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Cambodia facts & history in brief

List of other pages in my Cambodia series

Angkor (other) Temples          Angkor Thom          Angkor Wat

Bakong Temples          Banteay Srey Temples          Lake Tonle Sap

Phnom Penh          Preah Ko Temples          Siem Reap

Cambodia's facts at a glance

Capital: Phnom Penh (11°31' N 104°49' E )
Largest city: Phnom Penh
Official languages: Khmer; French and English often understood by educated classes
Government: Democratic constitutional monarchy
Independence: From France
- Declared - 1949
- Recognized - 1953
. Total 181,040 kmē (87th)
. Water (%) 2.5%
. July 2004 est. - 13,363,421 (65th)
. 1998 census - 11,437,656
. Density - 74/kmē (121st)
. Total - $29,344 million (86th)
. Per capita 2003 estimate - $2,189 (122nd)
Currency: Riel 1 (KHR). Local currency, although US Dollars are widely used.
Time zone: (UTC+7)
. Summer (DST) (UTC+7)
Internet TLD: .kh
Calling code: +855

The Kingdom of Cambodia (many names exist the of country in Khmer) is a constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia with a population of more than 13 million people.
Most Cambodians are Therevada Buddhists of Khmer extraction.
A citizen of Cambodia is usually identified as Cambodian.
Most Cambodians are ethnically Khmer, but the country also has a substantial number of Chams and small hill tribes.
Cambodia is the successor state of the mighty Khmer Empire, which ruled most of the Indochinese Peninsula between the 11th and 14th centuries.
The country shares a border with Thailand to its west, with Laos to its north, with Vietnam to its east, and with the Gulf of Thailand to its south.
The geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong river (colloquial Khmer: Tonle Thom, i.e. "the great river") and the Tonle Sap (i.e. "the fresh water river"), an important source of fish.

Cambodia is the traditional transliteration of the Khmer name of the country, while Kampuchea is another transliteration, more faithful to the Khmer pronunciation of the word.
Contrary to what some believe, Cambodia and Kampuchea are exactly the same word, being merely two different transliterations of the same Khmer word, much as Peking and Beijing are just two different transliterations of the same Chinese word.
Due to its use by the Khmer Rouge, the transliteration Kampuchea is now eschewed in western languages, and the traditional Cambodia/Cambodge is preferred.

The official name of the country, however, is Preahreachanachâk Kampuchea (Mul script ; regular script), i.e. "Kingdom of Cambodia".

Since independence was achieved in 1953, the official name of Cambodia has changed several times, following the troubled history of the country.

History in brief
The first advanced civilizations in present day Cambodia appeared in the 1st millennium AD. During the 300s, 400s, and 500s AD, the Indianized states of Funan and Chenla took hold in what is now present-day Cambodia and southwestern Vietnam.
These states had close relations with China and India.

From the 9th century to the 15th century, Cambodia was the center of the mighty Khmer Empire, which was during this time based at Angkor.
Angkor Wat, the empire's main religious temple, remains a symbol of Cambodia during its time as a world power, and is also the country's top tourist attraction to this day.

Cambodia was a protectorate of France from 1863 until the country received independence in 1953.

Cambodia was under Japanese occupation during World War II from 1941 to 1945.

During the 1950s and 1960s the country was under the rule of King Norodom Sihanouk, where the country maintained a precarious neutrality in the wake of active aggression against South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese.

In 1969 the USA began B-52 bombing operations in Cambodia to destroy Communist bases in Cambodia.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the country was plagued with a brutal civil war, a hated military monarchist regime, as well as an even worse genocidal, agro-communist regime led by the Khmer Rouge.
During the Khmer Rouge period, autogenocide was committed against millions of people who were perceived intellectuals, detractors of Marxism, and some just innocent civilians.
Millions fled across to neighbouring Thailand.

The Khmer Rouge ideology included:
closing schools and hospitals;
abolishing banking and currency;
outlawing religion;
confiscating private property;
and relocating people from urban areas to collective farms where they were subject to forced labor.
The Khmer Rouge justified its actions by claiming that Cambodia was on the brink of major famine due to the American bombing campaigns, and that this required the evacuation of the cities to the countryside so that people could become self-sufficient, however this claim is generally dismissed as an excuse by many.
It had the effect of converting the entire country into a re-education/labor camp.
During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, about 1.7 million people were killed, or one-fifth of the country's population of the time.

Vietnam invaded in 1978 and the USA instituted an embargo on the new Vietnamese-sponsored government.
The Carter administration helped the Khmer Rouge to retain its seat at the UN, giving the impression that Pol Pot's regime was still the legitimate government of Cambodia.

A civil war between the Vietnamese-sponsored government of Phnom Penh and the Khmer Rouge continued until United Nations sponsored elections in 1993 restored stability.

After United Nations intervention, however, Cambodia has gained stability and has begun to rebuild the country's infrastructure that was lost during the brutality that reigned in the 1970s and 1980s.
Prince Sihanouk became King again, and a coalition government between the conservative-royalist Funcinpec party and the pro-Vietnamese Cambodian People's Party was formed .
1998 saw the surrender of the remaining Khmer Rouge troops and the death of Pol Pot.
None of the Khmer Rouge leaders have been tried for their war crimes.
Cambodia now attempts to rebuild itself after years of horror.

Cambodia is now a constitutional monarchy where executive power is held by the prime minister.
The head of the state is the king, who reigns but does not govern.

King Norodom Sihanouk retired in October 2004 and one of his sons Prince Norodom Sihamoni became king.

In the 2003 National Assembly elections, the CPP won 73 seats with 47% of the vote, the opposition-liberal Sam Rainsy Party won 24 seats (22%), and FUNCINPEC won 26 seats (21%).
Eleven women were among those elected.

