Geography of Kampuchea-Krom

Kampuchea-Krom literally means “the lower land of Kampuchea.” “Krom” in Khmer also means “below” to indicate “Southern” part of Cambodia. Kampuchea-Krom was the southernmost territory of the Khmer Empire, and was once known as Cochinchina (French). It covers an area of 67,700 km2 with Cambodia to the North, the Gulf of Thailand to the West, the South China Sea to the South and the Champa’s territory to the Northeast. Today, Kampuchea-Krom is the south-western part of Vietnam, known in Vietnamese as Tây Nam Bộ.

The Vietnamese authorities changed all the locality names of villages, districts, cities, and provinces from Khmer to Vietnamese. The same thing is being done today in Cambodia. For example, “Phnom Penh” is called “Nam Vang” by the Vietnamese.

Kampuchea-Krom originally consists of four provinces DO NAI, LONG HOR, MOTH CHROUK and PEAM, later on divided into 21 provinces and 1 Port: Kompong Krobey (Bến Nghé). Kampuchea-Krom also has two big islands: Koh Trol (Phú Quốc) and Koh Trolach (Côn Sơn). 

There are two long rivers in Kampuchea-Krom: the Mekong river (Sông Tiền) and Bassac river (Sông Hậu). The approximately length of each river ranges from 200-250 km. These two rivers bring lots of silts for the Mekong Delta.

Map of Kampuchea-Krom

Map of Kampuchea-Krom

Names of Provinces, Port and Islands in Kampuchea-Krom


Khmer Name

Vietnamese Name


ខេត្ត – Khet



ព្រៃនគរ -Prey Nokor

Sài Gòn


ទួលតាមោក – Toul Tamoak

Thủ Dầu Một


ចង្វាត្រពាំង  – Chongva Tropeang

Biên Hòa


ព្រះសួគ៌ា – Preah Suorkea

Bà Rịa


អូកាប់ – O-Kab

Vũng Tàu


រោងដំរី  – Raung Domrei

Tây Ninh


កំពង់គោ  – Kampong Kou

Long An


មេស – Me Sor

Mỹ Tho


កោះគង Koh Kaung

Gò Công


កំពង់ឫស្សី  – Kampong Russey

Bến Tre


លង់ហោរ – Long Hor

Long Hồ


ផ្សារដែក – Phsa Dek

Sa Đéc


ព្រះត្រពាំង – Preah Trapeang

Trà Vinh


ព្រែកឫស្សី – Prek Russey

Cần Thơ


បារ៉ាជ – Barach

Long Xuyên


មាត់ជ្រូក – Moth Chrouk

Châu Đốc


ពាម – Peam

Hà Tiên


ក្រមួនស  – Kramoun Sor

Rạch Giá


ឃ្លាំង – Khleang

Sóc Trăng


ពលលាវ – Pol Leav

Bạc Liêu


ទឹកខ្មៅ  – Teuk Khmau

Cà Mau


កំពង់ផែ   – Kompong Pe



កំពង់ក្របី –   Kampong Krobey

Bến Nghé


កោះ – Koh



កោះត្រឡាច – Koh Tralach

Côn Sơn


កោះត្រល់ – Koh Trol

Phú Quốc


A Brief History of the Kampuchea-Krom

By Peter Scott and KKF Research Team

(Extracted from the same name of the history document in

 “The Khmer-Krom Journey to Self-Determination” book)

Historically, the identity and name of the Khmer-Krom people and their ancestral lands have been changed and/or referred to differently by various civilizations as well as the colonizing governments. Under the colonization of France, Kampuchea-Krom was called Cochin China. The terms Khmer, Khmer-Krom, Vietnamese of Khmer Origin, Khmer Nam Bo, and Cambodian are used interchangeably when referring to people of Funan descendent (see table below).

Time line

Kampuchea-Krom has been known as:

1 – 550

Funan or Nokor Phnom

550 – 681

Chenla (Zhenla)

681- 802

Water Chenla

802 – 1862


1862 -1949

Cochin China (Cochinchine)


South Vietnam (Republic of Vietnam)


Vietnam (Socialist  Republic of Vietnam)


Khmer-Krom legend has it that the community’s origins can be traced to an ancient story in India: “The Brahman named Kaundinya sailed from India in his magnificent ship to find the beautiful Dragon princess who lived in the forest beyond O Keo with father, Naga. When the Dragon princess beheld Kaundinya’s ship, she paddled out in her dugout to meet him. Naked and erect in the canoe, the Dragon Princess amazed Kaundinya with her beauty and power. He drew his magic bow, shot an arrow into the dugout at her feet and with it subdued her. He clothed her nakedness and married her and they lived at O Keo….” 

The international and the Cambodian researchers, by and large, agree that the Indigenous Peoples of Kampuchea-Krom, known as the Khmer-Krom, are ancient descendents of the people of Nokor Phnom (or Funan in the corrupted Chinese translation) Empire.  A study by the Ethnographic Study Services on Minority Groups in the Republic of Vietnam (1966) supports this claim by describing the Khmer-Krom people as “descended from the ancient Khmer of the Empire of Funan.”

Archeological evacuations conducted by French archaeologist Louis Malleret, of the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Oriente (EFEO), found the site of a city named O-Keo (Oc-Eo), which provides evidence that the Khmer civilization lived in 1st century B.C., or during the Nokor Phnom (Funan Kingdom) period.


