrive in the area. Whether they replaced or grew out of a pre-existing Homo erectus population is a question that cannot be answered yet. Nor is there any evidence to indicate how many waves of migration into the area there may have been over the immense time spans before the end of the pleistocene epoch 10,000 years ago. Genetic evidence indicates that the Negrito on the Andaman islands have lived relatively isolated in the area for between 60,000 and 30,000 years (see our Chapter 6 on this web-site).
For a discussion of the overall linguistic evidence see N. Burenhult's work "Deep Linguistic Prehistory with particular reference to Andamanese" in our Reprint section). The original Negrito languages (of which Andamanese is thought to be the only remaining survivor) have long since vanished from mainland Asia. Only a few controversial terms among Malaysian and Philippine groups may possibly have survived. Whether the Mani preserve such terms in their language is not known. In other Aslian languages, only a statistically unsatisfactory number of similar lexical items have been found. As Burenhult notes in his "Linguistic Aspects of the Semang", the 'Proto-Negrito Hypothesis' must be regarded as highly uncertain. The continued existence of the Andamanese language family, however, does seem to indicate that there once were original Negrito languages differing profoundly from any of the languages now spoken on mainland Asia.
After the Negrito, the next wave of migrants to arrive on the Malay peninsula were speakers of Mon-Khmer languages coming most likely from southwestern China. It was the Mon-Khmer who first introduced agriculture and pottery to the area around 7,500 to 4,000 years ago. The Negrito remained hunter-gatherers but in the course of the millennia lost heir original languages and adopted the Mon-Khmer languages of their neighbours - they still speak these languages today. Next to arrive were the Proto-Malays from the north around 4,500 years ago. More than two thousand years later, the "new" Malays arrived in a sea-borne migration from China (most probably via coastal Borneo). Miao-Yao speakers also moved into Indochina from southern China and the last wave of migration around 1,000 years ago, brought the ancestors of today's Thais from southwestern China into large parts of Indochina and the northern parts of the peninsula. Throughout the millennia there were also migrations into Southeast Asia from India, including people displaced by the Aryan invasion of India starting around 3,500 years ago.
This sequence is no doubt oversimplifying a very complex reality. It is likely that after the end of the pleistocene, perhaps from around 8,000 years ago, the Negrito living on the Malay peninsula faced an ever-growing influx of migrants from virtually all directions. That a few Negrito groups have managed to retain their physical, cultural and even linguistic identities under such circumstances and over such time spans is nothing short of miraculous.
The lists below and the map of the Mon-Khmer languages above follow ref. 21, 23 and 24.
Numbers in parentheses refer to the number of languages in a class; bold denotes classifications that include Tonga (also known as Mos), the language of the Thai Mani people. Italic type denotes individual languages.
The Austric language phylum (languages of the Austronesian sub-group are not shown here)
The red frame marks the location of the Mani
The lists below and the map of the Mon-Khmer languages above follow ref. 21 for the higher level classifications and ref. 24 for the classification of the Aslian group.
Numbers in parentheses refer to the number of languages in a group; bold denotes groupings of languages, italic denotes individual languages. Red denotes groupings that include the Mani language as well as the Mani language itself.
AUSTRIC phylum (1,175 languages; 300,000,000 speakers)
I. MIAO-YAO family (4 languages; 6,000,000 speakers)A. MIAO group (1 language; 5,000,000 speakers)
6.2. The Mon-Khmer Group
MON-KHMER group (138)
NORTHERN sub-group (43)KHASI branch (2)
6.3. The Aslian branch
The classification of the Aslian branch is controversial and several quite different systems are currently employed by linguists. We show only that of Wurm and Hattory here (ref. 24).
The number of speakers are taken from a variety of sources, most of them dating to the 1970s.
ASLIAN branch (42,000 speakers)
JEHAIC (Northern Aslian) sub-branch (3,000 speakers)TONGA (MOS) (300 speakers)
6.4 Burenhult's "Linguistic Aspects of the Semang"
For details on the Aslian language group (including Tonga'), its distribution, socio-linguistic situation, vocabulary, phonology, morphology and syntax refer to N. Burenhult's article "Linguistic Aspects of the Semang" (ref. 22). and to his thesis of 2001 "A grammar of Jahai" Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Lund University: Department of Linguistics (likely to appear in 2004).
6.5 Tonga - the Mani Language
During millennia of contact with neighbours, the Mani language has adopted a number of Thai and Malay loan words. That the dominant languages, on the other hand, have not adopted Mani loan words in return does tell us something about the social status of the aboriginal populations in relation to the later arrivals.
The two areas of Tonga'-speaking Mani are circled in red: to the north there are the Mani of Trang province who live in the hilly area straddling the border between Trang and Phattalung province and who are at the centre of Suvat Thonghom's article reproduced here. Further south are the very similar Tonga'-speaking Satun Mani on the border to Malaysia.
