The similarity of the Cambodian Cham language and the Malay language can be found in names of places such as Kampong Cham, Kambujadesa, Kampong Chhnang, etc and Sejarah Melayu clearly mentioned a Cham community in Parameswara’s Malacca around 1400s.
Cham is related to the Malayo-Polynesian languages of Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Philippines. In mid 1400s, when Cham was heavily defeated by the Vietnamese, some 120,000 were killed and in the 1600s the Champa king converted to Islam. In 1700s the last Champa Muslim king Pô Chien gathered his people and migrated south to Cambodia while those along the coastline migrated to the nearest peninsula state Terengganu, approximately 500 km or less by boat, and Kelantan.
Malaysian constitution recognises the Cham rights to Malaysian citizenship and their Bumiputera status. Now that the history is interlinked, there is a possibility that Parameswara’s family were Cham refugees who fled to Palembang before he fled to Tumasik and finally to Malacca. Interestingly, one of the last Kings of Angkor of the Khmer Empire had the name Paramesvarapada.
Champa Kingdom(from 7th century to 1832)
The kingdom of Champa(占城,又称占婆、占波)was found in the 2nd century and lasted until the 17th century. Champa at times included the modern Vietnamese provinces of Quảng Nam, Quảng Ngãi, Bình Định, Phú Yên, Khánh Hòa, Ninh Thuận, and Bình Thuận. Though Cham territory included the mountainous zones west of the coastal plain and (at times) extended into present-day Laos, for the most part the Cham remained a seafaring people dedicated to trade, and maintained few settlements of any size away from the coast. The people is of Malayo-Polynesian stock with indianised culture. When Islam came, few Champa people adopted it. However, some time between 1607 and 1676, the king of Champa became Muslim thus precipitating most of his people to enter Islam also.
Historical Champa consisted of up to five principalities: 1. Indrapura (“City of Indra”),2.Amaravati ,3.Vijaya, 4.Kauthara, and 5.Panduranga.
Throughout the century, the Champa provinces were slowly annexed one by one until finally, by the 17th century they were completely absorbed by the Ðai Viet (vietnamese). Thereafter began a gradual decline under pressure from Đại Việt, the Vietnamese polity centered in the region of modern Hanoi. In 1471, Viet troops sacked the northern Cham capital of Vijaya, and in 1697 the southern principality of Panduranga became a vassal of the Vietnamese emperor. In 1832, the Vietnamese emperor Minh Mang(明命,1791-1841; born Nguyễn Phúc Đảm 阮福膽, also known as Nguyễn Phúc Kiểu 阮福晈; he was the second emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty of Vietnam, reigning from 14 February 1820 until 20 January 1841) annexed the remaining Cham territories. Panduranga, present-day Phan Rang in Ninh Thuận Province, was the last of the Cham territories to be annexed by the Vietnamese.
During the reign of Minh Mang, the Champa were severly persecuted. As a consequence, the last Champa Muslim king, Pô Chien, decided to gather his people (those on the mainland) and migrated south to Cambodia. Whereas those on the coastline, they migrated to Trengganu (Malaysia). The area where the king and the mainlanders settled is still known to this day as Kompong Cham. They were not concentrated in one area but were scattered along the Mekong river in Vietnam, forming 13 villages along it. Throughout the years, their children were sent to Kelantan (Malaysia) to learn Qur’an and Islamic studies. Once studies were completed, these children then return home to teach others in these 13 villages. Also, another factor which helps them to preserve the true teaching of Islam was the interaction between them and the Malaysian Muslim traders who sailed through the Mekong river.
Not all the Champa Muslims migrated with the king. A group stayed behind in Nha Trang, Phan Rang, Phan Rí, and Phan Thiªt provinces (Central Vietnam). With their increasing isolation with other Muslims, they began to mix Islam with Buddhism, Hindism and Bà La Môn . Hence, their descendants became lost to the true teachings of Islam. In 1959, these descendants came into contact with the Champa Muslims in Châu Ðoc (one of the 13 villages in South Vietnam) and also with the Muslims community in Saigon (Ho Chí Minh city). The Muslim community in Saigon, mainly consisted of Indians, Pakistanis, Malaysians, Indonesians and Arabs. As a result of this interaction, the descendants who had lost Islam began to return to true Islam.
After April 30th 1975, while the majority of Vietnamese Muslims remain in Vietnam under the communist regime, a sizable number of them managed to escape to other countries. The majority of them settled in America, France, Malaysia, India, Canada and a handful in Australia.
