The Khmer in Viet Nam


Viet Nam has 1.3 million Khmer people living in the southern provinces of Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Kien Giang, An Giang, Bac Lieu, Can Tho, and Vinh Long. 

The Khmer do farm work, fish, and produce handicraft products. They have a rich culture of folk songs, folk tales, festivals, temples, and pagodas. 

The Khmer language is a branch of the Mon-Khmer language group. Although the Khmer live in the same provinces as Kinh and Chinese people, they congregate in their own villages.

The Khmer earn a living from fishing, weaving cloth and mats, producing palm sugar, or making pottery. They produce various kinds of fermented fish, shrimp sauces, and pastes, selling whatever they don’t use themselves.

For navigating the crisscrossing rivers and canals of the Mekong delta, the Khmer use many types of junks and boats. 

The most interesting one is the 30m long Ngo junk, made of wood and decorated with images of sea eagles, elephants, and tigers.

It requires 30 to 40 oarsmen to row it and is used only during the Ok-oom-bok festival in the 10th lunar month. 

Khmer young men and women wear silk sarongs while older people wear loose fitting blouses. They are often seen with a bandanna covering their heads or hanging it on their shoulders.

The Khmer celebrate many festivals during the year. The biggest ones are the Chol Chnam Thmay or New Year festival, and the Ok-oom-bok, or worship of the Moon. 

Chau On from the Khmer Theravada Buddhist Institute said, “The Khmer celebrate the New Year differently from Vietnamese or Chinese people. The Hora Cha, an astronomer, observes and calculates the journey of the sun to know the beginning and ending hour of a season."

"They welcome the New Year at that hour. Activities include gong performances and a procession of Buddha statues and Moha Songkran to the main worship hall,” he added.

Almost every Khmer practices Theravada Buddhism. Khmer children stay at a pagoda for several years to study Buddhism before entering adulthood. 

Most Venerable Giang Thanh, Head of Chroi Ton Sa pagoda in Kim Son commune, Tra Cu district, shared, “Besides learning the Khmer language, the monks teach us morality and etiquette towards grandparents, parents, teachers, old people, and others. They also teach us basic knowledge of our traditional culture - dancing, folk songs, and costumes".

The Khmer live harmoniously with other ethnic groups in the Mekong Delta, while maintaining their unique culture and lifestyle.

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