There are approximately 360,000 Khmer individuals residing in Soc Trang, which accounts for around 30% of the province’s population. Soc Trang province prides itself on having five officially recognized Khmer national intangible cultural heritages.

“In Soc Trang province, we have the privilege of experiencing the distinctive features of Khmer culture, including the Ok Om Bok festival, Du Ke theatrical performance art, Rom Vong folk dancing, Five-note folk music, and Ro Bam folk performances,” says Son Thanh Liem, deputy director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

“On the full-moon day of the 10th lunar month, we celebrate the Ngo Junk Race festival. Soc Trang has been recognized for having the largest number of Ngo junks and racers in Vietnam since 2005.”

Any discussion of Khmer culture must mention the Du Ke theatrical art, a combination of singing, dancing, music, martial arts, and disguise.

“Du Ke showcases the unity and cross-cultural convergence of the Kinh, Khmer, and Hoa ethnic groups. For many generations, Du Ke theatrical art has served as a source of entertainment and a means for people to improve themselves and distinguish right from wrong and good from evil,” says Luc Thanh Hiep, deputy head of the Khmer Art Troupe of Soc Trang province.

Rom Vong dance is deeply ingrained in the spirit of the Khmer people. In addition to the traditional short dance scenes, innovative choreographers have begun to use dance to tell longer stories.

“Rom Vong dance is a popular dance genre among the Khmer. We perform Rom Vong at pagoda ceremonies, community events, meetings, and the Chol Chnam Thmay New Year’s celebration. The dance has been recognized as a national cultural heritage,” says Trieu Thi Phuong of the Khmer Art Troupe.

Pagodas of the Khmer in Soc Trang and the surrounding region harmoniously integrate architecture, sculpture, and painting. There are 92 such pagodas in the province, among which Doi pagoda and Kh’Leang pagoda are national heritage sites.

Tran Van Tha, deputy head of Soc Trang province’s Buddhist Sangha and abbot of Ta Mon pagoda, explains, “Pagodas are places for followers to practice religion and organize festivals. The pagodas serve as Khmer religious centers and cultural venues. Pagodas play a central role in Khmer life.”

Khmer costumes are known for their uniqueness, sophistication, and vibrant colors. The Sompot Chong Kben skirt is wrapped around the waist, stretched away from the body, and tied with a knot. The knot is then pulled between the legs and held by a metal belt.

Thach Thi Loan, who works at the Khmer Culture Exhibition Center, says, “Khmer costumes include casual wear, work attire, and clothing for special occasions such as festivals, weddings, and performances. The Sarong is a traditional shirt that can be used to carry a baby or make a hammock. The Khmer often wear outfits with contrasting colors, for example, blue pants and a pink shirt. They prefer multicolor outfits over monotonous ones.”

Soc Trang has invested in revitalizing Du Ke and Ro Bam performances, organizing Kinh, Khmer, and Hoa costume festivals, upgrading the infrastructure for Ngo junk races, and the traditional culture center in Ke Sach district.

“We have collaborated with the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to submit a Khmer culture preservation project to the provincial People’s Committee. Our intention is to publish documents on the origin of Khmer festivals and costumes. The province has an exhibition center showcasing Khmer cultural artifacts,” says Ly Rotha, head of the provincial Committee for Ethnicity.