info People and Ethnic minorities in Vietnam


Staff member
Jun 28, 2020
About 87 percent of the 83.5-million population are ethnic Viets (nowadays 2020 the population is 95.5 million), also known as Kinh. It is likely that they are descended from a number of diverse ethnic groups. Foremost among these is the Hung, also known as Lac, who practiced intensive wet rice cultivation in the fertile Red River Delta. Over the centuries, the Viets migrated southward, adding a Malayo-Polynesian element both to Viet ethnicity and to the Vietnamese language.

The Chinese, Khmers, and Chams
Vietnam’s 1.7 million Chinese constitute the most important minority group. Only a few thousand have retained Chinese nationality, while the rest,

known as Hoa, have adopted Vietnamese nationality. Their largest concentration is in the south, especially at Cholon and in the Mekong Delta. As elsewhere in Southeast Asia, they excel at business and are predominantly urban.

Ethnic Khmer, who live mainly in the Mekong Delta, number around 2 million; they are ethnically identical to the Khmers of Cambodia (by whom they are called Khmer Krom, or ‘Lower Khmer’).

The Cham inhabit the Phan Rang and Phan Thiet regions, as well as the Mekong Delta. Once masters of the central coast, they are now reduced to as few as 300,000 people. The coastal Cham are predominantly Hindu, while those of the Mekong Delta are Muslim.

Ethnic minorities living in the mountains in central and southern Vietnam form another important group. Called Montagnards by the French, these tribes include the Muong, Ra De, Jarai, Banhar and Sedang living in the Central Highlands. Totaling around 1.5 million people, they have long resisted Viet influence and have only recently begun to integrate a little more into national life.

The highlands of northwestern Vietnam are home to many ethnic minorities. These include the Tay, who number just over 1.5 million and are found in the provinces of Cao Bang, Lang Son, Bac Thai, Quang Ninh, Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang. Their villages are located in irrigated valleys where they build traditional stilt houses. They cultivate wet paddy rice, soya beans, cinnamon, tea, tobacco, cotton, indigo and a variety of fruits.

ethic minority girls in Son La province

Other important upland minorities of northwestern Vietnam include the Tay, close relations to the various Tai-speaking groups of Laos, Thailand and China’s Yunnan province, as well as the Hmong and the Nung.