Chenla is the Chinese translation for the ancient term of Kambuja meaning Cambodia. Aided by its similarities in cultural identity and customs, Funan was successfully integrated into Chenla under the rule of King Mahendravarman, brother of King Bhavavarman and then by King Isanavarman.

During the reign of the King Isanavarman, Chenla’s capital was established at Isanapura, in the ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk of modern Cambodia.

While Western and Chinese historians have often referred to Chenla as the first Khmer kingdom, Khmer sources claim that Kampuchea-Krom or Funan is actually Cambodia’s first state. This is especially true with the recent suggestion that the Funan people are indeed the Khmers. Inscriptions of early Khmer writing as well as Sanskrit language found in brick stones and Hindu temples across Kampuchea-Krom and mainland Cambodia during this era suggest adaptation and integration of the native language with the Sanskrit language.

In 681, the death of King Jayavarman I bought on civil wars amongst the Khmer and Khmer-Krom principalities within Chenla.  The lack of the rightful successor after the death of the former king may be one reason contributing to the split of Chenla into two separate states. “The northern region comprising of mountains and valleys is called Upper Zhenla. The southern region, surrounded by the seas and swamps, is called Lower Zhenla.”


Khmer Empire MapIn 802, a new period of Cambodia emerged, now widely known as the Angkor Period. Derived from the Sanskrit word “nagara” meaning “city”, Angkor became an empire.

On the claim that he was a descendant of Funan, Jayavarman II was crowned and began the process of uniting Lower Chenla (Kampuchea-Krom), starting at the capital of Aninditapura. He then progressed northwest, taking control of Indrapura (on the lower Mekong River on the east of Kampong Cham). The capital of Hariharalaya (southeast of Siem Reap) became Jayavarman II’s permanent destination, a site in which he then started to expand his influence across South East Asia.

In Kampuchea-Krom, the statues of Shiva, Vishnu and Buddha made of Bronze have been recovered by French archaeologists at Wat Bodhisiri in Kampong Spean (renamed Cau Ke district) in the province of Prek Reussey (CanTho) as well as other temples across the Mekong Delta region.


March to the South (Nam Tiến)

In 1306, the Cham King Jaya Simhavarman III (Che Man) married the Vietnamese princess, Huyen Tran. In the exchange of this marriage, the Cham King agreed to give two provinces in the north of Champa to the Vietnamese King. This political marriage did not last longer than a year because the Cham King was killed by suspicious means. The Vietnamese princess ran away with the Vietnamese general, Tran Khac Chung, to the Vietnamese Capital (Thang Long).

In 1471, the Vietnamese army under the leadership of Emperor Le Thanh Tong started invading Champa. The Cham king Pau Kubah (Tra Toan) was captured. The northern part of Vijaya (Qui Nhon) felt under the control of the Vietnamese. The southern part of Champa was still under the control of the modern Cham Lords in the principality of Panduranga (Phan Rang, Phan Ri and Phan Thiet).

In 1497, The Vietnamese Emperor Le Thanh Tong died and Vietnam started falling into a civil war between Le/Trinh and Mac dynasties. 

Nguyen Hoang feared that one day, Trinh Lord (Trinh Kiem) who was his brother in-law, would kill him, his older brother. Thus, in 1558, Nguyen Hoang asked permission from the Trinh lord to govern the southern provinces where the Vietnamese took over from the Champa kingdom. Trinh Lord agreed right away because he believed that Nguyen Hoang would not have the chance to compete for power with him.

While the Trinh lord carried out the war against the Mac dynasty in the North, Nguyen Hoang started building up forces to defend him if Trinh Lord attacked from the North and also started implementing the southward strategy “Nam Tien” to keep encroaching on Champa lands.

With the pressure from the North by the Trinh Lord and constant attacks from the South by Champa in efforts to reclaim its land, the Nguyen Lord tactically presented his daughter, Princess Ngoc Van, to the King Chey Chetha II in 1620. At that time, King Chey Chettha was 42 years old and already married. King Chey Chettha accepted the offering from Nguyen Lord to build a relationship of mutual interest between Cambodia and Nguyen Lord. King Chey Chettha thought that with his relationship with Nguyen Lord, Siam would give up their influence and encroachment on Cambodia territory. Unfortunately, he did not know that his political marriage with the Vietnamese princess started to fall into the Nguyen Lord’s strategy called the “March to the South”.

In 1623, aided by Queen Ngoc Van’s intervention, the Nguyen warlord sent Vietnamese delegates to ask the Court of Udong to grant permission for the Vietnamese people to conduct trade in Preah Sourkea (Baria), Prei Nokor (Sai Gon), and Chonva Tropeang (Bien Hoa) provinces.  Obliged through his marriage, King Chey Chettha II gave trade permission and allowed the Vietnamese people temporary settlement in those provinces.

This was the first time that the Vietnamese obtained a foothold in Kampuchea-Krom and began their ambitious expansion plans toward the South in which the Kingdom of Champa became their first target.

In 1627, the Trinh Lord (Trinh Trang) from the North started attacking the Nguyen Lord because the Nguyen Lord refused to obey the Trinh Lord. The Trinh-Nguyen war started from that year.

