Khmer in Vietnam

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.
People Name: Khmer
Country: Vietnam
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 1,340,000
World Population: 16,122,000
Primary Language: Khmer
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 3.00 %
Evangelicals: 1.87 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Mon-Khmer
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

According to a Khmer legend, their people came into being from a marital union between an Indian Brahmin priest named Kaundinya I and Princess Soma from Nagaland. Archeologists and linguists believe they arrived in what is now Cambodia about 4,000 years ago, bringing rice cultivation with them. This was one of the first place where they used bronze tools.

The great Khmer Empire, which flourished between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, encompassed present-day Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and southern Vietnam. Its power declined when the Thai and Vietnamese conquered the Khmer and restricted them to the area that now known as Cambodia.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Central Khmer have virtually been absorbed into the Vietnamese community, though many still speak Khmer at home. They have intermarried and now share the same religions, customs, and culture. Most of the Khmer are farmers who grow rice in irrigated paddies. They live in thatch roof, bamboo houses that are built on stilts.

Fish and shellfish from the coastal waters and the plains of the Mekong River are a major resource for the Khmer. It is also the second most important staple food, after rice. Forestry was once a major industry in the area inhabited by the Khmer. However, most of the timber has now been used for reconstruction after the wars in the 1970s.

The Khmer have a simple social structure. Each village has its own chief, and there is no political structure beyond the village. The village chief is the link between the people and the central government. Village leadership is usually divided; the chief has authority in secular matters, while the Buddhist monk has authority in religious issues. The Buddhist Wat, or temple, is the center of village life, and Buddhist rules of conduct are used to maintain social control. These rules of conduct include abstaining from lying, stealing, drinking alcoholic beverages, committing adultery, and killing living creatures.

What Are Their Beliefs?

India influenced the former Khmer Empire, from which it adopted Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, most of the Cambodians in Laos are Buddhist. However, relics of ethnic religions such as ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for guidance) and spirit worship are very important to them.

Because of Buddhist influence, Cambodians also seek the middle path to nirvana, or ultimate peace through gaining merit in this life. They believe they can gain merit by supporting the construction of new Buddhist temples, giving food to Buddhist monks, and studying in the monastery. Peasant boys often became monks in order to gain an education in Buddhist monasteries.

What Are Their Needs?

The Khmer in Vietnam need assistance with mainstreaming those with birth defects caused by agent orange 50 years ago. Someone with agricultural expertise could help them increase their crops.

Prayer Points

Pray for an abundant blessing of Khmer families and communities in Vietnam as they embrace Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords.

Pray for a movement to Christ that will enrich the Khmer community in Vietnam.

Pray for spiritual openness to Jesus Christ that will not be hindered by the belief in religious institutions rather than the person, Jesus Christ.

Text Source:   Joshua Project