Cambodia facts & history
List of other pages in my
Banteay Srey Temples
Preah Ko Temples
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
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
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
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;
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
This page was retrieved and condensed from
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
Unfortunately not all my photos turned out, due to a faulty
SD Card or something.
List of other pages in my
Banteay Srey Temples
Preah Ko Temples
Back to Top
Thanks for coming, I hope you
have enjoyed it, will recommend
it to your friends, and will come
back later to see my site developing
I'm trying to make my pages
enjoyable and trouble free for everyone,
please let me know of any mistakes
or trouble with links, so I can
fix any problem as soon as possible.
These pages are best viewed with
monitor resolution set at
800x600 and kept simple on purpose so
everyone can enjoy them across all media and