Ethnic groups in Cambodia
|Ethnic group||Population||% of total*|
The largest ethnic group in Cambodia is the Khmers. Of the minority groups, the largest is Vietnamese. There are also a significant number of Chinese descendants who dominate the business community and indigenous minority groups of Hmong, Pong, and Tai amongst others who are collectively known as Khmer Loeu. Minority groups living in the lowlands, often among or adjacent to Khmers, include Chinese, Vietnamese and Cham.
The Khmers are one of the oldest ethnic groups in the area, having filtered into Southeast Asia shortly after the Mon, displacing earlier Mon–Khmer arrivals and various Austronesian groups. They were the builders of the Khmer Empire, and now form the mainstream of political, cultural, and economic Cambodia.
The Khmers see themselves as being one race, but divided into three subgroups based on national origin and language. The Khmer of Cambodia speak the Khmer language. Khmer Surin are ethnic Khmers whose lands once belonged to the Khmer Empire but have since become part of Thailand. They have their own dialect but also speak fluent Isan Thai. Maintaining close relations with the Khmer of Cambodia, some now reside in Cambodia as a result of marriage. Similarly, the Khmer Krom are Khmers living in the regions of the former Khmer Empire that are now part of Vietnam. Fluent in both their particular dialect of Khmer and in Vietnamese, many have fled to Cambodia as a result of persecution and forced assimilation by communist Vietnam.
The Chinese, approximately 1% of the population, are one of the largest and most visible ethnic minorities in Cambodia with about 1,080,000 living in Cambodia. Most Chinese are descended from 18th–19th century settlers who came in search of trade and commerce opportunities. Most are urban dwellers, engaged primarily in commerce.
The Chinese in Cambodia belong to five major linguistic groups, the largest of which is the Teochiu accounting for about 60%, followed by the Cantonese (20%), the Hokkien (7%), and the Hakka and the Hainanese (4% each).
Intermarriage between the Chinese and Khmers has been common, in which case they would often assimilate into mainstream Khmer society, retaining few Chinese customs. Much of the Chinese population dwindled under Pol Pot during the Cambodian Civil War. The Chinese were not specifically targets for extermination, but suffered the same brutal treatment faced by the ethnic Khmers during the period. The Chinese are the fastest growing ethnic group in Cambodia.
The Vietnamese is the largest ethnic minority in Cambodia, with an estimated 740,000 living in many areas. Although the Vietnamese language has been determined to be a Mon–Khmer language, there are very few cultural connections between the two peoples because the early Khmers were influenced by the Indian cultural sphere while the Vietnamese are part of the Chinese cultural sphere. Ethnic tensions between the two can be traced to the dark ages of Cambodia (from the 15th to 19th centuries), during which time Vietnam attempted to vassalize Cambodia. Control over Cambodia during this, its weakest point, fluctuated between Thailand and Vietnam. Vietnam unlike Thailand, wanted Cambodia to adopt Vietnamese governmental practices, dress, and language. The Khmers resented and resisted until they became a French colony.
Modern Vietnamese in Cambodia are mainly descended from settlers who immigrated in the early 20th century. Most no longer speak Vietnamese, creating a social dilemma. They have engaged primarily in aquaculture on the southern banks of the Mekong Delta. Many are assimilated into Khmer society, but there are still those who keep their separate social identity..
The Tai ethnic minorities include the Thai, Lao, Shan, and the Kula. They remain in very small numbers scattered throughout the provinces of Cambodia. Thai minorities mainly live in Phnom Penh while the Laotian people live in with the hill tribes to the north. Shan and Kula minorities reside in Pailin Province where their ancestors migrated to participate in the lucrative gem trade. The local Khmer dialect in Pailin has been noted to have been influenced by Burmese[clarification needed] in tone and pronunciation from the ethnic minorities speaking it.
The Cham are descended from the Austronesian people of Champa, a former kingdom on the coast of central and southern present-day Vietnam and former rival to the Khmer Empire. At various times between the 7th and 15th centuries, the relationship between Champa and the Khmer ranged from that of allies to enemies. During friendly periods there was close contact and trade between the two Indianized kingdoms and intermarriage between the respective royal families. During wartime, many Chams were brought into Khmer lands as captives and slaves. As Champa waned, its territory and people were absorbed by both Cambodia and Vietnam until the last vestige of the kingdom was defeated by the Vietnamese in the late 15th century. Thousands of Cham captives were taken back to Vietnam and thousands more fled to adjacent areas that were loosely ruled by a weakened Khmer empire.