(i) Trade between Champa and Malacca
During a stop at Pulo Ubi near the Gulf of Siam on 13 May 1687, William Dampier, the English traveler, met a vessel of Champa origin anchored on the eastern side of the island. The vessel carried rice and lacquer and was on its way to Malacca. All forty crew members were Chams. They carried broad swords, lances, and some guns. Dampier wrote that the Chams were actively involved in trade with the Dutch at Malacca. The Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals) mentions the presence of Chams in Malacca during the reigns of the Malay sultans. They were known to be political refugees who had arrived in Malacca after 1471. They were well received by the rulers of Malacca, who appointed some Cham noblemen to official positions in the court. In highlighting the Cham presence in Malacca, Marrison draws attention to the fact that the Chams probably contributed to the racial admixture of the Malays of the Peninsula and hence some Cham influences may have survived in Malay cultural tradition. Malacca was a destination in the post-1471 Cham diaspora, mainly due to ethno-cultural considerations.
(ii)Cham and Islam
While the rulers of Malacca had converted to Islam in 1414, Islam had not yet made major inroads into Champa. Islam would later become important, however, in the strong connection between the Chams and the Malays. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it would be the main factor in rallying Malay help for the Chams in resisting Vietnamese domination. Chams only converted to Islam in the seventeenth century, almost three centuries after the Malays. But Islam was introduced into Champa at an earlier, undetermined date. Maspero stated that some Chams may have converted to Islam as early as the era of Sung dynasty China. Two Kufic inscriptions found in what was southern Champa are dated around 1030 CE and there is some indication of a Muslim community in Champa in the tenth century.
(iii)Cham and Kelantan
While Kelantan has been known as the serambi Mekah (gateway to Mecca) since the fall of Malacca in 1511, this title does not necessarily mean that religious practice was like that of the present day, when religion is paramount in the lives of the Kelantanese. Po Rome’s presence in Kelantan a few years prior to his ascension to the throne of Champa was likely an attempt to learn broadly about Malay culture, including the powerful Malay magic and the new Islamic religion. Instead of being the main concern of Po Rome, Islam was part of the wider Malay culture that he and other Chams were hoping to learn about in order to rekindle their ethnic and cultural links with the Malay world.
People-to-people relations between the Chams and the Malays were not confined to religious activities. It is likely that the Chams had been frequenting Kelantan for many centuries. Several place names there, such as Pengkalan Chepa and Kampung Chepa, suggest close ties between the two peoples and wide acceptance on the part of the Malays. There were costume and textile names associated with Champa, for example, tanjak Chepa (headdress), sutra Chepa (silk), and kain Chepa (cloth). Chepa is used to describe one type of keris (dagger). There was padi Chepa (Champa paddy) and sanggul Chepa (a hair decoration). It is believed that a mosque in Kampung Laut was built by Cham sailors who frequented Kelantan. And according to the Hikayat Kelantan (Kelantan Annals), the ancestors of Long Yunus, the founder of the present-day Kelantan sultanate, originated in a state known as Kebayat Negara or Kembayat Negara, which is believed to be Champa.
Cham movement to the Malay Peninsula seemed to be frequent and even lasting. As early as the late fifteenth century, a Cham colony was established at Malacca. While most of the colony’s inhabitants were merchants, it began as a sanctuary for Cham refugees. In 1594, the king of Champa sent a military force to assist the Sultan of Johore to fight against the Portuguese in Malacca. While no explanation was given for the Cham king’s action, it is likely that it was influenced by the common Malay identity and possibly common Islamic faith of the rulers of Champa and their Malay counterparts.
According to the Babad Kelantan (Kelantan Annals), a Cham prince arrived in Kelantan in the mid-seventeenth century who was known as Nik Mustafa. After residing in Kelantan for many years, he returned to Champa and was made king, reigning with the title of Sultan Abdul Hamid. Another Cham ruler who is believed to have been Muslim was Po Rome’s son, Po Saut (1660–1692), the last ruler of independent Champa.
The Cham classic entitled Nai Mai Mang Makah (The Princess from Kelantan) tells the story of a princess from Kelantan who was trying to convert the Cham king to Islam. The event was not dated. Po Dharma and Gerard Moussay are of the opinion that the event took place between the 1693 fall of Champa and the 1771 Tayson rebellion. Manguin suggests that Malay migration into Champa played its part in influencing the people to convert to Islam. Accordingly, the Chams were also influenced by the Malays to adhere to the Sunni Shafie sect and, like the Malays, they also kept traces of Shi’ite devotion. However, Manguin also believed that Malay migration to Champa was much more restricted, especially after Champa was absorbed by Vietnam.