Information on the precise geographical location of Tonga'-speakers has been taken from ref. 24.
The provinces of southern Thailand are coloured as
In addition to the tribal Mani groups speaking the Tonga' language of Trang and Satun provinces, there are scattered Mani individuals and families in most of the southern Thai provinces. These are people who have more or less integrated into general Thai, do not live as hunter-gatherers anymore and have abandoned the Tonga' language. No hard information about them, their numbers and whereabouts is available at the present time.
There is also said to be at least one small nomadic Negrito group speaking Jahai (Yah Hiye) in Narathiwat province. Most Jahai-speakers live in Malaysia. Nothing more is known of or about the Thai Jahais.
Just how much still remains to be learnt about the Thai Mani is illustrated by the following additional comments:
1. Tonga' and Mos: most works of reference (e.g. refs. 21, 24, 28) mention Mos as a synonym for Tonga', taking for granted that Tonga' is the language of both the Trang and Satun Mani. Our text follows this convention. However: Dr. Burenhult (who has done field work on Aslian languages, especially Jahai, in Malaysia) in a personal communication to George Weber thinks that this may not in fact be so. He said that "on Tonga' and Mos, I think these are definitely two different varieties of Northern Aslian in southern Thailand. I have heard Mos used as a sub-ethnonym of Kensiw ("Kensiew Mos") from at least one Jahai consultant, and the Jahai sometimes speak of the TungE' people, although they cannot really elaborate on where they live."
2. Suvat Thonghom, the author of this article had a very short chapter on the Mani language in his original manuscript. Most of its original content was lost beyond recovery in translation and had to be dropped. However, in his chapter Suvat Thonghom supplied the following enigmatic list of languages (for "Sakais" read "Mani"):
The Sakai language in Thailand consists of four language categories as follow:
a. Kan Sieu, a language of the Sakais living around Yala province
b. Tan Ann, a language of the Sakais around the provinces of Satun and Pattalung
c. Tae Die, a language of the Sakais around Reu Soh District, Narathiwat Province
d. Yah Hiye, a language of the Sakais around Wang district, Narathiwat Province
Dr. Burenhult was also intrigued by this list and has commented on it as follows on 10th March 2004:
a. Kan Sieu: certainly the same as Kensiw (Kansiu). This term is sometimes used to denote just one group on the border between Malasia and Thailand (the main settlement in Malaysia is Lubok Legong, near Baling/Kedah, ca. 250 speakers), but sometimes it seems to denote various groups in southern Thailand. Christian Bauer, for example, uses it for groups in Trang, too.
b. Tan Ann: this is Ten'en, one of the northern (Thai) groups but I am not sure if it is the Trang or the more southerly Satun one or both. I have spoken to Kensiw people in Malaysia who have met them, and they claim that they cannot understand their language.
c. Tae Die: never heard of this. It sounds interesting and I will pursue this further.
d. Yah Hiye: certainly the same as Jahai. Most Jahai are on the Malaysian side of the border (ca. 1,000 speakers) and a small and still nomadic group is said to live in Narathiwat province in Thailand.
Your editor just notes here that in an article dealing mostly with the Mani of Trang province, it is odd to find four provinces mentioned in Mr. Thonghom's list - but not Trang. However, since some of the Trang Mani also live in Pattalung province and since Dr. Burenhult identifies Tan Ann with the Mani of Thailand, we can perhaps identify Tan Ann with the Trang Mani and assign the language Tonga' to them. This would leave Mos as the name for the language of the Satun Mani.
Chapter 7: Beliefs
The Mani have a number of beliefs about ghosts and spirits and regard illness as caused by spirits.
7.1 Beliefs about the Environment
- When there is a death in the community, the people must move to a new and distant place.
- The blood shed during the delivery of a baby causes illness. "Dead blood" (which smells bad) has greater potential of causing illness than "undead blood" (which is fresh blood that does not yet smell bad). The group that has had a baby born into it must move to a new place before the blood is "dead".
- If Mani walk past a place that make their hair stand on end or that make them feel uncomfortable, then they cannot settle there. They consider the place haunted by an evil spirit.
- Places where no young trees grow are unfit for settlement because a spirit lives there.
- Areas with dark-coloured termite hills cannot be inhabited by Mani because the dark colour indicates the presence of evil spirits there.
- Living in a place where a person has died is prohibited because the spirit of the dead would bring sickness to the people living there.
- Places where children are crying, are shocked or ill, must be abandoned because a spirit might have been following the group when it moved there.
7.2. Beliefs about Hygiene, Health and Sanitation
- Itches and pain result fom attacks by an evil spirit.
- Stagnant water along waterways (called "dead water") is unfit for consumption since it can cause illness,
- Hua Plai keeps spirits from disturbing humans.
