Indigenous Tribes and Kinh-Vietnamese Infiltration in the Tay Nguyen Highlands of South-Central Vietnam

  • Gerd R. Zimmermann (Autor/in)

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Since the late Neolithic period hill ribes of Austronesian and Austro-Asian origin have almost exclusively peopled the Tay Nguyen Highlands of South Central Vietnam. Although during the last 2,000 years mostly hostile contacts existed between these peoples and the lowland populations, until the 19th century there had never been any real threat to their cultural independence.
With the French occupation of Vietnam in the second half of the 19th century, the Christian mission, resettlement schemes and the setting-up of large-scale plantations, Tay Nguyen became more and more infiltrated by Kinh-Vietnamese, a process which continued on a massive scale during and after the Vietnam War.
Nowadays the different hill tribes form a minority of about 20 % in their own autochthonous area and their culture is more threatened then ever before.
It seems easy to condemn such a development, but it should be emphasized that similar projects were initiated by all colonial powers, and they have been continued by the independent countries of Southeast Asia irrespective of their political systems. As a result we find different degrees of inter-ethnic influences, from dominance to physical destruction of ethnic groups.