Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Minority cultures in
Southeast Asia are often time
capsules of earlier lifestyles that have escaped the full force of
globalisation’s effects. Consequently, they are a highlight for travellers to
the region who want to get a sense of a country’s past…as it collides with the
But how do you ensure that while visiting, you don’t cause unintended damage or offence?
The Cham people originally occupied the
of Champa in southcentral and
their beautiful brick towers dot the landscape from Danang to Phan Rang.
Victims of a historical squeeze between Vietnam Cambodia
their territory was eventually annexed by the expansionist Vietnamese.
Originally Hindu, they converted to Islam in the 16th and 17th centuries and
many migrated south to Vietnam .
Today there are small numbers of Cham in Cambodia Vietnam
and as many as half a million in , all of whom continue to
practise a flexible form of Islam. Over the centuries, there has been
considerable intermarriage between Cham and Malay traders. Cambodia
The Hmong are one of the largest hill tribes in the Mekong region, spread through much of northern
northern Vietnam, and
Yúnnán. As some of the last to arrive in the region in the 19th century,
Darwinian selection ensured that they were left with the highest and harshest
lands from which to eke out their existence. They soon made the best of a bad
deal and opted for opium cultivation, which brought them into conflict with
mainstream governments during the 20th century. The CIA worked closely with the
Hmong of Laos during the secret war in the 1960s and 1970s. The US-backed
operation was kept secret from the American public until 1970. The Hmong were
vehemently anticommunist and pockets of resistance continue today. The Hmong
remain marginalised, distrusted by central government and mired in poverty.
Hmong groups are usually classified by their colourful clothing, including
Black Hmong, White Hmong, Red Hmong and so on. The brightest group is the
Flower Hmong of northwest Thailand ,
living in villages around Bac Ha. The Hmong are known for their embroidered
indigo-dyed clothing and their ornate silver jewellery. There may be as many as
one million Hmong in the Mekong region, half of them living in the mountains of
Vietnam . Vietnam
The Jarai are the most populous minority in the Central Highlands of
Vietnam, northeast Cambodia
and southern .
Villages are often named for a nearby river, stream or tribal chief, and a
nha-rong (communal house) is usually found in the centre. Jarai women typically
propose marriage to the men through a matchmaker, who delivers the prospective
groom a copper bracelet. Animistic beliefs and rituals still abound, and the
Jarai pay respect to their ancestors and nature through a host or yang (genie).
The Jarai construct elaborate cemeteries for their dead, which include carved
effigies of the deceased. These totems can be found in the forests around
villages, but sadly many are being snapped up by culturally insensitive