Cambodia Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Have you ever heard of Cambodia? It's an exotic and beautiful country in Southeast Asia. This lesson will focus on the various ethnic groups that comprise this nation.

Where is Cambodia?

In Southeast Asia, there lies a very hot and very humid nation that's full of very friendly people, amazing ancient temples, adventurous jungle roads, and lots of landmines that have devastated a lot of people over many decades. This incredible country is called Cambodia. The vast majority of this country's population is made up of one ethnic group, although others are definitely present.

Cambodia is Located in Southeast Asia

Khmer People

About 90% of Cambodians consider themselves to be Khmers, Kampuchean, or Khmae; they're terms that refer to the same group of people. Khmers are people that speak the Khmer language and are mainly Buddhist in terms of their religious beliefs.

If you visit Cambodia, what you'll notice far more than just about anything else, is this country's predominantly agricultural lifestyle. As you ride through the countryside, you'll see lots of rice being planted by locals. Thus, the Khmer are mainly agricultural people. In addition to cultivating crops, Cambodians have many small villages that literally sit on the water. Here, houseboats contain residents, shops, restaurants, even hospitals and government centers, all on the water. These Khmer rely a lot on fishing for subsistence.

In the very few large cities found in this country, the Khmer can be found in all sorts of facets of life. Some are Buddhist monks. Others serve in what many accuse to be a very corrupt government. There are teachers, tour guides, and lots of little shop owners selling everything from motorcycle tire repair services to street food to water.

Khmer History

The Khmer people have been influenced by Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese culture throughout much of their history. However, Khmers consider themselves to be descendants of a now long-gone empire called the Khmer (Angkor) Empire. This empire built absolutely massive and extremely beautiful temple complexes, famously that of Angkor Wat, throughout what is modern day Cambodia and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Khmer People With Angkor Wat in the Background
Khmer People

The Empire eventually declined and Thai, Vietnamese, and French forces at one point or another controlled part of or the entire parts of what is now Cambodia throughout its history. Until 1970, the Khmer people were ruled by a constitutional monarchy. This is a system of government where the monarch is largely a figurehead, and the de facto political power rested in Cambodia's prime minister.

In 1970, a military coup overthrew the Khmer people's government and established what was known as the Khmer Republic. In 1975, a group of communist revolutionaries called the Khmer Rouge, began to control much of Cambodian society. The Khmer Rouge was led by a ruthless dictator called Pol Pot. Under his leadership, religion was suppressed, cities were evacuated, and people were forced to live in rural areas. Many people died from execution and starvation under his rule.

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