Following a year long deadlock during which FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party united to oppose the CPP, and thus prevented it from forming a government, FUNCINPEC switched sides and joined with the CPP, allowing it to control the two thirds of the seats in the National Assembly needed to form a government.

Cambodia has an area of about 181,040 square kilometers, sharing an 800-kilometer border with Thailand on the north and west, a 541-kilometer border with Laos on the northeast, and a 1,228-kilometer border with Vietnam on the east and southeast.
It has 443 kilometers of coastline along the Gulf of Thailand.

The most distinctive geographical feature is the lacustrine plain formed by the inundations of the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), measuring about 2,590 square kilometers during the dry season and expanding to about 24,605 square kilometers during the rainy season.

Temperatures range from 10°C to 38°C and Cambodia experiences tropical monsoons.
Southwest monsoons blowing inland bring moisture-laden winds from the Gulf of Thailand and Indian Ocean from May to October, and the country experiences the heaviest precipitation from September to October.
The northeast monsoon ushers in the dry season, which lasts from November to March, with the driest period from January to February.

Despite the recent progress, the Cambodian economy continues to suffer from the effects of decades of civil war and internal strife.
Foreign investment and tourism also fell off drastically.
Since then however, growth has been steady.

The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.
Fear of renewed political instability and corruption within the government discourage foreign investment and delay foreign aid.
The government is addressing these issues with assistance from bilateral and multilateral donors.

Cambodia is ethnically homogeneous, as more than 90% of its population is of Khmer origin and speaks the Khmer language, the country's official language.
The remainder include Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham and Khmer Loeu.

The Khmer language is a member of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austroasiatic language group.
French is spoken by many Cambodians as a second-language and is often the language of instruction in various schools and universities.
However, in recent decades, many younger Cambodians, as well as members of the business-classes, have favored learning English and it is gradually becoming the more widely-known.

Theravada Buddhism, suppressed by Khmer Rouge but now revived, is the main religion, but Christianity is spreading in the country.

Khmer culture, as developed and spread by the Khmer empire, has distinctive styles of dance, architecture and sculpture which have strongly influenced neighbouring Laos and Thailand.
Notable recent artistic figures include the singers Sinn Sisamouth, who introduced new musical styles to the country, and later Meng Keo Pichenda.

Bonn Om Teuk (Water Festival), the annual boat rowing contest, is the biggest Cambodian holiday.
The festival is held at the end of the rainy season when the Mekong river begins to sink back to its normal levels.
Approximately 10% of Cambodia's population attends this event each year.
Popular games include kicking a sey, which is similar to a hacky sack, cockfighting and soccer.

Rice, as in other South East Asian countries, is the staple grain, while fish from the Mekong and Tonle Sap also form an important part of the diet.

Overall, the cuisine of Cambodia is similar to that of its Southeast Asian neighbours.

Customary Cambodian teachings include: that if a person does not wake up before sunrise he is lazy; you have to tell your parents or elders where you are going and what time you are coming back home; close doors gently, otherwise you have a bad temper; sit with your legs straight down and not crossed (crossing you legs shows that you are an impolite person); and always let other people talk more than you.

Khmer culture is very heirarchical, i.e. the greater a person's age, the greater the level of respect that must be granted to them.

The civil war severely damaged the transportation system, despite the provision of Soviet technical assistance and equipment.
Cambodia has two rail lines, totaling about 612 kilometers of single, one-meter-gauge track, from the capital to Preah Seihanu and to Sisophon.

The nation's extensive inland waterways were important historically in domestic trade.

Cambodia has two major ports, Phnom Penh and Kampong Som, and five minor ones.

The country possesses six commercial airports: Pochentong International Airport near Phnom Penh is the largest, while the others are at Siemreap, Battambang, Mondul Kiri, Ratanak Kiri, and Stung Treng.

The locals normally use automobiles, motorbikes and buses.
Cycle rickshaws ("cyclos") are an additional option often used by visitors.

The tourism industry is the country's second-greatest source of hard currency after the textile industry.
More than 60% of visitor arrivals are to Angkor, and most of the remainder to Phnom Penh.
Other tourist hotspots include Kompong Som (Cambodia's only port), which has a popular beach.

The Angkor Wat temple complex is the best preserved example of Khmer architecture. Angkor means "city" and Wat "temple".
Out of bounds to tourists during the civil war, it gained particular worldwide attention after featuring in the 2001 movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
The Bayon, also at Angkor, is located at the center of Angkor Thom.
It has 54 towers, each bearing four smiling faces.

Many tourists also visit the Tuol Sleng Museum, the infamous prison of the Khmer Rouge, and Choeung Ek, one of the main Killing Fields; both display photographs, skulls and bones of victims of the autogenocide.
Cambodia is also a major destination for sex tourism, and there is particular concern over child sex and forced prostitution.

This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodia) September 2005
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).

In September 2005 Hui Chin's Mother passed away in Singapore.

With our family's help we rushed over to Ah Kam' funeral, missing it by a few hours, due to our distances and airline booking opportunities, or lack of thereof.

To reward our presence, we were shouted a few days to Angkor Wat or Cambodia, to be exact.

We spent a few days at Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Lake Tonle Sap and Phnom Penh.

Unfortunately not all my photos turned out, due to a faulty SD Card or something.

List of other pages in my Cambodia series

Angkor (other) Temples          Angkor Thom          Angkor Wat

Bakong Temples          Banteay Srey Temples          Lake Tonle Sap

Phnom Penh          Preah Ko Temples          Siem Reap

Site Index         Back to Top         Photos Index

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