Members of the Sa’och live in Somrong Leu village in Prey Nub district, at the crossroads between the provinces of Kampot and Preah Sihanouk. There are fewer than 100.
Only 10 to 15 can still speak the Sa’och language, which is in the Austro-Asiatic language family along with Khmer and Vietnamese. Languages related to Sa’och can be found among small groups in the central Cardamoms, Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Thailand. Within the Sa’och language is extensive vocabulary related to fishing and marine life, which suggests that they have long-established links to the sea, from where much of their diet may have traditionally come. Today they eat rice and vegetables.
The first historical mention of a related ethnic group dates as far back as the 13th century. According to anthropologist and linguist Jean Michel Filippi, a Thai admiral captured members of the Sa’och minority in 1835 and took them back to Thailand as slaves. As a result, some still live near Kanchanaburi in Western Thailand.
Photos by Charlotte Pert. Words by Emily Wight.