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Khmer Krom

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Khmer Krom

Flag of Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF)
Khmer Krom boat

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Khmer Krom
Total population
1,055,174 in Vietnam[1]
Regions with significant populations
Vietnam (Mekong River Delta)

Khmer, Vietnamese


Theravada Buddhism

The Khmer Krom (Khmer: , Vietnamese: Khơ Me Crộm) - Khmer people living in the Delta and the Lower Mekong area. Mostly regarded as the indigenous ethnic Khmer minority living in southern Vietnam. In Vietnamese, they are known as Khơ-me Crộm or Khơ-me dưới, which literally means “Khmer from below” (“below” referring to the lower areas of the Mekong Delta).




The Khmer Krom are ethnic Khmer who inhabited that area long before the arrival of the Vietnamese.

According to Vietnamese government figures (1999 census), there are 1,055,174 Khmer Krom in Vietnam.


Beginning in the early 17th century, colonization of the area by Vietnamese settlers gradually isolated the Khmer of the Mekong Delta from their brethren in Cambodia proper and resulted in their becoming a minority in the delta.

Prey Nokor was the most important commercial seaport to the Khmers. The city’s name was changed by Vietnam to Sài Gòn and then Hồ Chí Minh City. The loss of the city prevented the Cambodians access to the South China Sea. Subsequently, the Khmers' access to the sea was now limited to the Gulf of Thailand. It began as a small fishing village known as Prey Nokor. The area that the city now occupies was originally swampland, and was inhabited by Khmer people for centuries before the arrival of the Vietnamese.

In 1623, King Chey Chettha II of Cambodia (1618-1628) allowed Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Trịnh-Nguyễn War in Vietnam to settle in the area of Prey Nokor, and to set up a custom house at Prey Nokor. Increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers, which the Cambodian kingdom, weakened because of war with Thailand, could not impede, slowly Vietnamized the area. In time, Prey Nokor became known as Saigon.

In 1698, Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, a Vietnamese noble, was sent by the Nguyen rulers of Huế to establish Vietnamese administrative structures in the area, thus detaching the area from Cambodia, which was not strong enough to intervene. Since 1698, the area has been firmly under Vietnamese administration. The Vietnamese became the majority population in most places.

When independence was granted to French Indochina in 1954, the Mekong Delta was included in the state of South Vietnam, despite protests from Cambodia. In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge regime attacked Vietnam in an attempt to reconquer those areas of the delta still predominantly inhabited by Khmer Krom people, but this military adventure was a total disaster and precipitated the invasion of Cambodia by the Vietnamese army and subsequent downfall of the Khmer Rouge, with Vietnam occupying Cambodia.

Son Ngoc Thanh, the nationalist Cambodian, was a Khmer krom, born in Trà Vinh, Vietnam. Cambodia got independence in Geneva, 1954, through the Vietnamese struggle in the First Indochina War.

In 1757, the Vietnamese colonized the provinces of Psar Dèk (renamed Sa Đéc in Vietnamese) and Moat Chrouk (vietnamized to Châu Đốc).

Human Rights

Many independent NGOs report the human rights of the Khmer Krom are still being violated by the Vietnamese government. Khmer Krom are reportedly forced to adopt Vietnamese family names and speak the Vietnamese language. {2} The education of the Khmer Krom is neglected and they face many hardships in everyday life, such as difficult access to Vietnamese health services (recent epidemics of blindness affecting children have been reported in the predominantly Khmer Krom areas of the Mekong delta[citation needed]), difficulty in practicing their religion (Khmer Krom are Theravada Buddhists, like Cambodian and Thai people, but unlike Vietnamese who are mostly Mahayana Buddhists or few Roman Catholics), difficulty in finding jobs outside of the fields, and societal racism.[citation needed] The Khmer Krom are among the poorest segments of the population in southern Vietnam.[citation needed]

Unlike other minority people groups of Vietnam, the Khmer Krom are largely unknown in the Western world, despite efforts by associations of exiled Khmer Krom such as the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation to publicize their issues with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation. No Western government has raised the matter of the Khmer Krom’s human rights with the Vietnamese government.

The Khmer Krom culture could become better known through its tourist sites in the Mekong Delta. Khmer Buddhist temples located in places such as Long An, Tien Giang, Vinh Long, Tra Vinh, Bac Lieu, and Soc Trang are now very popular as tourist destinations.[2]


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