Village elders and punishment customs of ethnic minorities in Kon Tum

In the life of ethnic minorities in the past in Kon Tum province, the image of the village elder was always a symbol of fairness, profound knowledge and the most powerful person. The village elder was also the judge. The villagers must obey absolutely. During festivals as well as customary laws in the community, the village elders are always the place for villagers to come to express their problems and mistakes so they can be resolved. According to ancient customs, each village has its own conventions and the village elders are in charge of arbitration, who receive and pass on the words of the gods (Yang). The punishment customs of ethnic minorities are also included in that regulation.


There are many forms that the village elders give when handling a case. The village elders’ judgment is supreme, even the parents of the punished person must comply. Each indigenous ethnic group has its own ways of punishing violators. They believe that if bad things happen to a village without performing a ritual, the gods will punish them, farming will lose their harvest, and the village will lose its harvest. will suffer from illness, hunger and cold all year round. In some villages (the Ba Na ethnic group), they do not dare to go to work in March and April because this is the month when the gods are said to see the most clearly. They maintain almost absolute faith in Yang and in many complex lawsuits, according to the customs and traditions of the people, the outcome of deciding victory or defeat mainly depends on the element of luck and misfortune judged by the Village Elder. And according to them, that was Yang’s intention.

Marriage relationships of indigenous ethnic groups in Kon Tum are almost firmly established by the monogamous marriage regime. In case a husband and wife divorce, according to the village’s custom, they will be severely punished. For example, for the Xe Dang ethnic group residing in Ngoc Hoi district, if the couple divorces, both of them will be fined and if the husband leaves his wife. leading to a divorce, the husband can marry another wife after 6 years, or when one spouse dies first, the remaining spouse can marry after 3 years. If you violate these regulations, you will also be fined. Most ethnic minorities in Kon Tum strictly prohibit adultery between married people. Anyone who violates this prohibition will be fined. Depending on the ethnic group, the fine is different, for example, fines for pigs and wine for the whole village to drink… Customary laws in marriage strictly prohibit people of the same clan. Marrying each other, especially for the Je-Trieng people, this is a taboo, some other ethnic groups have to be several generations apart, such as for the Xe Dang people, it is 3 generations… To get married, both men and Women have the right to freely learn about each other.


In daily life, each person in the family takes customary law as a guide for their actions, and everyone relies on customary law to monitor each other. Any member who violates the customary law and disrupts the village’s order will be punished by the customary law, and the Village Elder is the one who directly judges, not the parents. The Xe Dang people in some places have fined chickens, pigs, and wine for the village to drink for two people who fight and disrupt the village’s order, or fined two chickens as compensation… In addition, members of the All villages have equal rights on the basis of mutual respect and help. If anyone violates the above prohibitions, depending on the nature and economic situation, rich or poor, they will be fined: buffalo, cow, pig, chicken and wine to worship the God (Yang) to ask for forgiveness. Customary punishment laws are regulations that can limit evils such as adultery, crimes of insulting the elderly, crimes of insulting the village leader, crimes of intentionally spreading disease in the village, crimes of laziness, crimes of family murder. Other people’s livestock… there are especially cases of serious criminals being chased out of the village. Such customary laws have a deterrent effect, enough to make people who want to commit crimes hesitate.

In the past customs of the Ba Na people, if the husband left his wife or vice versa, he was fined cattle, land, and at least 3-4 buffaloes and 5 sao of land to compensate the abandoned person. People who have had an illegitimate pregnancy are severely punished by the village, because the Ba Na people believe that once a girl has become an illegitimate child, she will not be able to get married in the future, so the person who is punished is the one who causes the “consequences”. of that pregnancy. When a man has sex with a girl, he is required to marry her. However, if he has a child first (po-t’ra chan crime), he must perform a worshiping ceremony before sowing rice. Around the beginning of April, the village patriarch forces the boy to have a goat as an offering and the girl to pay a pig (depending on conditions, the pig can be large or small). People believe that these violations have affected the land and rice gods, so they are forced to conduct worshiping ceremonies before sowing rice, otherwise the villagers will lose their harvest and famine. On the day of the ceremony, the offering pigs and goats are slaughtered and the blood is mixed together. The guilty couple must take turns applying that mixed blood to the big toes of each participant in the ceremony. , while applying and apologizing to everyone, please don’t remember, please ignore the bad things, is also a message that every family needs to teach their children and especially a form of warning to young people to always remember to not follow. that step.

Another crime (the Ba Na people) that is punished very severely is sin Marrying people of the same clan is considered immoral, making the gods angry and causing disasters to punish people such as village fires, epidemics, crop failures… Any clan that allows that to happen will have to Prepare 3 buffalos, 3 goats, 3 chickens and 3 jars of wine to worship the Rong god and the water god to relieve drought for the villagers and those two families. The most important ritual in the worshiping ceremony is that the Village Elder reads the prayer inviting Yang to come eat and drink and the villagers force the punished couple to take a little blood of the sacrificial animal, mix it with wine, pour it into a gourd shell and bring it to each house during the worshiping ceremony. village, use a bamboo branch to dip into a gourd containing water and then brush it on the foot of the stairs with the intention of repelling and purifying all risks of disaster, hoping that Yang will not accuse the villagers… In the past, cases of incest Like this, the violator, after performing the offering ceremony, was stripped naked and forced to eat food from a pig trough in the presence of the villagers. One crime that is considered an old backward custom is that when the husband dies for unknown reasons, the villagers punish the wife with cows, pigs, goats, and wine to worship the gods to ward off bad things that harm the village.

Ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands in general and in Kon Tum province in particular, have an extremely shameful crime: theft. In all circumstances, they are shunned and despised by the villagers, depending on the level. If someone steals an item, if they steal an ear of corn, they must pay 10 ears of corn. If they steal items used in production or family work… in some villages, the penalty is 7-10 times higher. In the language of ethnic minorities, they do not have the words “buy” and “sell”, only “take” from one person, “share” with the other or “exchange” with each other, showing solidarity and brotherhood. I’m very strict, so taking something without the owner’s permission is also a crime. In the village community, although they live equally, they still have to respect each other, and if people arbitrarily take other people’s things, the villagers consider it an insult, and this crime must be borne by the parents. Depending on the severity, parents will personally come to the family where the theft occurred, invite the Village Elder to judge, and a number of family members to witness. Usually, during the ceremony, a chicken and a jar of wine are required to be provided by the parents of the guilty person. The village elders ask the guilty person to admit his mistake, hope to be forgiven and promise not to do it again next time, then come to the ceremony. Parents must also apologize to that family. When the “victim” accepts forgiveness, then the two families shake hands and forget the past. The person who made the mistake poured water into the wine jar and invited the village elder to drink first, then invited the person who had forgiven him, and from beginning to end, the offender had to serve for the rest of the ceremony.

Customs in ethnic minority communities are always associated with spiritual beliefs. They can take many forms, but in general they mean wanting to bring good things to the villagers, wanting the crops to be green, Their lives are always protected by the gods. The custom of fines is a “dharma custom” created by them, passed down from generation to generation to ensure peace in the village, convention is the strength of the village, and the Village Elder is the soul that transmits and enforces it. Use that power.

The Phiet (synthetic)