In 1628, King Chey Chettha II died at 58 years old and his oldest son, Ponhea To, was ordained as a Buddhist monk. Chey Chettha’s younger brother, Preah Ottey, refused to be crowned King, but he agreed to manage the country until Ponhea To finished his monkhood.

In 1629, Ponhea To finished his monkhood and became a Cambodian King until 1634. His second brother, Ponhea Nu, succeeded him as Cambodian King and died in 1639.

In 1658, after failing to overthrow Cambodian King Ang Chan, Ang So (son of Preah Ottey) went into hiding under the protection of Chey Chettha II’s wife, Vietnamese Queen Ngoc Van. Queen Ngoc Van told Ang So to seek help from Nguyen Lord. With the ambition to invade Cambodia, the Nguyen Lord quickly agreed to send the Vietnamese troops to help Ang So. King Ang Chan was captured along with his armed forces during the fighting against the Vietnamese at Preah Sourkea (Ba Ria) and imprisoned in Quang Binh (near Tonkin border) and died there in 1659. In this war, Ang Em who was a brother of Ang So, was also killed in the fighting in Barach river. Nguyen Lord installed Ang So as Cambodian King and he reigned until 1672.

During the reign of Ang So, under the influence of the Nguyen Lord and assisted with the interference Queen Ngoc Van on the Cambodia court, the Nguyen Lord started sending the Vietnamese to live in Prey Nokor, Preah Sourkea, and surrounding area. The Nguyen Lord used the strategy “Dân Đi Trước, Làng Nước Đi Sau” which simply means “Send the Vietnamese to live there first, and then start conquering the area later.” Because the culture and language between the Vietnamese and the Khmer-Krom are different, wherever the Vietnamese moved in, the Khmer-Krom started moving away from that area.

In 1816, with the ambition to tactically legalize Kampuchea-Krom as Vietnam’s territory, the Emperor Gia Long ordered Thoai Ngoc Hau to arrest the Khmer-Krom to dig the “Vinh Te” canal, which runs for about twenty five miles between the Gulf of Siam and Moat Chrouk (Chau Doc) province in an attempt to set a border between Kampuchea and Kampuchea-Krom.

Thousands of Khmer-Krom people were killed by a deliberate flooding of the area. The Khmer-Krom people who rebelled against Vietnamese authority were buried alive to the neck, their heads were used as a stand to support a tea kettle in an incident called, Don’t spill the masters tea (Kum pup te ong).

During this time, the Khmer-Krom people also were forced to change their last names. The last names THACH, SON, KIEN, KIM, CHAU and DANH were forced upon the Khmer- Krom people in the designated provinces as an attempt to identify and control those who were of Khmer origin.  For example, the CAO family name is mostly used for Khmer-Krom in Raung Domrey (Tay Ninh) province, DAO family name in Prek Reussey (Can Tho) province, CHAU (for men) and NEANG (for women) family name in Moth Chrouk (Chau Doc) province, DANH family name in Kramoun Sor (Rach Gia) province, THACH, KIM, SON, KIEN, family name in the provinces of Preah Trapeang (Tra Vinh), Kleang (Soc Trang), Pol Leav (Bac Lieu), and Tuek Khmau (Ca Mau). However, some last names are mixed such as: Ly, Diep, Lam, Tang, Nhan, Huynh, Tran, Ngo, To, Duong, Luu, etc..

Internal conflicts continued to occur as the Khmer-Krom peasants tried to defend their remaining land. In addition to Emperor Gia Long installed Governors, the Khmer-Krom Governors were coexisting in areas heavily populated by the Khmer-Krom people.

In 1832, Le Van Duyet, who governed Prey Nokor area and also controlled the Panduranga-Champa (Phan Rang), died. Emperor Minh Mang used to contend with Le Van Duyet, but he could not do anything to him because he had helped the Nguyen Dynasty win the war against Tay Son. Emperor Minh Mang sent forces to capture Panduranga and killed whoever did not obey him. It was a historical year, in that the Champa Kingdom was completely erased from the Indochina map.


In 1856, King Ang Duong secretly contacted the French Emperor Napoleon III through a French Catholic Missionary, Monseigneur Miche, in France in an attempt to reclaim the lost provinces of Kampuchea-Krom and sought protection for Cambodia against aggressive neighbors. His request was not fulfilled until 1858.

In 1858, after bombardment of Da Nang to revenge Emperor Tu Duc executing the Catholic missionaries, Admiral Doudard De La Grandiere sailed to the South to follow up the request of King Ang Duong in 1856 as ordered by French Emperor Napoleon III. With the help of King Ang Duong’s Royal Army, the French successful captured Prey Nokor in 1859. Following the liberation, the French took over Prey Nokor and renamed it to Sai Gon. France extended their occupation to Chongva Tropeang (Bien Hoa), Preah Sourkea (Ba Ria).

In 1859, the Khmer-Krom in Khleang province stood up under the leadership of Sena Sous to battle against the Vietnamese invaders at Mahatup and Chong Ballang. During three years of revolution in this province, the Khmer-Krom liberated most of the areas in Khleang province and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, Sena Sous was poisoned by the Vietnamese secret agent. In the same year, King Ang Duong died and his oldest son, Ang Vettey succeeded him as King Norodom.

In 1860, Sena Mon’s and Sena Tea’s led Khmer-Krom to stand up against the Vietnamese at Lum Pou Yea (Thanh Phu), Khleang province. Sena Tea was wounded during the fighting and died later. His body was buried in the Kveng Krobel (Hung Oh) Buddhist temple in Pol Leav (Bac Lieu) province.

