The Khmer Krom people are the inhabitants of the South Eastern parts of Cambodia and Vietnam, where they are an ethnic minority, in the area that makes up the delta of the Mekong River. There are no less than eight million Khmer Krom people around the world; most of them living in different parts of Cambodia, while a little over million are found in Vietnam. The Khmer Krom people speak the Khmer language, which is also the national language of Cambodia.
The Khmer Krom people are mostly Buddhists and those living in Cambodia practice Theravada Buddhism, the oldest surviving school of Buddhism in the world. The Vietnamese Khmer Krom practice Mahayana Buddhism and a small portion of the community also practice Islam and Christianity. Their religious identity separates them from the rest of the people of the Indochina Region.
The Khmer Krom people trace their origins even before the Khmer Empire, and have thought to inhabit their native region since the first century AD. The Khmer Empire lasted from the 9th century AD to the 15th century, and was the most powerful empire in South East Asia during its peak period during the 12th century, particularly when the Angkor Wat was built.
Later, in the 17th century, the Khmer Krom people, who now currently live in Vietnam, were separated from the rest of their community in Cambodia, as Vietnamese settlers occupied the Mekong River Delta region. In fact, the modern day Vietnamese capital of Ho Chi Minh City, was known as Prey Nokor at the time of the Khmer Krom occupation, and was an important port city to the community.
After the French colonization of the region in 1863, the Mekong River delta was included in Vietnam after the independence of Vietnam from the French occupation. Cambodia protested on this step but to no avail, and the division of the Khmer Krom people led to tensions between Cambodia, which gained independence in 1954, and Vietnam, which further paved the way to violent conflicts between the states in the 1970s.
The Khmer Krom people have a rich cultural heritage which could be truly explored by visiting the heart of their homeland, the Mekong River Delta in Cambodia. This is where the cultural values of the Khmer Krom flourished and where you can find most of the cultural attractions that are representative of the people. Attractions like the Khleang Pagoda in Soc Trang, and other sites such as Long An, and Ving Long in the Mekong River Delta offer a good insight into their culture.
The Khmer Krom people also follow their distinct Lunar calendar, based on the Buddhist calendar, the practice of which is thought to have been originated from the Angkor period of the Khmer Empire. The Khmer zodiac however, seems to be an inspiration of the Chinese zodiac, and the local names of animals are associated with years, as is the case in the latter. The Khmer New Year is celebrated mostly on April 13, and sometimes on April 14.
The Khmer Krom people are represented by the Khmer-Kampuchea Krom Federation, which claim to be the only legitimate representative organization of the community and is a member of the Unrepresented Nations and People Organization. Although the organization maintains a non-political stance, but it primarily works to propagate awareness for the rights of the Khmer Krom community and to attract the attention of the world to the Human Rights violations they are facing in Vietnam.