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.
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 monarchy, but it is a one-party authoritarian state.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The staple food for the Khmer is rice. Farmers 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’s most valuable possession.
Many young Khmer are leaving rural areas and moving to cities - especially Phnom Penh, the capital. 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 ethnic 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.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Khmer people have been primarily Buddhist since the 13th century. Central Khmer are Buddhist with elements of Hinduism and animism. Relics of ethnic religions such as ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors) and spirit worship are very real. Most Buddhists also practice animism, a belief in the spirit world. In animism, evil spirits must be appeased through prayers, sacrifices and rituals.
Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha. He lived in the 6th and 5th century BC in ancient India. Few Khmer are familiar with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism is a key part of their identity, however.
The Khmer usually celebrate Buddhist holidays. 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?

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

Prayer Points

Ask God to send workers to the Khmer to share the gospel and meet key needs such as education, clean water and medicine.
Pray for a movement among the Khmer that will result in the multiplication of churches through many generations.
Pray that Khmer believers would be established in the faith and share the good news with their family and friends, leading to entire households coming to faith.
Ask God to bring healing from the tragedies brought about by the Khmer Rouge.

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 14,384,000
Population all Countries 16,283,000
Total Countries 13
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 288
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
89.90 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 1.30 %)
3.10 %
Ethnic Religions
4.00 %
0.00 %
1.00 %
2.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Khmer (14,384,000 speakers)
Language Code khm   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Khmer (14,384,000 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 Rock International: King of Glory Rock International
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 Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
General YouVersion Bible versions in text and/or audio YouVersion Bibles
Mobile App Android Bible app direct APK download SIL
Mobile App Android Bible app: Khmer YouVersion Bibles
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file Faith Comes by Hearing
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2024  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.

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