In 1884, Tonkin (North Vietnam) and Annam (the center of Vietnam) became French protectorates. In 1887, Cochin China, Cambodia, Tonkin, and Annam were politically grouped into a confederacy called the Union of French Indochina (Laos was added in 1893). The capital of French Indochina was moved from Saigon to Hanoi in 1902. Cochin China was administered by the French because it was considered a French Colony instead of a protectorate that was administered by the native rulers.

During the French colonization of Kampuchea-Krom, the Khmer-Krom people entered a temporary period of stability and peace amongst millions of Vietnamese settlers.

Recognized as people related to and/or descendants of Cambodia, the Khmer-Krom people had the same rights as a Khmer citizen would if they were in the Motherland. With basic rights and fundamental freedoms, the Khmer-Krom culture and identity flourished with many of their people getting greater access within the educational system, which at one point was only available for Vietnamese people. This allowed them to take part in local government and hold government positions within the provinces of Cochin China.

During December 1945 and January 1946, the Viet Minh made up an incident called “Kap Youn” (kill the Vietnamese), but in the reality, the Viet Minh were the ones who killed the Khmer-Krom. For instance:

•             The Viet Minh arrested hundreds of Khmer-Krom and placed them into pillories, drowning them in Kampong Toteung River in Preah Trapeang and also other villages of Dam Kinh, Dam Gioi, Ho Phong, Gia Rai, Koh Mahat, Phno Andet in Khleang, Pol Leav, and Teuk Khmau provinces.

•             In Pol Leav (Bac Lieu) and Khleang (Soc Trang), the Khmer-Krom leaders and intellectuals were gathered into the Japanese rice granaries, locked up, and set afire in an attempt to destroy Khmer-Krom identity.

•             In Moth Chrouk (Chau Doc) province, during the night time, the Viet Minh troops came to the Khmer-Krom villages and started fires to burn the Khmer-Krom’s houses. The Khmer-Krom stood up to defend their villages and this led to fighting among Khmer-Krom and the Viet Minh.


In 1949, to prevent the ambitious expansion of the Communist regime toward the South and in hope of preserving essential privileges, the French government persuaded Bao Dai to return from exile with the promise of being promoted the Head of State of Vietnam.

On March 8, 1949, the Elysee Agreement was signed between the French President Vincent Auriol and New Associated State of Vietnam in which Bao Dai was recognized as the leader without prior consultation of the Cambodian King.

Alarmed by changing status of Cochin China, a Cambodian delegation composing of H.E. Son Sann and Prime Minister Mr. Chhean Vam was sent to Paris to protest against this transfer. The debate concerning that decision followed.

With the help of a group of French Representatives led by Mr. Gaston Deferre (Mr. Juglas, Abelin, Bourgnes, Maunoury, Duveau, Dumas, Rene, Pleven, and Mr.Temple), Cambodian government sent a delegation composed of H.E. Son Sann and Mr.Chhean Vam to France to protest against that transference. With this situation, a group of French Representatives led by Mr. Gaston Deferre presented a motion demanding that the French Government solve all pending questions between the protectorate of Cambodia and the colony of Cochin China before yielding that colony to Vietnam.

On June 4th 1949, the French President, Vincent Auriol, signed the law granting Cochin-China to the Bao Dai government without prior or proper consultation with the indigenous Khmer-Krom.

Vietnam War – the Republic of Vietnam Colonization

On August 29, 1956, the Diem regime issued an ordinance to Vietnamize the Khmer-Krom. The Khmer-Krom people were forced to change their names to Vietnamese sounding names in order to go to school or apply for a job. The Khmer-Krom’s race was also changed in their identity card from Cambodian to Vietnamese. The Khmer-Krom people were called as “Người Việt Góc Miên” (The Vietnamese of Khmer Origin) in government documents.

During this time, most of the farmers in Kampuchea-Krom were Khmer-Krom because they had lands to farm. The Diem regime wanted to take away Khmer-Krom’s farmlands to distribute to the Vietnamese newcomers (mostly from the North after 1954) in Kampuchea-Krom. The Diem regime implemented a strategy to legally confiscate the Khmer-Krom’s farmlands, called “Cải Cách Điền Địa” (Farmland Reform). With this farmland reform, the Khmer-Krom lost thousands of hectares of farmlands to the Vietnamese.

At the end of 1957, all the public schools that taught in Franco-Khmer were closed. The Khmer-Krom students were forced to learn only Vietnamese in public schools. However, the Khmer schools still opened in the Pagodas teaching by the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks. Lots of Khmer-Krom dropped out of the public schools. They could not continue their education because they did not know Vietnamese. Some fortunate Khmer-Krom families could afford to send their children to continue their education in Cambodia.

Living under the oppression of the Diem regime and the VCs’ encroaching and killing Khmer-Krom on their villages, there were many Khmer-Krom and Buddhist monks who stood up in many different movements to defend their Khmer-Krom rights and identity, for instance:

On October 16, 1958, The “Free Khmer” (Khmer Serei) movement was found and led by Dr. Son Ngoc Thanh at Phum Thom (Loc ninh) village, Neak Kiri (Binh Long) province (which used to belong to Toul Ta Mouk province).

