Vietnam had an Emperor and a Mandarin style government prior to the French. The French pretty much left that in place while ruling over the Emperor and the Mandarin government. But yes, it was family and village for the most part. We came along after the French and decided to change their government into a democracy during a war. The reason was our leaders thought it much easier to sell defending a democracy to the American people than an Emperor/Mandarin type government. Very long story there.
The Montagnards in the highlands really didn't know a national government existed. Laos and Cambodia were pretty much the same way. In Laos you had the Royal government at Luang Prabang and the administrative government in Vientiane. But if you lived in the mountains, away from the Mekong River, most Laotians or Mountain tribes didn't even know the Royal Government existed. Cambodia was pretty much the same with the Royal Government in Phnom Penh.
The exception in Southeast Asia was Thailand, formerly known as Siam. They had a constitutional Monarchy. The Thais revered their king and to a certain extent still do today.