Indigenous peoples in Vietnam

As a multi-ethnic country, Vietnam has 54 recognized ethnic groups; 53 are ethnic minority groups with an estimated 13 to 14 million people, accounting for around 14% of the country’s total population of 90 million. Each ethnic minority group has its own distinct culture and traditions.

The Term "Indigenous" in Vietnam

The ethnic minorities live scattered throughout the country, but concentrated mostly in the Northern Mountains and Central Highlands (Tay Nguyen) in the South.

The Vietnamese government does not use the term “indigenous peoples” for any groups but it is generally the ethnic minorities living in the mountainous areas that are referred to as Vietnam’s indigenous peoples.

The term "ethnic minorities" is thus often used interchangeably with ‘indigenous peoples’ in Vietnam.


Poverty is still high among ethnic minorities. While the national poverty rate fell from 14.2% in 2010 to 9.6% in 2012, in the north-western mountains, mostly inhabited by ethnic minorities, it was still 28.55%.

While the national poverty rate has been reduced to below 4.5%, it is still above 50% in many ethnic minority areas. The process of poverty reduction is unstable and there is a high poverty relapse rate.

Legislation concerning indigenous peoples

All ethnic minorities have Vietnamese citizenship, and Vietnam’s constitution recognizes that all people have equal rights.

There is no specific law on ethnic minorities but a ministry-level agency, the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs, is in charge of ethnic minority affairs.

The Government of Vietnam has not ratified ILO Convention 169 but voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), although it does not recognize ethnic minorities as indigenous peoples.

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Vietnam to learn about major developments and events during 2015.