- Sleeping with the head higher than the feet is healthy.
- Excreting into waterways and canals is sinful.
- Walking over edibles and food is sinful.
- A sore throat is the result of a spirit "fishing in the neck".
7.3. Beliefs in Natural Phenomena
In a distant land, named Wan Auck, there lives the Mani moon goddess, Yah Ngoh, wife of Wan (the sun). She has given birth to the first pair of human beings, to animals and to plants. The first human and animal couple is called the "Original Father and Mother".
In Mani belief, Wan Auck is full of colonies of bees ruled by the goddess who used her bees' wax to construct her throne. There is also a river in Wan Auck with a never-ending flow of water, the origin of all waterways. Yah Ngoh also has a favourite animal, resembling an enormous snake with a green back and a red stomach, Hung (the rainbow). Yah Ngoh is overflowing with mercy towards all the creatures on earth, whether they be animals, human beings or plants, because these creatures all are descendants of the Original Father and Mother created by her. Every night, without exception, she notices the whereabouts of all earthly creatures.
Story no. 1 Where do they go after Death?"
After death, everyone has to return to Wan Auck to find the Original Father and Mother. This belief has prevented the Mani from burying their dead. People buried cannot return to the Original Father and Mother, while cremating them allows them to do so. If a dead person has left no bones (i.e. suffered an "unreal death"), he or she has returned to Yah Ngoh. On the other hand, people who have suffered a "real death" and have left their bones behind will become evil spirits, residing among trees and making living people sick. Because of this belief, the Mani tell their descendants before their death "if I die, bury me not" (reported by Mr. Sung: BE 2534 / AD 1991).
Story no. 2: "How does the Waxing and Waning Moon come about?"
After the Mani goddess Yah Ngoh had given birth to the father and mother of every creature, she still had worries about the happiness on earth of her children. Thus, every night, Yah Ngoh observes human beings, animals and plants on earth everywhere. The full moon we see is the Mani Goddess looking straight at us. After looking at us, she gradually turns towards other directions as we see when the moon becomes a crescent. The new moon is when Yah Ngoh turns her back towards us and looks in the opposite direction. She then turns slowly towards us again and so the cycle goes on (reported by Mr. Sung: BE 2534 / AD 1991).
Story no. 3 "Where does the Rainbow come from?"
Yah Ngoh's favourite animal is Hung, the rainbow. It resembles a snake, has a green back and a red stomach and it is very big indeed. No one has ever seen its face. Yah Ngoh has given Hung the responsibility of helping her bees find their food and so it gathers the bees and takes them to the forest in search of food, especially during rains. Hung itself feeds on water. Since there is not enough water for it in Wan Auck, it finds its food also in dark caves, too. The Hung we see in stripes in the sky is only the part that is towards its tail-end.
Story no. 4 "How do Day and Night come about?"
Hung, the Mani Goddess's favourite animal, shows strange behaviour: every day it must slowly swallow its tail and then gradually spit it out again before once more swallowing it - forever. As Hung swallows its tail, the whole of the sky and earth darkens, but as it slowly spits it out again, daylight starts. When it has spit out the whole tail, it is dawn. Starting at noon, it gradually swallows its tail, bringing on darkness. This is how day and night come to be (reported by Mr. Sung: BE 2534 / AD 1991).
Story no. 5 "How are Rain and Thunder caused?"
In Wan Auck, beside the bee-wax throne of the Yah Ngoh is a river with water flowing forever. When the wind blows hard, the river will burst its banks or boil up, causing it to strike against the waxy throne from where it thunderously splashes across the country as rain (reported by Mr. Sung: BE 2534 / AD 1991).
Story no. 6 "Why do the Mani have Black Skins and Curly Hair?"
Once, in ancient time, there was a fire that spread and made people and animals to flee for their lives. Those who did not flee were consumed by it. Of those who could save their lives, some were scorched but did not die. They fled into the forest together with many animals such a langurs, chamois, deers and many others. Humans and animals alike were scorched and have been of a dark colour every since. The fire not only caused the Mani to have a dark skin but it also caused their hair to be curly (reported by Mr. Sung: BE 2534 / AD 1991).
Story no. 7 "Why do certain Plants have Leaves shaped like Human Fingers?"
In the old days there was a group of Mani who were very selfish. They did not share their food with others and just took the food found by other Mani by force and ate it all, leaving nothing or very little. This caused hardship for the people in general. When the Mani of the selfish group died, they were reincarnated as plants with leaves shaped like human fingers. These plants include poh (kapoh), peng, kanamsua and chid, all of which used to be Mani persons (reported by Mr. Sung: BE 2534 / AD 1991).
