DNA Links Northeastern Proto-Thais to Southern China

An undated photo of people dancing in Bueng Kan province.
An undated photo of people dancing in Bueng Kan province.

BANGKOK — New DNA tests show that prehistoric Thais in the northeast came from southern China, while Mon and Khmer people inhabited that region prior to their arrival.

Confirming what had been understood for the first time through DNA testing, Thammasat University Professor Samerchai Poonsuwan presented the test results Monday. The professor of sociology and anthropology and his team analyzed prehistoric bones found in northeastern Thailand and compared them to Thai-speaking people in southern China.

Results showed that the ancient Thais shared DNA with people in southern China, contradicting early history texts that claimed they had traveled south from the Altai mountain range in Central Asia around the borders of Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

While the theory has long been discredited, the DNA results offered the first scientific proof of the theory of Chinese provenance.

“We took skeletons of prehistoric people in the northeast that are about 2,000 to 3,000 years old and extracted their DNA for the first time,” he said. “Twenty-six samples of 100 were taken from the Moon River basin area. The DNA links show they likely came from the south of China not long ago.”

He said they arrived to the area after it had been populated by other groups.

The earlier inhabitants, Samerchai said, were Austro-Asiatic speaking people such as Mon and Khmer who predated the migration from Southern China.