French missionary sources mention that during the thirty years prior to the fall of Champa to the Nguyen in 1693, there were many Malay scribes and missionaries in the court of Champa. Their main task was to propagate the Islam faith to the Chams. It is likely that these Malays became involved in the Cham struggle against Vietnamese encroachment into Cham territories, resulting in several anti-Vietnamese movements. In this regard, the Chams clearly invoked their Malay-Islamic identity in trying to enlist help against the Vietnamese.
(iv)Malay- Islamic Aids to Cham Resistance
Between the establishment of Nguyen rule over Champa in 1693 and the final annihilation of the Cham political entity in 1835, the Chams made many attempts to break away from Vietnamese rule. These normally took the form of armed revolts. Among the major Cham revolts were those of 1693, 1728, 1796, and 1832-34.
The Cham resistance of 1796 control was led by a Malay nobleman named Tuan Phaow. He is believed to have been from Kelantan, as he told his Cham followers that he was from Mecca (Kelantan). His followers consisted mainly of Chams from Binh Thuan and from Cambodia (giving rise to the suggestion that he was from Cambodia), as well as Malays. Tuan Phaow’s resistance had a religious dimension. In order to legitimize his actions, Tuan Phaow claimed to have been sent by God to help the Chams resist the Vietnamese. Tuan Phaow’s forces were up against Nguyen Anh (Gia Long, founder of the Nguyen Dynasty). Despite putting up strong resistance for almost two years, Tuan Phaow’s forces were cornered and defeated by the Nguyen army working in league with a pro-Nguyen Cham ruler. Tuan Phaow reportedly escaped to Mecca. This resistance movement was the first clear indication that Cham resistance had a strong Malay connection. It also shows the Islamic religious dimension becoming a common rallying call.
The 1832 Cham revolt took place as a reaction against Emperor Ming Mang’s harsh oppression of the Chams in reprisal for their support of Ming Mang’s viceroys in Gia Dinh in the south. Viceroy Le Van Duyet had refused to accept orders from Hue since 1728. After Duyet passed away in 1832, he was succeeded by his adopted son, Le Van Khoi, who continued to resist the Nguyen court. Ming Mang’s army carried out a series of oppressive activities against the Cham population in Binh Thuan to punish them for supporting Le Van Duyet and Le Van Khoi. In this conflict, the Malay-Cham connection is again evident in the form of Malay leadership. The Chams were led by a Islamic clergyman from Cambodia named Katip (Khatib) Sumat, who had spent many years studying Islam in Kelantan. Apparently, upon hearing that Champa was under attack by the Nguyen army, Katip Sumat immediately returned. Arriving in Binh Thuan in 1833, he was accompanied by a large force of Malays and Chams from Kelantan. Katip Sumat led the Chams in a series of guerrilla attacks against the Nguyen army. Apart from fighting for the survival of Champa, Katip Sumat invoked the Islamic bond in rallying Malay and Cham support for the cause. In some ways this turned the Cham struggle against the Vietnamese into a form of religious war. The Katip Sumat-led resistance, however, was defeated by the Nguyen army.
Katip Sumat’s Malay contingent did not consist only of volunteers. It is believed that they were sent by Sultan Muhamad I of Kelantan (1800-1837), who raised an army to accompany Katip Sumat to Champa. According to Po Dharma, the underlying factors were the Sultan’s acknowledgement that he and the ruler of Champa shared the same lineage (descendants of Po Rome) and of the need to preserve Islamic unity.
(vi)Cham – Malay linkage after French Occupation 1835
With the end of 1835 revolt, Cham links with the external world were also considerably reduced. This situation persisted until the second half of the nineteenth century, when Binh Thuan and five other provinces in the south were ceded to the French by the Nguyen at the end of the Franco-Vietnamese War of 1858-1861. The advent of French colonization of Vietnam actually ended Nguyen attempts to wipe out the Chams. The breakdown of the Nguyen administrative apparatus in the face of greater French control over the provinces saw the rekindling of ancient Cham aspirations to exert Cham identity. Efforts to re-establish traditional external linkages, including those with the Malay states, played an important role. This is evident from reports of religious teachers (ulama) from the Malay Peninsula who frequented the former land of Champa during the final years of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth. Like their predecessors, many of these visitors stayed for long durations in the former Champa as well as among the Chams in Cambodia. They married local Cham women and had children. Several of these families remained in the former Champa and in Cambodia, cementing relationships established in earlier centuries.
