Northern Khmer people

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Ethnic Khmer in Thailand
Regions with significant populations

Isan Buriram, Surin, Sisaket

Eastern Trat, Chanthaburi
Thai, Isan, Northern Khmer
Dharma Wheel.svg Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Mon, Wa, and other Mon–Khmer groups

The Northern Khmer people, also known in Thai as Thai-Khmer people (Thai: ไทยเชื้อสายเขมร lit. "Thais of Khmer descent"),[1] is the designation used to refer to ethnic Khmers native to the Isan region of Northeast Thailand.


Khmers have had a presence in this area since at least the time of the Khmer Empire.[2] With the fall of the Angkor, the Khmers of the Isan region were subject to increasing Thai influence. In the 18th century, Thailand officially annexed the former Cambodian province of Surin. The Khmer residents became de facto subjects of the Thai monarchy and a long process of cultural assimilation began.


Khmer percentage of the total population in various provinces of Thailand
Province Khmer % in 1990 Khmer % in 2000
Surin[3] 63.4% 47.2%
Buriram[4] 0.3% 27.6%
Sisaket[5] 30.2% 26.2%
Trat[6] 0.4% 2.1%
Sa Kaew[7] N/A 1.9%
Chanthaburi[8] 0.6% 1.6%
Roi Et[9] 0.4% 0.5%
Ubon Ratchathani[10] 0.8% 0.3%
Maha Sarakham[11] 0.2% 0.3%


Although now a minority, the Northern Khmer have maintained some of their Khmer identity, practicing the Khmer form of Theravada Buddhism and speaking a dialect of the Khmer language known as Khmer Surin in Khmer or Northern Khmer in English. Few Northern Khmers are able to read or write their native language[12] due to Thaification policies either enacted or encouraged by the Thai government.

Thai language instruction in public schools has resulted in many of the younger generation being more comfortable using Thai as a medium of communication. Recent renewed interest in Khmer language and culture has resulted in a two-fold increase in the usage of Northern Khmer since 1958.[13]


Although it is not in large scale like the Khmer Krom

in Vietnam, due to similarities between Thailand and Cambodia in culture and historical connection, some Khmers living in Isan region have demanded more rights and strictly against Thaification of Khmer people. Also, hostilities between Thais and Khmers have made their relations more turbulent.

Notable Thai-Khmers


  1. ^ "Cuam and the Beliefs of the Thai-Khmer". 25 October 2005. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Thailand's World : Khmer People". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-07.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  12. ^ "VOA Khmer News, Radio, TV". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  13. ^ Smalley, William A. (1988). "Multilingualism in the Northern Khmer Population of Thailand". Language Sciences. 10 (2): 395&ndash, 408. doi:10.1016/0388-0001(88)90023-X.

External links

  • Thailand’s Khmer as ‘Invisible Minority’: Language, Ethnicity and Cultural Politics in North-Eastern Thailand
  • Kandrum (Kantreum) Folk Performers
  • Ethnic Khmer Festival in Thailand
  • Thai-Cambodia fighting disrupts border ties
  • Puangthong Rungswasdisab, Thailand's Response to the Cambodian Genocide; insights on Thailand's foreign policy towards its neighboring countries
  • World Directory of Minorities - Mon and Khmer
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