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.

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