(extract from Vietnam-Champa Relations and the Malay-Islam Regional Network in the 17th–19th Centuries, by Danny Wong Tze Ken)
Cham People and Acheh
Aceh’s origins are unquestionably Cham, as the Champa king Syah Pau Kubah sent his son Syah Pau Ling to rule over Aceh when the capital Vijaya (Champa) in 1471 AD, was sacked by the Vietnamese. Acehnese is the only other non-Chamic language in the 11 language Aceh-Chamic languages group.(source: Acheh Sultanate, wikipedia)
Cham people in Malaysia
The Champa Kingdom had long established trading ties with both the present-day Malaya, Pattani, Aceh as well as Java since the 4th Century. Multiple wars also broke out between the Kingdom of Champa with Java. Migration was simply inevitable. The Chams were Hindus. Some still are today, but many are now Muslim. Malaysia has some Cham immigrants and the link between the Chams and the Malaysian state of Kelantan is an old one.
From the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 until 1993, the Malaysian government took in no fewer than 7,000 Muslim Cham refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia, making them the only group out of the tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees who passed through Malaysia to be accepted and settled. Though the official explanation was based on humanitarian considerations, the truth lies with Malay-Cham connections based on common Malay and Islamic identity(source:Danny Wong).
From June 1975 to 1988 about 10,722 refugees of Malay Cham ancestry have entered Malaysia and were placed in refugee camps in Kemumin, Pengkalan Chepa, Kota Bahru, Kelantan. The camp was later renamed Taman Putra, Kemumin … The refugee camp in Kemumin was administered by PERKIM. The refugees were placed in the camps for 2 years and during that time they were given classes on Islamic education, the Malay language and culture and the Malaysian way of life. Their health was also tended to. In early 1977, nearly 4/5ths of the refugees were allowed out of the camps to work in plantations and to engage in businesses. They were given visitor passes which was a temporary document enabling them to look for work and live temporarily in Malaysia. Many of the refugees, after they have left the refugee camp, lived and worked in Kelantan especially in Kota Bahru. Many of them also looked for work and opportunities in other states in Malaysia such as Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Melaka and Johor. Their children are allowed to study in schools; colleges and many of them are studying in higher institutions of learning. The Malay Cham refugees have integrated well with Malaysia and most Malaysians regard them as Malays. After 25 years of living in Malaysia, many of them have become citizens of Malaysia. Today, there are about 25,000 Malay Chams in Malaysia including those who are born here. The Malaysian government views the Chams as not just Chams but “Malay Chams”. The Malay Muslim identity of the Chams of Cambodia guaranteed their entry into Malaysia and assisted their integration into Malaysian society. The Muslim identity of the Chams has reaped advantages for their community.(extract from Understanding the Cham identity in mainland Southeast Asia: contending views(2006))
Being consider as Malay, Malaysian constitution recognizes the Cham rights to Malaysian citizenship and their Bumiputra status. The laws of Malaysia defines a Melayu as a person who practices Islam and Malay cultures, speaks Bahasa Melayu and whose ancestors are Melayu, under article 160 of the Federal Constitution. Bumiputera or Bumiputra is a Malay term widely used in Malaysia, embracing indigenous people of the Malay Archipelago. The term comes from the Sanskrit word bhumiputra, which can be translated literally as “son of earth” .In the 1970s the government implemented economic policies designed to favour Bumiputra in Malaysia, and Cham people is considered as Bumiputra Malay.
1. Vietnam-Champa Relations and the Malay-Islam Regional Network in the 17th–19th Centuries, by Danny Wong Tze Ken, Associate professor in the Department of History, University of Malaya.
2. RESEARCH ON CHAM HISTORY IN MALAYSIA, by DANNY WONG TZE-KEN, www.sabrizain.org/malaya/library/chamhistory.pdf
3. Understanding the Cham identity in mainland Southeast Asia: contending views(2006), SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, publication Date: 01-OCT-06
4. The Historical Place of Acehnese: The Known and the Unknown(2007),by Graham Thurgood, California State University, Chico, USA, First International Conference of Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies, http://www.acehinstitute.org/aceh_fp_grahamthurgood.pdf
5. Cham Muslims of the Mekong Delta: place and mobility in the cosmopolitan(2007), by Philip Taylor, NUS Press.
6. Champa, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champa
7. Research on Cham History in Malaysia(, by DANNY WONG TZE-KEN, http://www.sabrizain.org/malaya/library/chamhistory.pdf