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Fact sheet: What is Indigeneity?


In the occasion of International Day of the World‘s Indigenous Peoples 2019, the Cross-Cultural Foundation’s Research Division has created a fact sheet on “indigeneity” to promote better awareness about indigenous rights and the human rights situation of indigenous peoples in Thailand.

Fact sheet: Indigeneity

What is Indigeneity?

  • According to the World Bank, more than 260 million, or approximately 70% of the world’s total indigenous population, live in the Asia-Pacific region.[1] In Thailand, there are between 600,000 and 1.2 million indigenous peoples, or approximately 1-2% of the total population, in 2016.


  • No formal definition of “indigeneity” has been adopted in international law. However, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the UN’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations has created the working definition of “indigenous people” by identifying the following as relevant factors in conceptualizing indigeneity[2]:


  1. Priority in time, with respect to the occupation and use of a specific territory;
  2. The voluntary perpetuation of cultural distinctiveness, which may include the aspects of language, social organization, religion and spiritual values, modes of production, laws and institutions;
  3. Self-identification, as well as recognition by other groups, or by State authorities, as a distinct collectivity; and
  4. An experience of subjugation, marginalization, dispossession, exclusion or discrimination, whether or not these conditions persist.
  • An overly precise definition of indigeneity or indigenous people could have an adverse effect on limiting the rights of indigenous peoples because indigenous peoples across the world develop their sense of self-identity as indigenous in different ways. The working definition and criteria laid out above, therefore, merely provide a broad conceptual framework for practical purposes and should not be used as a tool to stifle selfidentification by indigenous peoples in diverse contexts.


Prepared by

Nasra Moumin, Academic Fellow, Cross-Cultural Foundation


Edited by

Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, Researcher, Cross-Cultural Foundation

Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director, Cross-Cultural Foundation