Cambodian People, Cambodians You Have Never Known (2023)

Cambodian People, Cambodians You Have Never Known (1)
A Cambodian mother and her six daughters of different ages

To understand a country's ethnic group, one must first understand its social appearance. Today, we want to focus on the Cambodian people and their lives, so that you can gain more valuable cultural experience in the upcoming trip to Cambodia.

-“Why are they called the most humble and honest people?”

-“Why is it evaluated as a synonym for simplicity and peace?”

We hope the following articles will be helpful to you in finding the truth about this Buddhist holy land!

1. What is the population in Cambodia?

~17million people

Besides, there are 1.55million people in Phnom Penh (capital city of Cambodia). The population growth rate is around 1.67%.

2. What are Cambodian people called?

~Khmer, also called Cambodian, or Kampuchean

Among those terms, “Kampuchean” derives from the French word “Kampuchea,” which was the name used for Cambodia during the French colonial period.

3. What are Cambodians descendants of?

~Descendants of the Khmer Angkor Empire

According to the investigation, most people in Cambodia consider themselves to be Khmers, descendants of the Angkor Empire, which extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its zenith between the 10th and 13th centuries.

4. What is Cambodians mixed with?

~90%=Khmer ethnic

~10%=Cham, Chinese, Vietnamese, and others

Besides, Cambodia’s diverse Khmer Leu (Upper Khmer) or Chunchiet (minorities), who live in the country’s mountainous regions, probably number between 60,000 and 70,000.




Cambodian People, Cambodians You Have Never Known (2)
Cambodia, buddhist monk water blessing a young woman

5. What is the official language of Cambodia?


(Video) This is what Cambodians think of African people, #foryou #cambodia #africa african in cambodia

Khmer is widely spoken by the majority of the population in Cambodia. It belongs to the Austroasiatic language family. Besides, the Khmer script is one of the oldest writing systems in the world, dating back to the 7th century.

Except Khmer language, English, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham language, Tribal languages (such as Tampuan, Jarai, Kreung, etc.) also can be heard in Cambodia. So if you are travellers worldwide trying to have an exotic Cambodia tour, do not worry about the language barriers.

6. What are the traits of Cambodian people?


The concept of “boros” (hospitality) is deeply ingrained in Cambodian society, and it is considered a virtue to be welcoming and accommodating to visitors.


People in Cambodia have demonstrated resilience and strength throughout their history, particularly in overcoming challenging periods such as the Khmer Rouge regime. Despite past hardships, many Cambodians display a determination to rebuild and move forward.


Buddhism plays a significant role in Cambodian society. Its principles often shape the values and behaviors of the people in Cambodia. Concepts such as compassion, karma, and mindfulness are commonly embraced.

Here “Mindfulness” in Buddhism refers to the ability to maintain moment-to-moment awareness, and attention to one’s thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment without judgment or attachment.

7. What is the predominant religion in Cambodia?


It plays a vital role in Cambodia culture and daily life, with numerous Buddhist temples (known as “wats”) found throughout the country. However, there are also small communities of Muslims, Christians, and followers of traditional indigenous beliefs.

8. What are some traditional customs and practices in Cambodia culture?

~Greet with a slight bow

~Clasping hands in a prayer-like gesture, called “Sampeah”

They all show respect to elders and monks and observe various rituals during important events and festivals, such as Khmer New Year, Water Festival, Pchum Ben (Ancestor’s Day), etc.




Cambodian People, Cambodians You Have Never Known (3)
A child wearing a krama smiled at the camera

9. What is the traditional clothing worn by Cambodian people?


(Video) US-raised Cambodians face deportation to homeland they've never known

It is the national garment of Cambodia, worn by both men and women around the lower body. The style of wearing it can vary depending on the occasion and individual’s preference.


A traditional Cambodian scarf. It serves multiple purposes and can be worn as a head covering, belt, or even as a practical item for carrying objects, or protecting oneself from the sun.

~Chong Kben

It is usually worn by women on special occasions, such as weddings and religious ceremonies. Women often style it with a blouse or a traditional top called “sbai”.

If you want to learn more of Cambodia traditional clothing, do not hesitate to check our latest article!

10. What are some famous Cambodian dishes or culinary traditions?

~Amok – a steamed fish curry

~Lok Lak – stir-fried beef

~Prahok – fermented fish paste

~Bai Sach Chrouk – grilled pork with rice

Cambodian cuisine features a variety of flavors, influenced by neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam. If you have a chance to visit Siem Reap, you must go visit Pub Street there to taste the best Cambodian street food!

