About 85–90% of the population of the SRV is composed of ethnic Vietnamese. The racial origins of the Vietnamese are obscure, although many scholars believe they represent a mixture of Australoid peoples who lived in mainland Southeast Asia during the Stone Age with Mongoloid peoples who migrated into the area from southern China.
In addition to the ethnic Vietnamese, there are 53 other ethnic groups living in the SRV. Many, like the Tay, the Thai, the Nung, the Rhadé, and the Jarai, are nomadic tribal peoples living in the mountainous areas of the Central Highlands and along the Sino-Vietnamese border. The overseas Chinese (Hoa) are descendants of peoples who migrated into the area in recent centuries. The Cham and the Khmer are remnants of past civilizations that controlled the southern parts of the country.
Until recently, the largest ethnic minority in the country was the overseas Chinese, numbering more than 2 million. Many have fled the country for economic or political reasons in recent years, however; Chinese constituted 3% of the population in 1999. Other sizable minority groups are the Muong, the Tay, Meo, Khmer, Man, and Cham.