Khmer in France

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Khmer (or Cambodians) in France are immigrants and refugees from Cambodia and Thailand. The Khmer Empire, which flourished between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, encompassed Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and southern Vietnam. Its power declined when the Thai and Vietnamese conquered the Khmer and restricted them to the area that is now known as Cambodia.

In 1969, bombings, civil war between the Cambodian government and the Communist rebels (Khmer Rouge), and the Vietnamese invasion threw their country into turmoil. Famine followed, while the Khmer huddled in camps along the Thai border. Three million died in refugee camps; thousands of others escaped to sheltering countries, one of which was France. Today, the Khmer of France live in inexpensive houses in the suburbs of Paris. The older generation still speaks their native tongue, Khmer. Children who wish to learn to read and write Khmer attend classes run by volunteers.

What Are Their Lives Like?

For the Khmer who live away from their homeland, life revolves heavily around the Buddhist monastery. When they can afford it, Cambodians establish their own monasteries, so that they can communicate in the Khmer language and all the symbols are familiar to them. Monasteries in resettlement countries, such as France, differ from the Cambodian models in many ways. For example, the French monasteries look no different from the surrounding buildings or apartments. Religious institutions are run by charitable associations with elected presidents (monks), secretaries, and treasurers.

In 1885, the Khmer consecrated their first Buddhist temple, which was built more or less in traditional Khmer architectural style. Several monasteries have been built since then. One innovation that seems to be limited to Paris is the use of women as leaders of the congregation during services in the monastery. The scarcity of male senior monks is opening a door for women in leadership, although this is not welcomed by everyone.

The Khmer do not have sufficient space for large gatherings during their annual festivals, and supporters must hire community halls. In Paris, such festivals take place at the International Buddhist Temple in the Bois de Vincennes. In Cambodia, most people support the monastery nearest to their homes; whereas, in France, the choice of monastery depends on ethnicity, class, political persuasion, and attitude towards folk religions.

Other Buddhists, such as the Thai or Sri Lankans, maintain contact with the monks in their homeland. However, ties between the Khmer refugees and Cambodia were cut off in 1975. Therefore, there is no overall Khmer Buddhist organization in resettlement countries, only individual religious groups.

Many of the young Khmer in France have chosen to study either computer programming or accounting. They are often hired by the French government as bookkeepers and auditors for the monasteries. Whereas the young Khmer men in Cambodia often aspire to join the monastery, the Khmer of France show little interest in becoming monks.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Although Khmer immigrants in France have remained Buddhist, the introduction to education and technology has steered many away from their traditional religion. In some temples, the monks support an interest in horoscopes and healing rituals, whereas the professional Khmer attend a temple where such practices are scorned.

What Are Their Needs?

Khmer refugees have endured events that have forever impacted their lives: the horrors of war, flight from their homeland to refugee camps in other countries, a subsequent decision to remain refugees and not return to their homeland, resettlement in yet another country, and incorporation into a new culture.

Christian materials are available in the Khmer language. However, these precious, war-torn people need missionaries who will share with them the Gospel of peace.

Prayer Points

* Scripture Prayers for the Khmer in France.

* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to France and share Christ with Khmer immigrants and refugees.
* Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to any missions agencies that are currently working among the Khmer.
* Pray that God will strengthen and encourage the Khmer who have accepted Jesus.
* Ask God to use these new converts to reach out and share the love of Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to call forth prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that a glorious church will be raised up among the Khmer of France.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

Additional Info
Central Khmer profile for Children and Family Missions Activities
Global Prayer Digest: 2007-03-25
Global Prayer Digest: 2011-04-20
Global Prayer Digest: 2011-04-21
People Name General Khmer
People Name in Country Khmer
Pronunciation kuh-MARE
Population this Country 72,000
Population all Countries 16,104,000
Total Countries 13
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 2  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
Alternate Names Cambodians; Central Khmer; Cu Tho; Cur; Kampuchean; Khmer Krom; Khmer Nam Bo; Khmer, Northern; Kho Me; Khơ-me; Kmer; Ku; Mien; Thai-Khmer; West Cham
People ID 12662
ROP3 Code 104946
Country France
Region Europe, Western
Continent Europe
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Country France
Region Europe, Western
Continent Europe
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Primary Language Khmer (72,000 speakers)
Language Code khm   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Khmer (72,000 speakers)
Language Code khm   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Khmer

Primary Language:  Khmer

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1899-1933)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1929-1993)
Bible-Complete Yes  (1954-2016)
Bible-NT Audio Online
Bible-NT Text Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (Global Recordings Network)
Audio Recordings Father's Love Letter
Audio Recordings Online New Testament - Central (Faith Comes By Hearing)
Audio Recordings Online Scripture (Talking Bibles)
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories in Khmer, Central
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video God's Story Video
Film / Video Video / Animation
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Khmer
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels
Film / Video Magdalena (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime)
Film / Video Ratchana's Testimony
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)
Film / Video The Hope Video
Film / Video Voices of Cambodia - Bihab
Film / Video Yesterday is Over
General Four Spiritual Laws
General Gospel resources links (Scripture Earth)
General Got Questions Ministry
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Major Religion Percent
88.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.40 %)
1.00 %
Ethnic Religions
3.00 %
0.00 %
2.00 %
6.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
5.0 %
Roman Catholic
95.0 %
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2021  Ari V / Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more


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