Western Cham of Cambodia

Population:   500,000
Primary Location:   Cambodia
Languages:   Cham, Khmer  

Who are the Western Cham?

Cambodia's Western Cham trace their ancestry to the ancient Champa kingdom, a wealthy maritime kingdom in frequent contact with China.

The Western Cham, who make up the majority of Cambodia's tiny Muslim population, suffered heavily under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Entire villages were slaughtered. Today, the Cham are a small, disenfranchised minority in the majority-Buddhist nation of Cambodia.


Most of Cambodia's Cham people live in desolate villages along the banks of the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers. Many Cham are fishermen, some living on houseboats. Others are farmers, cultivating wet and dry rice as well as cotton, maize, tobacco, castor-oil plants, manioc, peanuts, ferns, beans and other vegetables. The Cham also hunt and raise domestic animals. Like other Cambodians, many Cham are very poor.


Almost all Western Cham are Muslim. The early Cham Muslims developed a unique form of Islam that is different from Middle Eastern patterns. Some Cham continue to practice this traditional Cham Islam today. However, Islam in Cambodia has seen a revival in recent years, and many Cham have begun practicing a "purer," more global form of Islam.

Islamic movements such as Da'wah are active in Cambodia. Da'wah is a conservative missionary movement originating in Islamic countries outside Cambodia. Missionaries travel from village to village spreading their beliefs, preaching and living in village mosques during their stay.

Prayer Points

  • Praise God for the Cham who have decided to follow Jesus. Pray that they would begin to meet together in house fellowships for worship, study and prayer. May they reach out to their families and communities, demonstrating God's love and sharing the Good News.

  • Pray that God would send more followers of Jesus to serve the Cham. Pray that followers of Jesus would find ways to reach out in love to struggling Cham communities and that they would share the Good News in culturally sensitive ways.

  • Pray for the nation of Cambodia as it continues to develop. Pray for the leaders of Cambodia to make wise decisions to help the nation develop a strong, stable economy. Pray for improved living standards throughout the nation.

  • Pray for linguists and skilled Cham translators to make the stories of Jesus available in the Cham language.

Read the full profile

Western Cham of Cambodia

Learn more about the Cham

(External links)

Joshua Project People Profile
The Diversity of Cham Muslims
The People of Mekong Island
Cambodia's Muslim Minority
Cham Language