The apparent cohesion due to soil suction plays an important role in maintaining the stability of steep unsaturated soil slopes with deep ground water table. In this paper, a modified direct shear box is used to determine the relationships between the value of this additional cohesion and the associated soil suction. The apparatus incorporates a miniature tensiometer which allows for the simple and direct measurement of suction during shearing. The soil-water characteristic curves and shearing behavior of intact residual soils, being low-to-medium plasticity silts, as well as silty sand, taken from four landslide-prone areas in Thailand, have been investigated. The relatively low air-entry suctions (0-7 kPa) and bimodality of the soil-water characteristic curves gives an indication of the structured pore size distribution of the materials tested. Samples with higher suction tend to display stronger bonding at particle contacts and thus are more brittle. The shear strength is found to increase nonlinearly with suction, though linearization can be reasonably assumed for suction below around 30 kPa. Prediction of shear strength based on soil-water characteristic curves agrees better with ultimate than peak values. A simple equation is proposed for the minimum ultimate strength that can be expected in an unsaturated residual soil with a suction lower than about 30 kPa.