11. What is the traditional dance form in Cambodia?

~Apsara dance

Apsara dance is characterized by graceful movement, intricate hand gestures, and elaborate costumes. In fact, many restaurants or cultural centers in Siem Reap offer Apsara dance. We recommend some popular venues include the Apsara Theatre at Angkor Village Resort, Koulen Restaurant, and Temple Balcony.

12. What are some notable historical figures from Cambodia?

~King Jayavarman II

The one who established the Khmer Empire

~King Jayavarman VII

The one known for his significant architectural achievements, such as Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Terrace of the Elephants, etc.

~Norodom Sihanouk

A former King and political figure, who played a key role in Cambodia’s modern history

(Video) Prime Minister Hun Sen attacked on some foreign ambassadors in Cambodia




Cambodian People, Cambodians You Have Never Known (4)
A Vann Nath painting

13. What are some artists and craftsmen in Cambodia?

~Vann Nath

As a survivor of S-21 prison, his works often conveyed the horrors and experiences he and others endured. He painted and his paintings serve as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

~Soth Chantha

He is known for his delicate pottery, using ancient techniques, including hand-building and kiln-firing, adding a lot of color on Cambodia art in pottery field.

~Mann Kosal

Mann Kosal is a highly skilled stone carver and sculptor from Cambodia. He has created numerous exquisite sculptures for temples and cultural sites.

14. How does education work in Cambodia?

~Primary education

6-12 free and compulsory for children

~Secondary education

Lower secondary (grade 7-9)

Upper secondary (grade 10-12)

~Tertiary education

It means universities and colleges that offer a range of degree programs.

However, education in Cambodia remains a challenge. Children with disabilities, face barriers to accessing education due to poverty, distance, and cultural norms, such as schools in floating villages on the Tonle Sap Lake. Efforts are being made to improve teacher training, increase access to education in remote areas.

15. What are the gender roles and family structures in Cambodian society?

-“With societal changes and increasing urbanization gender roles in Cambodia have become more diverse.”

(Video) Let's Learn 5 Words "Often, Always, Ever, Never & Used to" in Cambodian.

Historically, Cambodian society has been patriarchal, with the authority and decision-making power held by male family members. However, this influence is gradually shifting as women gain more educational and economic opportunities.

16. What are some challenges or issues faced by the Cambodian people today?


Cambodian population lived below the national poverty line, which is defined as living on less than $1.90 per day. Except the prevalent rural-urban disparity, Cambodia also faces income inequality. Beside, certain groups are vulnerable to poverty in Cambodia, including ethnic minorities, women, children, and people with disabilities.

~Historical traumas

Many Cambodian individuals continue to suffer from psychological and emotional trauma resulting from Khmer Rouge era. Meanwhile, access to mental health services and support for trauma survivors is limited. Some individuals responsible for the crimes committed have not been held accountable.

However, justice is vital but not the sole solution. Cambodia continues to grapple with the legacy of the Khmer Rouge era, and efforts to promote healing and reconciliation. These efforts include initiatives to preserve historical sites, establish memorials, and promote dialogue and understanding among different generations.




Cambodian People, Cambodians You Have Never Known (5)
Smiles of Cambodian students healing

In the end

Alright, that concludes the article here. We hope this article can provide you with some reflections and help you understand the people and life of Cambodia from various perspectives.

At the same time, we welcome you to travel here at any time. You can contact us to tailor you Cambodia tour.

As a professional travel agency, we are always waiting for your arrival!

Related itineraries to Cambodia

5 Days Cambodia Tour to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh

14 Days Cambodia Road Tour to Sihanoukville

17 Days In-depth Cambodia Tour with Animal Encounters



What was the slogan of the Khmer Rouge? ›

One Khmer Rouge slogan ran 'To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss. ' It is estimated that well over two million people were murdered during this period, from execution, disease, exhaustion and starvation.

What are Cambodian people known for? ›

Cambodians are gentle

They are kind, caring, sweet and always wear a smile – even in the direst of disasters, making them a little easier to deal with. As a deeply Buddhist country, the philosophy of being caring and compassionate forms part of daily life in Cambodia.

What was Pol Pot's speech in 1978? ›

A 1978 speech delivered by Pol Pot in which he proclaimed that “not one seed” of the Vietnamese population remained inside Cambodia illustrated a “successful completion of genocide” against the group, an expert witness told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday.

What are people of Cambodia called? ›

Khmer, also called Cambodian, or Kampuchean, any member of an ethnolinguistic group that constitutes most of the population of Cambodia. Smaller numbers of Khmer also live in southeastern Thailand and the Mekong River delta of southern Vietnam.

