Select a page


Highland Tribes of Cambodia

The Khmer Loeu are the Mon-Khmer highland tribes of Cambodia, living around Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces. The major Khmer Loeu groups in Ratanakiri is the Tampuan.


Most of the photographs below are from the Tampuan group from different communities near the Varichaey National Park but some were taken around Banlung, the capital of the province of Ratanakiri.


Most Khmer Loeu live in scattered temporary villages that have only a few hundred inhabitants. These villages usually are governed by a council of local elders or by a village headman. Rice wine is very popular in every communal reunion or celebration usually consumed  by men while tobacco is smoked by almost everyone! I was in shock seeing girls not older than 12 smoking a pipe. In fact, it was difficult to spot someone who wasn’t smoking. When tobacco is not smoked from a pipe, its rolled inside green leaves forming a conical shaped big cigarette. Children were experts at rolling these!


The Khmer Loeu cultivate a wide variety of plants, but the main crop is dry or upland rice grown by the slash-and-burn method. Hunting and fishing, supplements the cultivated vegetable foods in the Khmer Loeu diet. Houses vary from huge multifamily longhouses to small single-family structures. They may be built close to the ground or on stilts.


Tampuan woman takes a break to light a cheroot near Varichaey National Park
Tampuan woman and daughter
Woman putting corn inside a calabaza for storage
Tampuan man looking out of a doorway in a village near Virachey National Park
This boy is only 13 years old and in about 1 hour he rollled and smoked 2 of those fat cigarettes
Its fag break for these two boys working in the forest clearing land for cultivation
Khmer Loeu guy fishing with net in a stream that forks off Tonle Srepok River
Young family in their bamboo house
Woman picking aquatic plants for cooking near Banlung
The geography of Ratanakiri Province is diverse, encompassing rolling hills, mountains, plateaus, lowland watersheds, and crater lakes
Banlung is also known as 'dey krahorm' which means red dust
Tampuan minority girls
It was challenging to identify which minority people belong to as they all dress with modern clothes
In Ratanakiri, one in four children die before reaching the age of 5 according to the health indicators in Cambodia
Woman smoking
A man on the way to work in the fields near Banlung
This girl was watching TV in a local restaurant, very early in the morning, when the light was golden and crisp, after the rain the night before
Khmer Loeu man with his daughter in Banlung
Education levels are also low; three quarters of the population is illiterate
Father and his children on the shores of Tonle San River. Two major rivers, Tonle San and Tonle Srepok, flow from east to west across the province.
Kachanh Waterfall near Banlung


  1. cheoun March 31, 2014 Reply

    I want to have some of your fantastic photos John. They are great all in my heart

  2. Johnc775 July 2, 2014 Reply

    I truly appreciate this article.Really thank you! Fantastic

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


error: Content protected ©John Quintero 2019