In 1959, the Khmer Con Sen Sar (Khmer White Scarves) movement was formed by the Khmer-Krom in Svaiton (Tri Ton) district, Mouth Chrouk (Chau Doc) province and led by Kru Samouk Seng, Kru Kong, and other commanders like Chau Im, Chau Reap, etc.

On March 18, 1960, the “RONASSE TOSU Kampuchea-Krom” (Front for the Struggle of the Kampuchea-Krom) was formed at Phnom Po peal (Cam Mountain), in Kro Bao (Tinh Bien) district and led by Chau Dara. The Khmer Con Sen Sar members merged into this movement.

On November 1, 1963, the South Vietnamese Generals, led by General Duong Van Minh, made a Coup D’état to overthrow Diem regime. Both President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, were killed on November 2, 1963.

After the Diem regime collapsed, the Khmer-Krom prisoners that were imprisoned by the Diem regime were released. The US government started sending more American troops and special advisors into South Vietnam to help the Republic of Vietnam government to prevent the VC’s expansion into Kampuchea-Krom.

The Khmer-Krom people were allowed to run for the local government positions in the area where Khmer-Krom populated. They were also allowed to freely practice their Theravada Buddhism with their own Buddhist Association.

In 1965, when the US actively conducted the war against the NFL and also helped bring the democracy to the South Vietnam, the Khmer-Krom community started realizing who their real enemy was. Thus, all the members of the Front for the Struggle of the Kampuchea-Krom joined the US Mike Force receiving salary directly from the US government, not from the Republic of Vietnam government. Thousands of Khmer-Krom youths joined US Special Forces to fight the VC.

On October 8, 1969, the National Assembly of the Republic of Vietnam led by President Nguyen Van Thieu denied the draft of a minority ethnic council to recognize Khmer-Krom as an ethnic minority instead of considering them as Vietnamese. On November 13, 1969, the unjust denial to recognize the rights of the Khmer-Krom led to many demonstrations by the Khmer-Krom and Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks in Prey Nokor (Sai Gon) and throughout Kampuchea-Krom.

On March 26, 1970, President Nguyen Van Thieu signed an ordinance, called “Người Cày Có Ruộng” (LAND TO THE TILLER). This policy took away thousands of hectares of farmland from Khmer-Krom to redistribute to the Vietnamese. Even the Vietnamese government paid some compensation, but it was not worth the current market price.

From 1970 – 1972, thousands of Khmer-Krom soldiers were sent to Cambodia by the US to help Lon Nol regime to fight the communists in Cambodia. Unfortunately, most of those soldiers sacrificed their lives to defend the sovereignty of their fatherland, Cambodia.

Socialist Republic of Vietnam Colonization

On May 13, 1975, the VC government ordered the dissolution of the Khmer-Krom Theravada Buddhist Association, Khmera Nikay Association. The leaders of all the Khmer-Krom Buddhist Associations, the leaders of the local Khmer-Krom temples, and thousands of the Khmer-Krom people (soldiers, police, government workers, translators, etc.) who worked for the old regime (Republic of Vietnam) were sent to prisons called “Reeducation Camps”. Hundreds of them died in the prisons because of torture, starvation, sickness, etc.

On June 19, 1975, the VC government arrested Son Ngoc Thanh and imprisoned him in Chi Hoa prison in Prey Nokor. He died in the prison in July 8, 1977.

The VC government also sent the family of the Khmer-Krom who worked for the old regime to live in the “Vùng Kinh Tế Mới” (New Economic Zones) as revenge. These are the areas that were under development, with no irrigation systems, no sanitation, no schools for their children, and with limited access to basic supplies of foods and medicines.

The VC government implemented a strategy, called “Đánh Đổ Tư Sản” (Subversive capitalists), to “legally” take away the property of the wealthy Khmer-Krom families. The VC government ordered the closing of all the Khmer schools and forbade the teaching of Khmer in public schools and in the Khmer-Krom temples.

The VC government sent millions of Vietnamese from the North to live in Kampuchea-Krom. These people were the newcomers so they did not have land to farm. To “legally” help the Vietnamese newcomers in Kampuchea-Krom, the VC government started implementing its communist land reform policy, called “Tập Đòan”. 

The VC government declared that all the farmlands in Vietnam belonged to the government, so the VC government had the right to distribute all the farmland equally to all the farmers based on their head count in each family. With this tactic, the VC government took all the farmlands of the Khmer-Krom and redistributed them to the Vietnamese without any compensation. This was the main reason that made the Khmer-Krom have almost completely lost their farmlands to the Vietnamese.

On April 18, 1978, the VC government claimed that the Khmer Rouge came to Ba Chuc village, Tri Ton district, An Giang province, and killed more than 3000 innocent Vietnamese citizens. However Nguyen Vinh Long Ho (, he believed that it was a framed incident by the VC government to revenge the “Hòa Hảo” (also known as “Tứ Hiếu”) religious followers who did not support NFL during the Vietnam War. To cover up their crime, the VC government blamed this mass killing of innocent Vietnamese people on Pol Pot. The VC government also used this incident to propagandize that the Khmer Rouge regime encroached on Vietnamese territory and used it as the reason to invade (the VC government called it “a mission to liberate Cambodia”) Cambodia.