Why were the Khmer Rouge so brutal? ›

The Khmer Rouge were very clever and brutal. Their tactics were effective because most of us refused to believe their malicious intentions. Their goal was to liberate us. They risked their own lives and gave up their families for "justice" and "equality." How could these worms have come out of our own skin?

What is Khmer Rouge full name? ›

In 1960, a small group of Cambodians, led by Saloth Sar (later known as Pol Pot) and Nuon Chea, secretly formed the Communist Party of Kampuchea. This movement would become known as the Khmer Rouge, or “Red Khmers.”

What are Cambodians mixed with? ›

Due to the long history of the two countries, there is a significant amount of Cambodians of mixed Vietnamese and Khmer ancestry. Most of these Vietnamese-Cambodians no longer speak Vietnamese and have assimilated into Khmer society and identify as Khmer.

What do Cambodians value the most? ›

Cambodians also tend to have a sense of attachment and pride for their family, village and district. Being a collectivistic society, strong emphasis is placed on honouring and being loyal towards one's family. Indeed, loyalty to one's family, friends or community will, at times, override social rules.

What caused Pol Pot's downfall? ›

After several years of border clashes, the newly unified Vietnam invaded Cambodia in December 1978, toppling Pol Pot and installing a rival government in 1979. The Khmer Rouge retreated to the jungles near the Thai border, from where they continued to fight.

What was Pol Pot's problem? ›

It is estimated that from 1975 to 1979, under the leadership of Pol Pot, the government caused the deaths of more than one million people from forced labour, starvation, disease, torture, or execution while carrying out a program of radical social and agricultural reforms.

What does angkar mean Khmer Rouge? ›

The Khmer Rouge demanded unquestioning loyalty to the nameless and faceless regime that people knew simply as Angkar, or “the organization.” In Khmer Rouge ideology, loyalty to Angkar replaced all other forms—to parents, to family, to village, to religion.

Who are Cambodians descended from? ›

Another study suggests that Cambodians trace about 19% of their ancestry to a similar Eurasian population related to modern-day Central Asians, South Asians, and East Asians, while the remaining 81% of their ancestry is related specifically to modern-day Dai and Han people.

Are Cambodians tall? ›

Cambodians are an average of 158.11cm (5 feet 2.24 inches) tall.

What ethnicity is Cambodia? ›

Ethnic Khmer make up 90-94 per cent of the entire population, with the remainder comprised of four distinct groups: Cham, indigenous highland communities, ethnic Chinese and ethnic Vietnamese, plus other smaller minority groups such as the Khmer Krom and the Kuy people.

What did Khmer Rouge do to babies? ›

Against its trunk, Khmer Rouge soldiers bashed the delicate skulls of infants and small children, tossing their lifeless bodies into open pits. As if weeping, a deep crimson stain runs down the oak.

Why did Vietnam invade Cambodia? ›

The cause of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia was its shattered relationship with the Khmer Rouge, who the Viet Cong had helped remove the American backed Republic of Kampuchea government in 1975. But three years later, the Khmer Rouge had become a liability.

Does Khmer Rouge still exist? ›

In 1996, a new political party called the Democratic National Union Movement was formed by Ieng Sary, who was granted amnesty for his role as the deputy leader of the Khmer Rouge. The organisation was largely dissolved by the mid-1990s and finally surrendered completely in 1999.

What is the IQ of Cambodia? ›

Cambodia was recently ranked 15th out of 199 nations for average IQ, placing it second in Southeast Asia behind Singapore, according to the World Population Review, an independent organisation based in the US state of California. In 2023, the average IQ of Cambodians is 99.75.

Why did Vietnam remove the Khmer Rouge? ›

By the end of 1978, Vietnamese leaders decided to remove the Khmer Rouge-dominated government of Democratic Kampuchea, perceiving it as being pro-Chinese and hostile towards Vietnam.

What does Khmer Rouge mean in English? ›

Khmer Rouge, (French: “Red Khmer”) also called Khmers Rouges, radical communist movement that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 after winning power through a guerrilla war.

Do Cambodians have Chinese ancestry? ›

Chinese Cambodians (or Sino-Khmers) are Cambodian citizens of Chinese ancestry or Chinese of full or partial Khmer ancestry. The Khmer term Khmer Kat Chen (ខ្មែរកាត់ចិន) is used for people of mixed Chinese and Khmer descent; Chen Khmer (ចិនខ្មែរ) means Cambodian-born citizen with ancestry from China.