The Cham in Cambodia number under a million and often maintain separate villages in the southeast of the country although in many areas they live alongside ethnic Khmers. Primarily fishermen or farmers, many Khmer believe the Cham to be especially adept at certain spiritual practices and will sometimes come to them for healing or tattooing. While the Cham in Vietnam still follow traditional Shivaite Hinduism, most (an estimated 90%) Cham in Cambodia are ostensibly followers of Sunni Islam. Interaction between those who are Muslim and those who are Hindu is often taboo. However, intermarriage between Khmers and Chams has taken place for hundreds of years. Many have assimilated into mainstream Khmer society and practice Buddhism.
The indigenous ethnic groups of the mountains are known collectively as "Montagnards" or Khmer Loeu, a term meaning "Highland Khmer". They are descended from neolithic migrations of Mon–Khmer speakers via southern China and Austronesian speakers from insular Southeast Asia. Being isolated in the highlands, the various Khmer Loeu groups were not Indianized like their Khmer cousins and consequently are culturally distant from modern Khmers and often from each other, observing many pre-Indian-contact customs and beliefs. However, although diverse, they have many things in common. Most are matrileneal, tracing ancestry through maternal rather than paternal bloodlines. They grow rice and live in tribal villages.
Historically, as the Khmer Empire advanced, they were obliged to seek safety and independence in the highlands or become slaves and laborers for the empire. Zhou Daguan remarked that the Khmers had captured hilltribes and made them laborers referring to them as the Tchouang or slave caste. Tchouang, from the Pear word juang, means people. Presently, they form the majority in the sparsely populated provinces of Ratanakiri, Stung Treng, and Mondulkiri.
Their languages belong to two groups, Mon–Khmer and Austronesian. The Mon–Khmers are Samre, Phnong, Stieng, Kuy, Krung, and Tampuan. The Austronesians are Rhade and Jarai. Once thought to be a mixed group, the Austronesians have been heavily influenced by the Mon–Khmer tribes.
Due to its status as a developing nation and the relatively recent peace, many other ethnic groups can be found, particularly in Phnom Penh, in statistically insignificant numbers. These investors, opportunity seekers, and NGO employees include Europeans, Americans, Koreans, Japanese, Thai, Lao and Russians.
Ethnic Groups of Cambodia
- Cham – Descendants of Cham refugees who fled to Cambodia after the fall of Champa. 222,808 (2012 est.)
- Chinese – Descendants of Chinese settlers in Cambodia. 695,852 (2012 est.)
- Khmer Loeu – Umbrella term used to designate all hilltribes in Cambodia.
- Mon–Khmer speakers
- Krung – There are three distinct dialects of Krung. All are mutually intelligible.
- Kraol - 2,000 (est.)
- Mel- 3,100 (est.)
- Kuy – A small group of people mostly located in the highlands of Cambodia.
- Tampuan – Ethnic group located in the Northeastern province of Ratanakiri.
- Stieng – Often confused with ethnic Degar (Montagnard)
- Mnong - Ethnic group located on the eastern province of Mondulkiri.
- Austronesian speakers
- Mon–Khmer speakers
- Vietnamese – Live mostly in southern Cambodia next to the Vietnamese border. 2 million (est.)
- Hmong–Mien - The Miao and Hmong are hill tribes that live in urban and rural areas.
- Burmese - 4,700 (est.)
- Japanese - mainly first generation entrepreneurs and investors in Phnom Penh
- Koreans - mainly first generation entrepreneurs and investors in Phnom Penh
- "Cambodia Ethnic Groups". Cambodia-travel.com. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
- "Ethnic groups statistics - countries compared". Nationmaster. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
- Center for Advanced Study (ed): Ethnic Groups in Cambodia. Phnom Penh: Center for Advanced Study, 2009. ISBN 978-99950-977-0-7.
- "Cambodia: State grants three groups ethnic status | Heritage". Indigenousportal.com. 2010-11-27. Retrieved 2012-09-02.