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Ethnic Groups in Vietnam

Vietnam is a multinational country. It has 54 ethnic groups with about 86 million people. The Viet (Kinh) people account for 86% of the country’s population and mainly inhabit the Red River delta, the central coastal delta, the Mekong delta and major cities. The other 53 ethnic minority groups, totaling over 8 million people, are scattered over mountain areas (covering two-thirds of the country’s territory) spreading from the North to the South.

Among ethnic minorities, the most populated are Tay, Thai, Muong, Hoa, Khmer, Nung… with a population of around 1 million each, while the least populated are Brau, Ro Mam, O Du with several hundred people each.

The material and spiritual life differs among the ethnic groups. However, in the history of national development, the ethnic groups in Vietnam have always had a tradition of solidarity and mutual assistance, particularly in the struggle against foreign aggessors. The Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the past and that of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at present have constantly developed concrete policies and granted special privileges to help the various highlands ethnic groups keep pace with those on the lowlands, and have simultaneously assisted the development and preservation of the traditional cultural characteristics of each group. To date, different programs are being successfully carried out such as programs to bring iodized salt to remote villages, build a dispensary for each village, control malaria, construct free tuition boarding schools for children from ethnic minorities, end the nomadic life and farming, and study the written language and traditional culture of each group.

The Viet people succeeded in establishing a centralized monarchy back in the 10th century. The Cham people once boasted a flourishing culture early our history. The Tay, Nung, and Khmer peoples had reached high levels of development with the presence of various social strata. The Muong, H’Mong, Dzao, Thai peoples… gathered under the rule of local tribal heads. Many ethnic groups divided their population into social echelons, especially those who lived in mountainous areas.

A number of ethnic minorities had mastered some farming techniques. They grew rice plants in swamped paddy fields and carried out irrigation. Others went hunting, fishing, collecting and lived a semi-nomadic life. Each group has its own culture, diverse and special. Beliefs and religions of the Vietnamese ethnic minority groups were also disparate from each other

However, a fundamental solidarity among ethnic groups has been established on top of these differences as a result of a centuries long cooperation on the soil of Vietnam. Back in the first century of our history, a mutual supplement in economic relationship between lowland people and mountainous people was formed. This solidarity had been unceasingly strengthened during wars of resistance for defending the country. Through the shared struggle for defending and building the country and the mutual assistance for co-existence and development, a common community between the Viet people and other ethnic minority peoples has been established and continuously consolidated and developed.

Nonetheless, an evident gap in the material and moral life still exists between peoples living in the deltas and those living in mountain areas as well as among ethnic minorities themselves. The Vietnamese government has worked out specific policies and special treatments in order to help mountain people catch up with lowland people, and made great efforts to develop and preserve traditional cultural identities of each ethnic minority group. At present, the programs of providing iodised salt for remote villages, equipping village health care and hygiene stations, fighting malaria, building free schools for ethnic minority children, settled agriculture and fixed residence, and projects of creating new writing scripts for minority peoples and studying and developing traditional culture of each ethnic minority group… have obtained satisfactory results.