Khmer in Cambodia

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Khmer are the majority and dominant people in the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia. Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. Khmer civilization once ruled much of Southeast Asia. In the 1200s, the Thais and Vietnamese defeated the Khmer and pushed them into Cambodia, where most live today. The huge Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia gives evidence of past glories and is the major tourist site in the country. The Khmer people have been primarily Buddhist since the 13th century. Elements of Hinduism and animism are mingled with Buddhist beliefs of the Khmer.

Cambodia gained its independence from France in 1953. The communist Khmer Rouge ruled from 1975 to 1979 and murdered up to a quarter of the population. Today Cambodia is officially a constitutional monarch but in actuality a one-party authoritarian state.

Many Christian resources exist in the Khmer language including a complete Bible and the JESUS Film.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Cambodia is one of the least developed nations in Southeast Asia. On a positive note, the Cambodian economy has been growing at a rapid rate for the two past decades. Most rural Khmer are engaged in subsistence agriculture much like their ancestors. The stable food for the Khmer is rice. Famers also cultivate vegetables, tropical fruit, maize, and peanuts. Most villages raise some animals such as pigs, chickens and goats. A water buffalo is often a family most valuable possession.

Many young Khmer are leaving rural areas and moving to cities especially Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city. Young people are looking for better jobs and educational opportunities. Since many young people lack job skills, they must take menial jobs in the cities. Unfortunately some of them end up in the sex trade.

The Khmer marry within their group. Monogamy or marriage to one spouse is the norm. Couples often have large families as many children in rural areas die before their 10th birthday. Malaria, malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and modern medicine lead to the death of many rural Cambodian people.

Central Khmer are Buddhist, although relics of ethnic religions such as ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors) and spirit worship are very real.
What Are Their Beliefs?

The large majority of the Khmer population practices Buddhism, the major world religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha. He lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths by which one can gain spiritual knowledge and escape the endless cycles of reincarnation.

Theravada, one of the two major branches of Buddhism, declares that by following the Noble Eightfold Path of right intentions and right actions that a Buddhist can achieve nirvana or a state of freedom and salvation. The vast majority of Buddhists also practice animism, a belief in the spirit world. In animism, evil spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals.

Two of the important Buddhist yearly holidays are Vesak, the Buddha's birthday celebrated in May or June and Bodhi Day, the holiday which commemorates the day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment under a Bodhi tree in December.

Certain foods are required, and it is believed that eating these foods on an auspicious day will bring one good fortune throughout the year.

What Are Their Needs?

The Khmer need to see the love of Christ shown to them in practical ways. Outside of the cities the Khmer people often lack appropriate schools for their children, access to electricity, clean water and modern medicine. Christian missionaries can come and help meet those needs.

Prayer Points

Pray for the steady growth of the church among the Khmer.

Pray that Khmer believers would be established in the faith and share the good news with their family and friends.

Pray the Khmer will heal from the tragedies brought by the Khmer Rouge.

Ask the Lord to send workers to the Khmer to tell them about Jesus Christ.

Scripture Prayers for the Khmer in Cambodia.


Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

The Waiting World - The Khmer

Source:  The Waiting World      Download

People Name General Khmer
People Name in Country Khmer
Pronunciation kuh-MARE
Alternate Names Cambodians; Central Khmer; Cu Tho; Cur; Kampuchean; Khmer Krom; Khmer Nam Bo; Khmer, Northern; Kho Me; Khơ-me; Kmer; Ku; Mien; Thai-Khmer; West Cham
Population this Country 14,235,000
Population all Countries 16,122,000
Total Countries 13
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 285
People ID 12662
ROP3 Code 104946
ROP25 Code 303980
ROP25 Name Khmer
Country Cambodia
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Widespread   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Cambodia
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Widespread.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Map of Khmer in Cambodia Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Religion: Buddhism
Religion Subdivision: Theravada
Major Religion Percent
89.80 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 1.90 %)
3.20 %
Ethnic Religions
4.10 %
0.00 %
0.80 %
2.00 %
Other / Small
0.10 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Khmer (14,235,000 speakers)
Language Code khm   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Khmer (14,235,000 speakers)
Language Code khm   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Khmer

Primary Language:  Khmer

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1899-1933)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1929-1993)
Bible-Complete Yes  (1954-2016)
FCBH NT ( Online
YouVersion NT ( Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Audio Recordings Love letter to you from scripture Father's Love Letter
Audio Recordings Online Audio Scripture Talking Bibles
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories One Story
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio Jesus Film Project
Film / Video God's Story video God's Story
Film / Video Video / Animation Create International
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Khmer Jesus Film Project
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels Bible Media Group/LUMO
Film / Video Magdalena video Jesus Film Project
Film / Video My Last Day video, anime Jesus Film Project
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children Jesus Film Project
Film / Video The Hope Video Mars Hill Media
Film / Video World Christian Videos World Christian Videos
General Bible for Children Bible for Children
General Biblical answers to your questions Got Questions Ministry
General Faith Comes By Hearing - Bible in text or audio or video Faith Comes by Hearing
General Faith Comes By Hearing - Bible in text or audio or video Faith Comes by Hearing
General Four Spiritual Laws Campus Crusade for Christ
General Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
General YouVersion Bible versions in text and/or audio YouVersion Bibles
Mobile App Android Bible app: Khmer YouVersion Bibles
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file Faith Comes by Hearing
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file Faith Comes by Hearing
Mobile App iOS Bible app: Khmer YouVersion Bibles
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2023  Ari V - Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Video Source The Waiting World
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.