An Arranged Wedding to Promote Thai Jungle Tourism

(The following is a brief Thai>English translation from various local news sources)

At 10 in the morning of 24 September, Mr Sanan, administrative chief of Phatthalung province was in charge of perhaps the first ever televised wedding between endangered Sakai people. The Sakai is an indigenous tribe who live in the deep southern jungles of Phatthalung, Trang and Satun. Most of whom are illiterate and can not even comprehend the Thai southern dialect. In fact, their language is closer to Malay and Thai Sea Gypsy than standard Thai. The Sakai are hunters and instead of rice, yam is their stable diet. They are seldom seen outside of their jungles.

Back to the story. The local tourism board of Phatthalung thought it would be a grand idea to arrange and promote such a rare wedding and so invited a whole bunch of respected local officials and 400 tourists to enjoy the festivities. 54 Sakai tribal people from neighbouring Trang and Satun provinces were also invited.

In the morning, the atmosphere was tense as the bridegroom Mr Aitaoyao (age approx. 35) was led by a local village headman and other respected state officials to nearby Papong village to ask for the hand of his wife-to-be Ms Binla (age approx 18). As the groom’s procession went along there was great frenzy. On arrival at the wedding ceremony, everyone was able to witness the bridegroom making a dowry offering of two pieces of traditional red Sakai cloth, a cow and some local fruits.

All the locals, tourist and relatives and friends of the couple were invited to join in the wedding ceremony. Mr Sanan the administrative chief, next finalized the marriage by putting a crown of red flowers over the heads of the happy couple and gave them each a nice official marriage certificate.

Before the wedding, however, the couple had already been living together as boyfriend/girlfriend, but with the opportunity to boost tourism in Phatthalung province, a proper traditional Sakai marriage was arranged.

11 responses to “An Arranged Wedding to Promote Thai Jungle Tourism

  1. The evilness of the local tourism board of Phatthalung has no boundaries. Let’s get more tourist to our province and send them into the jungle, looking for the new ‘hill-tribe’.
    Eventually more ‘business’ man will come and destroy the natural beauty of Phatthalung, including the jungle where those poor people live.
    Am I to sceptical? Let’s hope so.

    By the way, Stephen, thank you for bringing the Sakai to my attention. I’d never thought there were ‘hidden’ tribes in Thailand. Like to read more about this subject.

  2. Richard Barrow

    The following is the link for the CH.7 news video of the wedding that Steve talked about in his blog:…&p=376&d=49231

  3. That’s really quite sad for the tourist industry to sink so low. Btw, the girl looks somewhat younger than 18, but then that’s also normal in Thai culture.

  4. Going on from what Leosia mentioned, the bride certainly looks younger than her 18 years. I mentioned 18 as another couple of reports stated 17. Perhaps she was in her 18th year, as that’s how many Thais actually work out their age. Anyway, i do hope this blog provides some awareness about this very forgotten tribal of southern Thailand. Richard has posted more info and pics of the Sakai over at

  5. I thought the bride was 13

  6. =( I thought she is a child (below 12 years old) as her height and body shape (appears to me that she has more of a child-like, pre-puberty chubby appearance than a more matured, pubertal woman’s body curves – and I don’t mean anything obscene.

  7. Sounds like another great opportunity to make a human zoo. Thai domestic tourists will love it.

  8. These people should be left in peace-little wonder the rest of the group has moved elsewhere-hopefully far away from government bureaucrats.

  9. All these people passing judgment. Yep, you know best.

  10. T’was always thus!

    Think of the human zoos in the hills around Chiang Mai,particularly the ‘long necks’. Trouble is, it does provide them with a living.

    By coincidence I’ve just posted a blog about hunter gatherers and the Sakai (a disparaging term… they prefer Orang Asli which means the original people). I met them in the Maayan jungle and they were truly delightful.

    You can find the story on

  11. they don’t look very happy. :p