The Laos Thais (or Laos Loum of The Low Lands) represent 75% of the population of Laos, and encompass 23 ethnical groups.
The term "Thai", given to the people of Siam, the Shans Birmans and Laos, marks an alleged superiority of this ethnical group which dominated the region of Siam since the beginning of the 2° millennium. They are mainly Buddhists of a Theravada tendency (small vehicle) with shades of animism, a religion completely shared by all the inhabitants up until the XVth century.
Numerous ethnical subdivisions exist; they all have the particularity of being sedentary:
- The Thais Dam (literally the "Black Thais") in the North
- The Thais Khao (the "White Thais") also in the North, on the Tonkin border
- The Thais Phong, around Sam Neua
- The Thais Lu in the region of Muong Sin, on the Chinese border to the North West
- The Yon in the Upper Mekong
- The Laos Chau (also called Nu’a) in the South of Laos
- The Ngai, who came from the Menan Valley
- The Nio, who came from the Shans states, and are to the north of Ban Houessai
The costumes of each ethnical group varies. In the past, Laotians were tattooed from the knee to the navel, the stomach, or even the chest or arms according to their ethnical group.
Most of the villages (bans) on the plain live autonomously. Each inhabitant chooses a chief according to his competences and problems are normally solved by the villagers themselves.