After the Ba Chuc incident and while preparing to invade Cambodia, the VC government claimed that the Khmer Rouge could come out of hiding in the Khmer-Krom villages in the Moth Chrouk (Chau Doc) province. It was not easy to recognize who Khmer Rouge or Khmer-Krom were because they both were Khmer. With that propaganda, by the end of 1978, the VC government had forcefully evacuated the Khmer-Krom from the entire Moth Chrouk province to live in the “New Economic Zone” in Khleang (Soc Trang) leaving behind all their belongings, properties, livestock, farmlands, and especially their beloved temples.

On December 25, 1978, the armed forces of Vietnam started invading Cambodia. The Vietnamese forces completely controlled Cambodia and declared the victory on January 7, 1979. The VC government installed a Vietnamese client government led by puppet Cambodians to govern Cambodia. The invasion of the Vietnamese occurred in less than two weeks that made lots of people wonder why the Khmer Rouge forces defeated so fast. Were Vietnam troops already hidden in the Khmer Rouge army?

Since 1979, thousands of Khmer-Krom escaped their beloved homeland to seek refuge in other countries because they could not live under the oppression of the VC government.

By the end of 1980, the VC government started allowing Khmer-Krom people of Moth Chrouk province who were living in Khleang to go back to their villages without any transportation assistance from the VC government. Just from Khleang to Moth Chrouk, some Khmer-Krom families could not find money enough to go back to their villages and stayed in Khleang until 1982. When the Khmer-Krom went back to their villages, their houses and farmlands were confiscated. This evacuation tactic caused thousands of Khmer-Krom families in Moth Chrouk to live in poverty even today.

In 1982, the Vietnamese Communist government started implementing the KC50 affair to arrest and kill Khmer-Krom patriots in Preah Trapeang (Tra Vinh) province. The “K” stands for “Khmer”, “C” stands for “Chết” (means “die”). The KC50 was known as “Make 50% Khmer-Krom die or Kill 50% Khmer-Krom”.

From 1982 – 1985, thousands of Khmer-Krom and Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and killed in prison. The VC government even arrested the Khmer-Krom who used to support them during the Vietnam War. One of the well-known and most respected Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks was Venerable Kim Toc Chon who was the Me-Kon (the Chief Monk) of the entire Preah Trapeang province. Hundreds of Khmer-Krom had to escape to Cambodia. Some of them were fortunately emigrated to the US and other countries.

In 1985, the Khmer-Krom abroad organized the First World Convention on Khmer-Krom in New York City, USA.

When the Khmer-Krom arrived in the western countries and started reporting this incident to the world, the VC government got scared so they set up a trial to find “justice” for the Khmer-Krom victims on September 12 and 13, 1990. According to the Vietnamese Court’s judgment (02/SCT 13/9/90), there were only “195 people arrested, 4 people committed suicide, and 11 people deaths”. The irony of this judgment was that none of the Vietnamese authorities who actually conducted the arrests and ordered the torture of Khmer-Krom in the prison was sentenced to prison.

In 1996, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) was named during the Fifth World Convention of Khmer-Krom abroad in Toronto, Canada. The KKF opens a new chapter for the Khmer-Krom struggling to seek justice using non-violence for the unfortunate Khmer-Krom in Kampuchea-Krom, especially the right to Self-Determination.

The Culture of the Khmer-Krom

By The KKF Research Team

(Extracted from the same name of the culture document in

 “The Khmer-Krom Journey to Self-Determination” book)

The Khmer-Krom People

The term “Khmer-Krom” denotes the ethnic Khmer in Kampuchea-Krom. The term “Khmer-Krom” is used to differentiate from the Khmer (Cambodian) who live in Cambodia.

Physically, the Khmer-Krom people look exactly the same as the Khmer in Cambodia. Thus, it is not difficult to distinguish Khmer-Krom from Vietnamese people in Kampuchea-Krom, especially in the Mekong Delta. The Khmer-Krom skin color tends to be darker than the Vietnamese. They usually have black, wavy hair, and dark brown eyes. Their eyebrows are big, dark, and short.

Khmer is the language spoken by the Khmer-Krom. Khmer-Krom culture, customs, and traditions are deeply link to Cambodia. But there are subtle differences that distinguish Khmer-Krom from their Northern cousins. The Khmer-Krom people have their own unique culture that is totally different from the Vietnamese culture.

Approximately, there are about 7 million Khmer-Krom people living in Kampuchea-Krom and about 1.24 million around the globe. The Vietnamese government incorrectly claims that Khmer-Krom population is only about 1.3 million. Many official identification cards of the Khmer-Krom Buddhists were incorrectly written as “Ethnic Vietnamese” or “No Religion” creating the misconception that they are not Khmer-Krom.

A popular Khmer-Krom motto is “Nation – Religion – People”. They believe that the survival of one depends on the other.

Theravada Buddhism is deeply rooted in the Khmer-Krom culture. Approximately, ninety five percent of Khmer-Krom people practice Theravada Buddhism from generation to generation for almost two thousand years. There are over 25,000 Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks and more than 560 Khmer Krom Buddhist temples scattered all over Kampuchea-Krom (See Appendix B for a list of the oldest Khmer-Krom temples in Kampuchea-Krom). Each of these temples is surrounded by Khmer-Krom villages and Khmer-Krom rice fields. The monasteries and the farms are the backbone of the Khmer-Krom unique national identity.  The Religion and the Land are the essence of the Khmer-Krom. The monistaries safeguard the Khmer language, culture, tradition, custom, foods, character, and personality.  

