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Khmer is the traditional name for the dominant culture and people (90%)[1] of modern Cambodia or, in Khmer, Kampuchea. They trace their key origins to the Angkor Empire of Southeast Asia, major regional power in the 10th and 13th centuries.


Where most countries of Southeast Asia have significant Chinese cultural influences, the Khmer culture is unique, among active groups, in having a significant Indian cultural heritage; the art mixes local animist beliefs with those from Hinduism and Buddhism. Some Chinese influence is present, but not as much as in Vietnam. [2] During the classical period, the vernacular was Khmer but the court language was Sanskrit. In the past, this was also the case in the Kingdom of Champa in what is now [{Vietnam]].

A good deal of Khmer culture was lost but is being rediscovered, going back to the temples of Angkor Wat, now a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO, as is Preah Vihear.[3]

Political impact

There was conflict with both the Khmer and Champa, during the rule of the medieval Vietnamese Kingdom of Dai Viet,[4] but also between modern Cambodia and Vietnam and their national identities.

Conflict continues between Vietnamese and Khmer nationalism, with current border disputes as well as major fighting in the Third Indochina War. A third force is China, which historically was more distant, culturally and politically, from Khmer society than Vietnamese.[5]


  1. Central Intelligence Agency, Cambodia, The World Factbook
  2. Khmer Art, Tourism of Cambodia
  3. UNESCO, Temple of Preah Vihear
  4. Charles Kimball, "Dai Viet vs. Champa", Guide to Thailand
  5. Pao-min Chang (1985), Kampuchea Between China and Vietnam, NUS Press, pp. 1-3