Author Suvat Thonghom added the following remarks to
his original manuscript: The "Yah Ngoh" that appears in the tale of the Mani is
the supreme being in Mani mythology, a moon goddess with
much power and names the creator and originator of
everything: "Yah Ngoh gave birth to the Original Father and
Mother of every creature living on this earth." This means
that before humans, animals or various plants existed, Yah
Ngoh first gave birth to the father and mother of these
creatures. The term Yah could refer to a highly
powerful position as does the term Payah or
Prayah. However, the word was called out in the
speech style of the Southerners who tend to call things with
short names. For instance, Southerners call the city of
Nakorn Sithammarat as Korn City or Pattalung City as Lung
City. On the other hand, "Yah" could be associated with the
spiritual matter or vinh yahn (the soul) with
mysterious powers. Mani society believes in spirits who are
thought to come in four types: Category 1 is called Yah, the essence of life, the
spirit that has departed from the body of the dead. Category 2 is called Robe, what we Thais call
Jettapuht, the spirit that roams out of the body
during sleep. Category 3 is called Semang Ngad, a kind of spirit
which a person of an appropriate knowledge about ghost
calling can summon to reside in a human being causing the
person to be possessed or fall in love with someone. Category 4 is called Badee, what we Thais call
Prang Kwan, which come from various animals. (Phra Juljomklao Jaoyouhua, Prabath Somdej; BE 2512 / AD
1969). Of the two possible explanations mentioned above on the
origin and meaning of "Yah", in my opinion the second
explanation is more likely to be correct. If the word "Yah"
actually refers to "vinh yahn" as postulated, then the term
thne term could then be a reference to the Creator.
Author Suvat Thonghom added the following remarks to his original manuscript:
The "Yah Ngoh" that appears in the tale of the Mani is the supreme being in Mani mythology, a moon goddess with much power and names the creator and originator of everything: "Yah Ngoh gave birth to the Original Father and Mother of every creature living on this earth." This means that before humans, animals or various plants existed, Yah Ngoh first gave birth to the father and mother of these creatures. The term Yah could refer to a highly powerful position as does the term Payah or Prayah. However, the word was called out in the speech style of the Southerners who tend to call things with short names. For instance, Southerners call the city of Nakorn Sithammarat as Korn City or Pattalung City as Lung City. On the other hand, "Yah" could be associated with the spiritual matter or vinh yahn (the soul) with mysterious powers. Mani society believes in spirits who are thought to come in four types:
Category 1 is called Yah, the essence of life, the spirit that has departed from the body of the dead.
Category 2 is called Robe, what we Thais call Jettapuht, the spirit that roams out of the body during sleep.
Category 3 is called Semang Ngad, a kind of spirit which a person of an appropriate knowledge about ghost calling can summon to reside in a human being causing the person to be possessed or fall in love with someone.
Category 4 is called Badee, what we Thais call Prang Kwan, which come from various animals.
(Phra Juljomklao Jaoyouhua, Prabath Somdej; BE 2512 / AD 1969).
Of the two possible explanations mentioned above on the origin and meaning of "Yah", in my opinion the second explanation is more likely to be correct. If the word "Yah" actually refers to "vinh yahn" as postulated, then the term thne term could then be a reference to the Creator.
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About this Text and Persons Interviewed 1995
About this text
This article was written by Mr. Suvat Thonghom, teacher in Saparachinee School, Trang, Thailand, in April 1992.
The text was edited /expanded by George H.J. Weber, president of The Andaman Association, Switzerland in 2003/2004 for the Internet and enlarged with a link to Dr. N. Burenhult' article on the Aslian language group to which the Mani Language belongs. See Editor's notes at the beginning of the chapter.
About the book
Budget: The Provincial Administrative Organization, Trang Province. Proceeding: Provincial Office of Trang province. Tel. (075) 218516, 220015.
Collating and original editing: The Thanvela Co. Ltd. Tel. (02) 531 2867. First print: 2.000 copies in April 1995.
Every page of the book is printed in two columns: one containing the text in Thai, the other in English.
Because the article is now out of print, the author has decided to make the text accessible to many more people, permission has been given to edit and publish his article on the world wide web through Mr. Martin Parchner of Austria at martin.parchner©gmx.at
The author's last known address in 2002 has been:
Mr. Suvat Thonghom
59 Mou 4
Ampor Muang Trang
Mani persons interviewed
Mrs. Bah, (wife of the leader of the "Above Tong River band"), 30th December 1992.
Mr. You, (a Mani of the "Above Tong River band"), 30th December 1992
Mr. Vivhien Puksee (villager of Klang Village in Village Number 4 of Palian Subdistrict in Palian District, Trang Province), 29th December 1991.
Mr. Sung, (leader of the "Above Tong River band"), 30th December 1992
Mr. Loh, (leader of "Hindaeng River band"), 12th October 1991 and 31st December 1992.
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Last change 1 February 2006