Buddhist teachings — Love, Compassion, and Honesty— are the moral standards for the conduct of Khmer-Krom people. Traditionally, most of the Khmer-Krom young men have been ordained to become monks for some period of time during their adult up lives. By committing themselves to follow the principles of Lord Buddha’s teachings, these people are considered by their communities to be the honorable and respectful persons with a high standard of moral value, strong discipline, and good education. They become better, more mature, and humble gentlemen. It is such a noble mission in their life-time which makes their families, relatives, and friends very proud of them.

Cultural Festivals

New Year

Chol Chnam Thmey (ចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី) (New Year) is the most important holiday of the year.  According to the Lunisolar calendar, Khmer people observe New Year on the thirteenth day of April.  However, in the event of a Leap year, New Year is observed on the fourteenth day of April. The New Year celebration lasts for three consecutive days.  In addition to the Khmer people, other Southeast Asian people from Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar also observe New Year during mid-April.  An astrologer usually determines the precise date of this high-spirited celebration. 

Sen Don-Ta Festival

Khmer-Krom people refer the festival of Bonn Pjum Ben as Bonn Don-Ta. The Don-Ta festival is the second largest festival after the Chol Chnam Thmay (New Year) festival. It is the Khmer Festival of Souls. The focus is on blessing of the souls of our ancestors, relatives, and friends who have passed away. People of all ages go to Khmer Buddhist temples to make traditional offerings and pray.

This spiritual and religious event of Bonn Pjum Ben takes place on the 15th day of the lunar calendar year (falls between the last week of September and the first week of October). The exact date may vary based on the lunar calendar. There are 14 mini Bonn events (Bonn day 1, Bonn day 2, etc.) to take place in days prior to the final Pjum Bonn on the 15th day.

In Cambodia, Pjum Ben festival is a national holiday. In Kampuchea-Krom, the Vietnamese authorities do not recognize it as a national holiday. However, some schools did allow Khmer-Krom students to take one or two days off to spend time with their family and to celebrate the festival. Some students are scare to take days off because they may behind their school work because the Vietnamese students still go to school on this festival.

Ork Ombok

The Ork Ombok festival is the third largest festival of the year. It is also known as Sompeah Preah Kae (Worshipping the Moon). It takes place on the 15th of the 10th lunar month. It is a time that the Khmer-Krom starts harvesting their rice.

Ombok is made from sticky rice. They are flat grains of rice. To produce Ombok, the fresh sticky rice that Khmer-Krom just harvested are placed in a pan and stir-fried. When the sticky rice start popping off the husk, the sticky rice are poured into rice mortar and pounded with wooden pestles alternatively and steadily by two people. Pounding stops when the sticky rices become glutinous. They then take the sticky rice out of the mortar and winnow to separate the husk from the Ombok. 

On the night of the Ork Ombok festival, the Khmer-Krom go to their local temple to celebrate. At the end of the Ork Ombok festival, some temples in Kampuchea-Krom also have a flying-lantern release ceremony. Unfortunately in recent years, the Vietnamese government has forbidden the Khmer-Krom from releasing the flying-lantern with the reason that it might cause the fire. In reality, the flying-lantern never causes any fire (people in Cambodia and Thailand have released the flying-lantern just like the Khmer-Krom). The Vietnamese government is just tactically step by step to eliminate the traditional culture of the Khmer-Krom.

Buddhist Festivals

Meak Bochea

The celebration of Meak Bochea (Pali: Māgha Pūjā) usually happens in March. It is conducted on the fullmoon day of third lunar month to commemorate the day of 1,250 Bhikkhus (they were all enlightened and ordained by the Buddha). They met fortuitously on the full-moon day, and Sakyamuni expounded the PATIMOKHA, the rules of the order at the Veluvana Temple.

Visak Bochea

The celebration of Visak Bochea (Pali: Vesākha Pūjā) usually happens in May. It is conducted on the fullmoon day of the sixth lunar month to honor the Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday, Enlightenment, and Parinibbana (passing-away).

Chol Preah Vasa

The celebration of Chol Preah Vasa usually starts in July. It is conducted to support the Buddhist monks and laypeople for their three months of rain-retreat (or Buddhist Lent to fully study and practice the Dhamma). The monks are not allowed to go anywhere unless it is urgent. If something important happens (his parent passed away, etc…), they are allowed to go away for one week.

Chenh Preah Vasa

The celebration of Chenh Preah Vasa usually happens in October. It is conducted to appreciate the fulfillment of Buddhist monks and laypeople who completed their three months rain-retreat practice of the Dharma. Now, they are free to travel as needed.


The celebration of Kathin (Kathina Dana) usually happens in October. It is conducted to express gratitude and offer Saffron Robes to Buddhist monks who have successfully graduated their three month rain-retreat of Dhamma practices during Vasa. This offering happens for 29 days which is counted from the first day of Buddhist monks out of Lent (end of Vasa).

Traditional Sports

In Kampuchea-Krom, there are two well-known traditional sports that Khmer-Krom people have participated for centuries are Ox Racing and Dragon Boat Racing.

Pronang Ko (Ox /Bull Racing)

Ox racing is a traditional sport that is celebrated only by the Khmer-Krom in Moth Chrouk province.

