Young Pioneer Tours

Who are the Khmer Krom?

The Khmer Krom, or as they are also known the Kampuchea Krom are ethic Cambodians that have lived for generations in what is currently considered Vietnam. Most of them reside in what was South Vietnam.

Many, particularly those that live near the borders of Cambodia still enjoy rich familial and cultural links with Cambodia, while many still have played a key role in the politics of the country, particularly and controversially the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Who are the Khmer Krom

Khmer is the name that Cambodia uses for itself, with Khmer being the same as saying Cambodian, hence the country name of Kampuchea, as well as Khmer Rouge and Khmer Blue. In. This context the meaning of Khmer Krom is Southern Cambodian people, with the region in which they live being known as Lower Cambodia.

They are one of the 54 recognized nationalities of Vietnam, with the Khmer making up 1.3 percent of all Vietnamese, although that is approximately 1.4 million people. Other estimates have stated their numbers to be around 7 million, although there is little conclusive proof of this and if it were true would amount to over one third of all Khmer being in Vietnam,

Their status and indeed the history of the region were what led to the Vietnamese – Cambodian war of 1979 and the overthrow of Pol Pot and Democratic Kampuchea.

Historically important Khmer Krom

Many Khmer Krom have played an intrinsic role in Cambodian politics, most controversially in relation to the Khmer Rouge.

One of the first main politicians to come from the Khmer Krom was nationalist Sơn Ngọc Thành who fought the French with an army mostly drawn from the Khmer Krom. He would remain a nationalist leader and indeed a Cambodian prime-minster under Lon Nol, whose government would claim large portions of South Vietnam. During this time he gave the support of the Khmer Serai, or Khmer Blue to the Khmer Republic.

He would be arrested after the fall of Saigon and die in prison, an enemy of Vietnam, Cambodia and the Khmer Krom he represented.

There were also senior members of the Khmer Rouge who were Khmer Krom, quite ironically due to the I intense xenophobia the party had towards anyone associated in any way with the Vietnamese. Most famous among these is perhaps Son Senn, or Brother 89, who would eventually meet his maker at the hand of Pol Pot in 1996 in Anlong Veng.

Conversely many members of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation which liberated the country and led to the formation of the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea were from the Khmer Krom, a fact that may have felt like a self-fulfilling prophesy to Pol Pot and Ta Mok.

International organizations of the Khmer Krom

Internationally they are represented by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation which was established in 1985 in the United States during the first world convention on the Khmer Krom.

Many have felt that the organization was little more than an anti- Vietnamese and anti-Communist front. Officially the group stands for the rights of the Khmer in Vietnam, as well as independence and, or incorporation into Cambodia of much of South Vietnam.

KKF has been a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization and perhaps even more excitingly the Dragon Boat since 2001.

There are community soft various sizes throughout many western nations that have taken in refugees from South-East Asia including nations including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.

There are also Khmer Krom in Phu Quoc, where YPT recently visited. You can check out our Cambodian Independent Tours here.

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