According to figures in the Koyao directory, Ko Yao, Thailand has a population of about 12,000 people. However, this is split into the 2 Ko Yao Islands with the population of Ko Yao Noi being approximately 4000 and Ko Yao Yai just 8000.
It is believed the original inhabitants of the Ko Yao Islands were the Andaman Sea Gypsies. Now, like a lot of Southern Thai people, the villagers are a mix of Thai, Malay, Burmese and Chinese descent.
The island’s local residents carry out a traditional way of life, with their main source of income generated from fishing, rubber and palm oil production, rice and coconuts. Tourism, although not a large industry in the area, is becoming more and more lucrative as locals get savvy with its workings. The Ko Yao island hotels and resorts provide employment and training for locals, as do many of the local Ko Yao companies which provide other tourist activities, namely diving, snorkelling, sailing, and kayaking holidays.