Khmer Krom (Khmer: ខ្មែរក្រោម, Vietnamese:
Khơ Me Crộm) are ethnically
Khmer people living in the south
western part of Vietnam, where they are recognized as one of Vietnam's
fifty-three ethnic minorities.
In the Khmer language, Krom means "lower" or "below", as it refers to
an area of 89,000 square kilometres (34,363 sq mi) around
modern day Saigon and the
Mekong Delta, which used to be the
southeasternmost territory of the
Khmer Empire until its incorporation
Vietnam under the
Nguyễn lords in the early 18th century. This
marks the final stage of the Vietnamese "March to the South" (nam
The Vietnamese term is Khơ-me Crộm or Khơ-me dưới, which
literally means "Khmers from below".
According to Vietnamese government figures (2009 census), there are
Khmer Krom in Vietnam. Other estimates vary considerably,
with up to 7 million reported to Taylor (2014) in his The Khmer lands
According to the US-based
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (HRW) "the Khmer Krom
face serious restrictions of freedom of expression, assembly,
association, information, and movement".
2.1 Absorption of the
Mekong Delta by Vietnam
2.2 Separatist movements
3 Human rights
4 Famous Khmer Krom
5 See also
7 External links
Prow of the tuk ngo,
Khmer Krom styled boat used in celebratory races
Khmer Krom identify ethnically with the
Khmer people who
constitute a distinct people at least since the late eighth century
and the foundation of the
Khmer Empire by Jayavarman II in 802 C.E.
They retain deep linguistic, religious, customary and cultural links
Cambodia proper. The
Mekong Delta region constituted for more
than 800 years an integral part of the empire and the subsequent
kingdom. The region's economic center was the city Prey Nokor, now
Ho Chi Minh City.
Main article: History of Cambodia
Absorption of the
Mekong Delta by Vietnam
In the 17th century a weakened Khmer state left the
poorly administered after repeated warfare with Siam. Concurrently
Vietnamese refugees fleeing the
Trịnh–Nguyễn War in Vietnam
migrated into the area. In 1623 Cambodian king Chey Chettha II
(1618–1628) officially sanctioned the Vietnamese immigrants to
operate a custom house at Prey Nokor, then a small fishing village.
The settlement steadily grew soon becoming a major regional port,
attracting even more settlers.
In 1698 the
Nguyễn Lords of
Huế commissioned Nguyễn Hữu
Cảnh, a Vietnamese noble to organize the territory along Vietnamese
administrative lines, thus by de facto detaching it from the Kingdom
Cambodia and incorporating it into Vietnam.
With the loss of the port of Prey Nokor, then renamed Sài Gòn,
Cambodia's control of the area grew increasingly tenuous while
increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers to the Delta isolated the
Khmer of the
Mekong Delta from the Cambodian kingdom. By 1757 the
Vietnamese had absorbed the provinces of Psar Dèk (renamed Sa Đéc
in Vietnamese) on the
Mekong itself, and Moat Chrouk (Vietnamized to
Châu Đốc) on the Bassac River.
Minh Mạng enacted assimilation policies upon the Khmer such as
forcing them to adopt Sino-Vietnamese surnames, culture, and clothing.
Minh Mang sinicized ethnic minorities including the Cambodians, in
line with Confucianism as he diffused Vietnamese culture with China's
Han civilization using the term Han people 漢人 for the
Vietnamese. Minh Mang declared that "We must hope that their
barbarian habits will be subconsciously dissipated, and that they will
daily become more infected by Han [Sino-Vietnamese] customs."
These policies were directed at the Khmer and hill tribes.
On June 4, 1949 the French President
Vincent Auriol signed the accord
Cochinchina to Vietnam. This was done without
consulting the indigenous Khmer-Krom. The legal transfer of control
Cambodia off from the sea via the
Mekong River as the Delta
administered by an independent Vietnam. Left within the borders of
Vietnam were the communities of Khmer people, nowadays Khmer Krom.
Son Ngoc Thanh (1908–77) was a Khmer krom, born in
Trà Vinh, Vietnam. Thanh was active in the independence movement for
Cambodia. With Japanese support he became the prime minister of
Cambodia in March 1945 but was then quickly ousted with the return of
the French later that year. Widely supported by the
Khmer Krom during
the First Indochina War, Thanh's role faded in
Vietnam after 1954 as
he became more embroiled with politics in
Cambodia proper, forming an
opposition movement against Prince Sihanouk.
Vietnam War and direct American involvement between 1964
and 1974, the
Khmer Krom were recruited by the United States Armed
Forces to serve in MIKE Force. The force fought on the side of
Vietnam against the
Viet Cong but in time the militia regrouped
as the "Front for the Struggle of Kampuchea Krom" (French: Front de
Lutte du Kampuchea Krom). Headed by a
Khmer Krom Buddhist monk, Samouk
Sen, the group was nicknamed the "White Scarves" (Khmer: Kangsaing
Sar; Vietnamese: Can Sen So) and allied itself with
FULRO was an alliance of Khmer Krom, Montagnard,
and Cham groups.
The anti-Communist prime minister of the
Khmer Republic (1970 - 1975)
Lon Nol planned to recapture the
Mekong Delta from South
Fall of Saigon
Fall of Saigon in 1975 and the Communist take-over of all of
Vietnam, the Kampuchea Krom militia found itself embattled with
People's Army of Vietnam. Many of the fighters fled to Khmer
Democratic Kampuchea hoping to find a safe haven to
launch their operations inside Vietnam. The "White Scarves" arrived in
Kiri Vong District
Kiri Vong District in 1976, making overture to the
Khmer Rouge and
appealing to the leader
Khieu Samphan directly for assistance. The
force was disarmed and welcomed initially. Subsequent orders from the
Khmer Rouge leadership however had Samouk Sen arrested, taken to Phnom
Penh, tortured, and killed. His force of 67
Khmer Krom fighters were
all massacred. During the following months, some 2,000 "White Scarves"
fighters crossing into Kampuchea were systematically killed by the
In the late 1970s, the
Kampuchean Revolutionary Army
Kampuchean Revolutionary Army attacked Vietnam
in an attempt to reconquer the areas which were formerly part of the
Khmer Empire, but this military adventure was a total disaster and
precipitated the invasion of
Democratic Kampuchea by the People's Army
Vietnam and subsequent downfall of the Khmer Rouge, with Vietnam
Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation
Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF)
Many independent NGOs report that the human rights of the Khmer Krom
are being violated by the Vietnamese government.
Khmer Krom are
reportedly forced to adopt Vietnamese family names and speak the
Vietnamese language. As well, the Vietnamese government has
cracked down on non violent demonstrations by the Khmer Krom.
Unlike some other minority people groups in Vietnam, the Khmer Krom
are largely unknown by the Western world, despite efforts by
associations of exiled
Khmer Krom such as the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom
Federation to publicize their plight with the Unrepresented Nations
and Peoples Organisation. No Western government has yet raised the
matter of the Khmer Krom's human rights with the Vietnamese
The "Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group" was
visited by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation.
Famous Khmer Krom
Son Sen - Minister of National Defence of
Democratic Kampuchea (Pol
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Khmer in Vietnam's
Mekong Delta" 2009
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Khmer Krom Attend UPR Session on Vietnam".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Khmer Krom.
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Video clips of Rebecca Sommer's film "Eliminated without Bleeding"
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