Where do most Cambodian live in USA? ›

The City Heights neighborhood in eastern San Diego has a large concentration of Cambodians. In Northern California, Stockton, Modesto, and Oakland have significant Cambodian populations, while San Jose, Santa Rosa and Sacramento have sizable communities as well.

What are Cambodians proud of? ›

Angkor Wat, the symbolic ancient masterclass of architecture, is undoubtedly the proudest thing, which every Cambodian brag about and continue to do so. It has been symbolized as a national pride and registered as the world heritage since 1992.

What is the superstition in Cambodia? ›

If you and your friend smell the same flower one after another, both of you will share your future husband in some way. If you sing while you are cooking, you will marry a widow or widower. Cambodian men and women usually count the sound of the gecko crying in order to check out about their future husband or wife.

What are the unique beliefs of Cambodia? ›

Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist with 80% of the population being Theravada Buddhist, 1% Christian and the majority of the remaining population follow Islam, atheism, or animism.

What is Cambodia worst history? ›

Lasting for four years (between 1975 and 1979), the Cambodian Genocide was an explosion of mass violence that saw between 1.5 and 3 million people killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, a communist political group. The Khmer Rouge had taken power in the country following the Cambodian Civil War.

What drugs are illegal in Cambodia? ›

Illegal drugs. The Cambodian black market trade of illicit drugs includes cannabis, methamphetamine, ketamine, MDMA and heroin. Cambodia remains a major supplier of cannabis to countries in East and Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. Large amounts of heroin are also smuggled throughout the (Golden Triangle).

Is Cambodia still a communist country? ›

While the current government is far more democratic and open than the Khmer Rouge, it is still, essentially, a one-party state. While Cambodia's government does not look like a traditional communist dictatorship such as the ones that existed in the U.S.S.R. and Cuba, it is still essentially controlled by communists.

Were the Khmer Rouge punished? ›

Three of the Khmer Rouge leaders were convicted, beginning with “Comrade Duch” who ran a notorious torture centre in the capital Phnom Penh, where all but 12 of its 20,000 inmates perished.

Why did the Khmer empire disappear? ›

External forces battered the kingdom. In the west, the Thai kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya were growing more powerful. Increasingly frequent Thai incursions into Khmer territory disrupted trade and the safety of the empire.

Why did China support the Khmer Rouge? ›

China has used Cambodia as a counterweight to the dominating influence of Vietnam. In the mid-20th century, Communist China supported the Maoist Khmer Rouge against Lon Nol's regime, who Nationalist China had ties with, during the Cambodian Civil War and then its takeover of Cambodia in 1975.

What is the social class in Cambodia? ›

The capitalist class (business people). The petite bourgeoisie (civil servants, professionals, small business people, teachers, servants, and clerics). The peasant class (the rich, the mid-level, and the poor, based on whether or not they could hire people to work their land and on whether or not they had enough food).

Where is Pol Pot's grave? ›

As you arrive at Choam border village, look for a sign for Pol Pot's cremation site on the east side of NH67 (it's 50m south of and opposite the Sangam Casino entrance). His ashes lie under a rusted roof surrounded by rows of partly buried glass bottles.

What is the Ankar in Cambodia? ›

Synopsis. The word "Angkar" means "organization" in the Khmer language and was a name used by the Communist Party of Cambodia during the Pol Pot Regime. The Angkar governed according to its own unwritten and often brutal rules.

Who brought down the Khmer Rouge? ›

On January 7, 1979, Vietnamese troops seize the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, toppling the brutal regime of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.

What is the meaning of Angkor? ›

The word “Angkor” means “capital city” in the Khmer language, while the word “Wat” means “temple.”

Are Cambodian and Thai related? ›

The two countries share the same historical roots dating back to the old Khmer civilization, which manifest in their similar languages, cultures, and socio-ethnic features. In fact, the Thai royal language is derived from Khmer words and the two languages still retain the same Pali-Sanskrit roots.

Are Cambodians considered indigenous? ›

Cambodia's indigenous peoples were apparently part of the migration of groups of people throughout the region thousands of years ago; it is this ancestry that explains why they are considered indigenous to Cambodia.

What was Cambodia before it was Cambodia? ›

In 1979, the Khmer Rouge was overthrown and the Vietnamese-backed People's Republic of Kampuchea was established. In 1989 the Vietnamese withdrew the last of their troops and the government renamed the country State of Cambodia (SOC).

What ethnicity is the tallest? ›

Dutch people are the world's tallest, with an average height of 175.62cm (5 feet 7.96 inches.) Dutch men are an average 182.53cm (5 feet 11.86 inches) tall. Dutch women are an average 168.72cm (5 feet 6.42 inches) tall.

