vendredi 1 octobre 2010

The Deep Legacy of Khmer in Mekong Delta. Soc Trang Province

When I visited Cambodia regularly in the past, I was vaguely aware of a Khmer population in the delta region of South Vietnam. I had expected pockets of small communities of Khmer speakers, possibly recent immigrants or displaced persons. There is not much information on them on the Net, even though an australian professor has done some anthropological work among the Minority people in the delta.
The bus/minivan ride to Soc Trang from Ho Chi Minh City takes about 5 1/2 hours. it is a rather bumpy ride with stops in between for a cafe sua da or Mi..Soc Trang was a base for American Forces during the War, but there is nothing to show that americans had been there. It is a quiet provincial city which receives no foreign tourists. In fact during my stay there I did not see a single foreigner.
Chinh who is vietnamese studying South East Asian Studies in Passau (that itself a rarity, since Asian students are very seldom interested in Humanities, especially going to another country to study humanities!) was my guide and the commune we got to know was Dai Tom which is a short ride away from Soc Trang.
Dai Tom is a commune of 3500 households with about 16000 people, of whom 83 % are Khmer! with 2 % Hoa and the rest are Kinh.. very surprising and when you are there, you feel Cambodia in the air, in the faces and in the food..
A very jovial motorcycle mechanic I befriended, answered: when I asked him have you been to Cambodia. I live in Campuchea Krom..
This area historically had been referred as Southern Cambodia, but since the 16th century, vietnamese began arriving and soon they would become a majority in the delta region, when France annexed this portion Cochin China and it became a part of Vietnam.
For an anthropologist, an extremely interesting place to visit, especially after seeing the poverty and exploitation that goes on in Cambodia.