Khmu in Vietnam

Photo Source:  Anonymous 
Map Source:  People Group location: Ethnologue. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Khmu
Country: Vietnam
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 92,000
World Population: 886,500
Primary Language: Khmu
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 1.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.01 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Mon-Khmer
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Khmu might have been in Southeast Asia as far back as 4,000-10,000 years. They use storytelling as a means to preserve their history, and this method is eroding. Their history is in danger of being lost.

China is probably the original homeland of the Khmu and other tribes that at one time gradually migrated southward due to pressure by the Chinese. As they traveled, they conquered many peoples along the way. They speak various tongues which come from either the Mon Khmer or Tai group of languages. Most of the people are bilingual, speaking both their own language and the dominant language, in this case, Vietnamese.

The Khmu people live primarily in Laos and Vietnam, but smaller numbers live in southern China or Thailand. There are also diaspora communities in the United States and France.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Tribal peoples in Southeast Asia, like the Khmu, are primarily rice farmers, though they usually do some fishing and hunting as well. They have special storehouses for rice. These are elevated to keep mice from eating it. The Khmu cultivate a wide variety of crops, including various fruits and vegetables, for both consumption and trade. Like other Southeast Asian tribes, the Khmu work communally to maximize their productivity, but each family has their own private garden as well. These tribes are poorer than the dominant ethnic groups and therefore depend on them for many goods and services. Khmu villagers frequently meet with the Thai to trade their farm goods for necessary items such as clothing and salt. It is becoming more common for the Khmu people to raise pigs, goats, water buffalos, and other livestock to sell the meat.

Over the years, the tribes began adopting the practices of the surrounding peoples. This brought on many significant changes within their cultures. For example, they no longer use their traditional farming methods of burning and clearing plots. Instead, they grow wet-rice on terraced plots, which is the agricultural method of the Thai. They also raise their cattle and till their fields. They prepare the fields with plows drawn by buffalo or oxen. Other Khmu people are farmhands, weavers or blacksmiths.

The Khmu usually made houses of wood or bamboo, but they are now using metal roofing. They build them on stilts above the ground, with farmlands next to the residential areas. Domestic fowl, pigs, and goats may run freely underneath these houses.

Among the Khmu, the village is the most significant political unit of society. A headman leads each village, and the father leads each family.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Buddhism was introduced into Thailand in 329 B.C., and today, all of the tribes in Thailand, including the Khmu, are primarily Buddhist. However, most have mixed elements of Buddhism with traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits). For this reason, the people often seek help through supernatural spirits and objects. They rely heavily on spirit doctors, whom they believe have great healing powers. They also depend on shamans.

Ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for provision and guidance) is also common among the Khmu people. They believe the ancestral spirits cause illnesses if we do not appease them. Families usually have small altars near their homes where they make sacrifices and offerings to the spirits. The people believe each village has a guardian spirit, as well as various spirits that are linked to the elements of nature. Each family believes they are protected by a sacred totem represented by a boar, an eagle or another animal.

The Khmu keep amulets and charms hanging on the village gates to ward off fires, storms and other natural disasters. Families often have these on the doorways of their homes as well. Only a priest may touch these sacred objects.

What Are Their Needs?

The Khmu people need to put their faith in Christ alone. The spirit world can only do them harm.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord to give the Khmu people an abundant harvest this year as a testimony of his power and love.

Pray for the Khmu people to have hearts that are open to the abundant blessings of Jesus Christ.

Pray for their families to prosper financially and spiritually as they experience a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Pray for a movement to Christ among the Khmu that will spread joy, peace, and salvation to other peoples throughout Southeast Asia.

Text Source:   Joshua Project