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The Kui Elephant Handlers

Listed under Traditional Cultures in Cambodia.

  • Photo of The Kui Elephant Handlers
  • Photo of The Kui Elephant Handlers
  • Photo of The Kui Elephant Handlers
Photo of The Kui Elephant Handlers
Photo by flickr user babasteve
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The Kui, also known as the Kuy, Kuay, Kaa, Suay or Suei depending on the region in which they live, are Mon-Khmer natives living in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. With no written form of the language the Kuy have a verbal tradition of preserving their culture and traditions, passing down skills and beliefs to their youngers. They are reputed to have an intimate knowledge of local plants, which is used for healing and medicinal purposes .

The Kui mostly practiced animism, or the belief that all things are inhabited by a soul, and although some have now converted to strict Buddhism or Christianity, many have combined animism and Buddhism to create a unique set of beliefs- many traditional Kui villages will have both a 'Wat' (or Buddhist temple) as well as a spirit shrine.

The Kui are rice-farming people also known for their iron-working and blacksmithing skills. Many Kuy women raise silkworms and weave fabric. They also have a reputation as great elephant trainers and handlers (and in the past, hunters) whom they use to clear land and move timber. The Kui are active in the Surin Elephant Round-up, an event held every November which includes a man vs. elephant tug-of-war, football match, and elephant procession.

Written by  Amber Due.

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