Pronang Ko in Moth Chrouk

Most Khmer-Krom in Moth Chrouk use Ox’s plow to harrow their rice-fields. The Ox can run very fast with its harrow, so Khmer-Krom people use it to race.

Unfortunately, the Ox race of the Khmer-Krom in Moth Chrouk province has been used to attract the tourists for the Vietnamese government. Since 1992, the authorities of Sway-Ton and Kro-Bao districts hold the Ox race on October (one year in Sway-Ton district and another year in Krabao district) during the Don-Ta festival to attract tourists. The authority of each district dedicates a field just for Ox race and sells tickets to whoever wants to watch the race. The Vietnamese police use the Khmer-Krom’s rice-fields near the Ox race’s racefield for motocycle and car parking. The benefits receive from the parking fee were not shared with the Khmer-Krom.

This is a Khmer-Krom sport, but there are not many Khmer-Krom who participate in this sport in recent years. The Khmer-Krom used to complain about the unfair results that they tend to get from biased Vietnamese referees.

Most of Khmer-Krom are living in poverty, thus they cannot afford to buy the ticket to watch the race. It is sad to see a Khmer-Krom traditional sport exploited for tourism and benefits tfor he Vietnam authorities.

Pronang Touk Ngo (Dragon Boat Racing)

During the Ork Ombok festival, the Khmer-Krom people also organize the regatta festival which is known as Pronang Touk Ngo (or Bonn Om Touk). In Khmer, Pronang means “race” and Touk Ngo is a “long boat”. The Touk Ngo’s front has a carving that is decorated as a dragon’s head or naga serpent’s head.

Pronang Touk Ngo in Khleang

The Khmer-Krom have organized the Pronang Touk Ngo by themselves for hundred years in different provinces in Mekong Delta, such as: Khleang, Pol Leav, Preah Trapeang, Long Hor, Kramoun Sor. Each Touk Ngo team usually belongs to a temple. Besides racing to commemorate the Khmer-Krom ancestor’s navy troops, the Khmer-Krom want to win the race for the fame of their temple’s team.

In recent years, the Vietnamese government has exploited the Pronang Touk Ngo festival to attract tourists. The Vietnamese government tactically shows to the world that it helps organizing the festival for the Khmer-Krom. In the reality, the Vietnamese government makes lots of profits from providing the tourist services and advertisement. The Khmer-Krom paddlers don’t gain a penny from those profits, except the winning teams may get some awards.


Contact Us

If you have any questions, comments or feedback please do not hesitate to contact us.
Postal Address:
Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation
P.O.Box 193
Pennsauken, NJ 08110
Fax: 856-583-1503

About KKF

The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) is a peaceful organization representing millions of voiceless Khmer-Krom people living in the Mekong Delta and its surrounding regions of current day Vietnam as well as thousands living in exile.

KKF is a global organization ran by volunteers from around the world. Its human rights advocated activities are funded by donations from Khmer-Krom communities and the sympathizers across the continents.

The organization was first established in 1985 when the First World Convention on Khmer-Krom was held in New York City, USA. In the Fifth World Convention in Toronto, Canada in 1996, the current name of Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation was adopted.

KKF Mission

The mission of KKF is, through the use of peaceful measures and international laws, to seek freedom, justice, and the right to self-determination for the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples in Kampuchea-Krom (Mekong Delta region).

Organizational Structure

KKF is led by the members of Board of Directors.  The KKF Board of Directors is democratically elected every four years by the members from around the world including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, and the United States.

KKF Board of Directors consists of: Chairman, President, Vice-President, Chief of Administration, Senior Council, Representatives Council, Secretary, Treasure, Director of Planning, Director of Information, Director of Women, Director of Youth, Director of Education, and Director of Religious Affairs.

The President, who leads the executive committee, is responsible for daily operations of the federation.

Besides KKF Board of Directors, KKF is also led by the Presidents of Regional, Continental, and local chapters.


Khmer-Krom’s motto is “Nation – Religion – Peoples


Khmer-Krom’s flag has three colors: Blue, Yellow, and Red. The flag’s size is “3 by 5”.

The meaning of each color is as follows:  

Blue: represent for the Freedom and Democracy

Yellow: represent for the Khmer-Krom who love Peace and Justice

Red: represent for the Khmer-Krom’s Bravery and Sacrifice for the fatherland


Khmer-Krom’s logo is called, Rear Hoo Chap Chan.

Rear Hoo is a fictitious character in the Reamker, the Khmer version of the Ramayana, which is one of the most popular mythical stories in Khmer literature.  RearHoo Chap Chan is the painting depicted a monster-like figure catching the moon (Chan in Khmer means moon). When this happens, according to Khmer folklore, we have the lunar eclipse causing darkness.

In Kampuchea-Krom, Rear Hoo Chap Chan is featured on most of the pagodas’ main chapel (Preah Vihear) and was adopted as the logo for the first Khmer-Krom Association founded by Mr. Lam Em in Khleang in 1937. Rear Hoo symbolizes the evil and the moon represents the good. Like the Lunar eclipse, the innocent and benign Khmer-Krom is falling into the darkness, caused by a brutal invader. As a law of nature, the lunar eclipse is temporary. Likewise, the Khmer-Krom people’s oppression is temporary and they will ultimately be free. The evil will ultimately be defeated.