The Bassac of Cambodia

Robert Campbell

May 1st, 2017 @ 1:39 pm

The bus crept up to the next giant pothole and then wallowed through it. Stung Treng province, population about 100,000, lay before us.
“How long will it take to get to the provincial center?” I asked the driver’s assistant in Bassac, the local language. It would be months before I could say the same thing in Khmer, the trade language.

“The road is very bad. It might take a couple of hours,” he responded as the bus rocked drunkenly between holes.

Swiping at the map on my phone, I chuckled to myself. If the road hadn’t been so bad, the distance might have taken us 30 minutes.

These roads belong to the Kingdom of Bassac, a former part of the ancient Lan Sang kingdom, an empire that formerly ruled much of Southeast Asia. Somewhere between 20 to 50 percent of the population here is Bassac. About one percent of Cambodian Bassacs profess to be Christian, and over half of those belong to the Catholic population, which has long history here. The vast majority of the Bassac are animists with a smattering of Buddhist beliefs. The many temples and spirit houses here attest to this.

Not far ahead stands the “City of Melons.” Here, three major rivers merge with the mighty Mekong, creating an intersection of historically important local trade routes. After bridges were built across the Mekong and Sekong, these rivers became less important for transport, but they are still vital to the Bassac way of life.

Approaching the bridge over the Sekong River, we could easily see the City of Melons, small as it was, perched along the bank. About a quarter of the people in this sparsely populated province live here. Life is simple, with rice fields and vegetable gardens. Fishermen cast their nets into the rivers and streams. Buses and trucks now carry the cargo that boats used to, but trade still flows through this little place, like blood through a heart.
In a few months, with your prayers and financial support, we will be moving here to share the gospel with the unreached Bassac people. Would you consider being a part of this important work?