Aboriginals in Southeast Asia: Back From Africa

Aboriginals in Trang, Thailand

Aboriginals in Trang, Thailand

Unbeknownst to most casual tourists, there is an entire race of people in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia that predate the predominant Thais, Burmese, Vietnamese, Mons, Khmers, Malays, and Austronesians who now call it home, but who have been there for only 4-5000 years—or less in the latter case. Since these newcomers have been there the least amount of time in the Pacific, the kinky-haired dark-skinned aboriginal people are well-represented today by Papuans, Timorese, Philippine ‘negritos’ and mixed-race (my theory) Melanesians.

On the mainland, though, they can be hard to find, and are something of a rural legend akin to believing in ghosts. They really exist, though, and comprise the groups such as the Mlabri in north Thailand and the Sakai and other ‘orang asli‘ down south and in Malaysia. No ‘hill-tribes’ in north or central SE Asia fall into this category. The ones I found in Trang, Thailand, were selling medicinal herbs in the market; brings tears to my eyes. I wish I had some pain to see if they work. Wait a minute…

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