What is a woman's role in Cambodia? ›

Women in Cambodia, due to the influence of the dominant Khmer culture, are traditionally expected to be modest and soft-spoken. They are to be well-mannered, industrious, and hold a sense of belonging to the household.

How tall are Cambodian girls? ›

Measured and self-reported figures
Country / regionAverage male heightAverage female height
Cambodia161.7 cm (5 ft 3+1⁄2 in)151.9 cm (5 ft 0 in)
Cameroon – Urban170.6 cm (5 ft 7 in)161.3 cm (5 ft 3+1⁄2 in)
Canada177.7 cm (5 ft 10 in)163.0 cm (5 ft 4 in)
Canada175.1 cm (5 ft 9 in)162.3 cm (5 ft 4 in)
51 more rows

What is the oldest ethnic group? ›

A new genomic study has revealed that Aboriginal Australians are the oldest known civilization on Earth, with ancestries stretching back roughly 75,000 years.

What is my nationality if I was born in Cambodia? ›

Article 4(2) states that any child who was born from an unknown mother or father and is found (newly born) in Cambodia shall be considered as having been in Cambodia and is entitled to Khmer nationality/citizenship.

What is the old name for Cambodia? ›

Under the communist rule from 1975 to 1979, it was referred to as Democratic Kampuchea. Under the UN transition authority from 1989 to 1993, it became the State of Cambodia. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1993, it was renamed the Kingdom of Cambodia.

What did the Khmer Rouge rename Cambodia to? ›

In April 1975, a communist group known as the Khmer Rouge (KR), led by Pol Pot, seized control of Cambodia and renamed the country Democratic Kampuchea.

What do the words Khmer Rouge mean? ›

Khmer Rouge in American English

1. a Cambodian guerrilla and rebel force and political opposition movement, originally Communist and Communist-backed. 2. a member or supporter of this force.

What is the cartoon about Khmer Rouge? ›

Funan is a 2018 period drama animated film directed by Denis Do and written by Do and Magali Pouzol with the participation of Elise Trinh, about a Cambodian woman and her search for her child, who was forcibly taken from her, during the beginning of the Khmer Rouge revolution in April 1975.

What is the most popular food in Cambodia? ›

Samlor korkor. While amok is sometimes called the country's national dish, and might be the one most familiar to tourists, samlor korkor has a better claim to being the true national dish of Cambodia. It has been eaten for hundreds of years and today can be found in restaurants, roadside stands and family homes alike.

What is the difference between Cambodia and Khmer? ›

The differentiation of being labeled Khmer and Cambodian. Khmer is the ethnicity of the people and Cambodian is the nationality.

Who defeated the Khmer Rouge? ›

On January 7, 1979, Vietnamese troops seize the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, toppling the brutal regime of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.

Where did Khmer originate from? ›

The Khmers are considered by archaeologists and ethnologists to be indigenous to the contiguous regions of Isan, southern Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam. That is to say the Cambodians have historically been a lowland people who lived close to one of the tributaries of the Mekong River.

What does Phnom mean Khmer? ›

"Phnom" is Khmer for "hill" and Penh's hill took on the name of the founder, and the area around it became known after the hill.

What does Angkar mean in Cambodia? ›

The word "Angkar" means "organization" in the Khmer language and was a name used by the Communist Party of Cambodia during the Pol Pot Regime. The Angkar governed according to its own unwritten and often brutal rules.

What is the meaning of Angkor Wat? ›

Angkor Wat, translated from Khmer (the official language of Cambodia) literally means “City Temple.” As far as names go this is as generic as it gets. Angkor Wat was not the original name given to the temple when it was built in the 12th century.

What were the horrors of the Khmer Rouge? ›

To fulfill its goals, the Khmer Rouge emptied the cities and forced Cambodians to relocate to labor camps in the countryside, where mass executions, forced labor, physical abuse, malnutrition, and disease were rampant. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge renamed the country Democratic Kampuchea.

How did the Khmer Rouge view children? ›

Children, even more than adults, appeared particularly cruel. Even after Cambodia was liberated in 1979 by the Vietnamese, there remained a 'residual fear of children' in the country (Boyden and Gibbs, 1997, p.

Did the Khmer Rouge fight the Vietnamese? ›

The Khmer Rouge initially had been trained by the Vietnamese, but from the early 1970s they had been resentful and suspicious of Vietnam and Vietnamese intentions. Scattered skirmishes between the two sides in 1975 had escalated into open warfare by the end of 1977.


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