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Kingdom of Cambodia
CAPITAL: Phnom Penh
FLAG: The flag has a red center field with a white silhouette of the temple complex at Angkor Wat. The center field is bordered top and bottom by blue bands.
ANTHEM: Nokoreach (Royal Kingdom)
MONETARY UNIT: The new riel (cr) is a paper currency of 100 sen. cr1 = $0.00024 (or $1 = cr4,098) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Both the metric system and traditional weights and measures are in general use.
HOLIDAYS: National Day, 9 January; New Year, April; Labor Day, 1 May; Feast of the Ancestors, 22 September; Independence Day, 9 November.
TIME: 7 pm = noon GMT.
Situated in the southwest corner of the Indochina Peninsula, Cambodia has an area of 181,040 sq km (69,900 sq mi), extending 730 km (454 mi) ne-sw and 512 km (318 mi) se-nw. It is bounded on the ne by Laos, on the e and se by Vietnam, on the sw by the Gulf of Thailand, and on the w, nw, and n by Thailand, with a total boundary length of 2,572 km (1,598 mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Cambodia is slightly smaller than the state of Okla-homa. In 1982, Cambodia signed an agreement with Vietnam on their mutual maritime frontier. A treaty delineating the land border was signed in December 1985.
Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh, is located in the south-central part of the country.
Cambodia is a country of forested mountains and well-watered plains. The central part of the country forms a gigantic basin for the Tonle Sap, or Great Lake, and the Mekong River, which flows down from Laos to the southern border with Vietnam. Between the Tonle Sap and the Gulf of Thailand lie the Cardamom Mountains and the Elephant Range, which rise abruptly from the sea and from the eastern plains. In the north, the Dangrek Mountains, 320 km (200 mi) long and 300–750 m (1,000–2,500 ft) high, mark the Thailand frontier. The short coastline has an important natural harbor, Kompong Som Bay (Chhâk Kâmpóng Saôm), where the port of Kompong Som (Kâmpóng Saôm, formerly Sihanoukville) is located.
The Mekong and the Tonle Sap dominate the life and economy of Cambodia. The Mekong overflows during the rainy season, deposits vast quantities of alluvial soil, and, backing toward the Tonle Sap, causes that lake to increase in size from about 2,590 sq km (1000 sq mi) to almost 24,605 sq km (9,500 sq mi).
The climate is tropical, with a wet season from May through November and a dry season from December to April. Temperatures range from 10–38°c (68–97°f), and humidity is consistently high. Rainfall averages 127–140 cm (50–55 in) in the central basin to about 508 cm (200 in) in the southwestern mountains.
Cambodia, covered in its mountainous areas with dense virgin forests, has a wide variety of plant and animal life. There are palm, rubber, coconut, kapok, mango, banana, and orange trees, as well as the high sharp grass of the savannas. Birds, including cranes, pheasants, and wild ducks, and mammals such as elephants, wild oxen, panthers, and bears abound throughout the country. Fish, snakes, and insects also are present in abundance. As of 2002, there were at least 123 species of mammals and 183 species of birds in the country.
Deforestation and the resulting soil erosion cause significant environmental problems in Cambodia. By 1985, logging activities, the clearing of the land for agricultural purposes, and the damage from the Vietnam war resulted in the destruction of 116 square miles of forest land. Between 1983 and 1993, the nation's forest and woodland were reduced by an additional 11.3% to 11.7 million ha. In 1995, there were only 9 million ha. The nation has 121.6 cubic km of renewable water resources with 94% used for farming activity and 1% used for industrial purposes. Most rural dwellers do not have access to pure water.
Three-fourths of Cambodia's wildlife areas have been lost through the destruction of its forests, and strip mining for gems in the western part of the country poses an additional threat to the nation's biodiversity and wildlife habitats. Natural fisheries have been endangered by the destruction of Cambodia's mangrove swamps. In 2003, about 18.5% of the total land area was protected. There are three Ramsar wetlands sites.
According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 23 types of mammals, 24 species of birds, 10 types of reptiles, 3 species of amphibians, 12 species of fish, and 31 species of plants. Endangered species in Cambodia include three species of gibbon (pileated, crowned, and caped), several species of wild dog and wild cat, leopard, tiger, Asian elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros, Thailand brow-antlered deer, kouprey, giant catfish, Indian python, Siamese crocodile, and estuarine crocodile.
The population of Cambodia (Kampuchea) in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 13,329,000, which placed it at number 66 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 37% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population growth rate for 2005–10 was expected to be 2.2%, a rate the government viewed as too high. In 2004, the government launched a National Population Policy, aimed at educating the population on the connections between high fertility, high population growth, and poverty. The government reported that 30% of women of reproductive age wanted to plan their pregnancies, but lacked the information and resources to do so. The projected population for the year 2025 was 18,939,000. The population density was 74 per sq km (191 per sq mi).
The UN estimated that 15% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 5.18%. The capital city, Phnom Penh, had a population of 1,157,000 in that year. Other cities include Băttâmbâng, Kâmpóng Cham, Kâmpôt, Siĕmréab, Kâmpóng Saôm, and Krâchéh. A great majority of the people live in rural areas, with 90% of the rural population living in the plains of the central third of the country.
Estimates of Cambodia's population vary with the assessment of the impact of the 1970–75 war and the millions killed in its tumultuous aftermath. At the war's end, in April 1975, the population of the capital, Phnom Penh, had swollen to nearly 3 million because of a mass influx of refugees. The new government immediately embarked on a forced evacuation of all urban areas, and by March 1976, only 100,000–200,000 were thought to remain in Phnom Penh. After the installation of the PRK in 1979, the population of Phnom Penh began to increase. As of 2005, Cambodia had one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in Asia.
The first migration of persons in independent Cambodia took place during the 1950s and 1960s, when ethnic Chinese were permitted to settle in the mountainous and wasteland areas and cultivate land that otherwise would have remained unproductive. After 1970, about 200,000 Vietnamese living in Cambodia were repatriated to the Vietnam ostensibly as a security measure. With the insurgent victory in April 1975, most of the country's remaining Vietnamese were reported to have emigrated to Vietnam. In addition, thousands of refugees, including many former officials and military personnel, fled across the Thai border or were evacuated by US aircraft.
The new government launched a sweeping nationwide resettlement program under which some 2.5–3 million persons were moved from Phnom Penh and other cities into the countryside, where they were organized into work brigades. The food shortage in rural areas was only slightly less critical than in the cities, and widespread starvation led to the deaths of an estimated one million people during the transition. After the installation of the new government in January 1979, continued fighting and political instability resulted in a new exodus of refugees. About 630,000 Cambodians left the country between 1979 and 1981, of which about 208,000 were able to resettle in other countries, including 136,000 in the United States. Most of the rest remained in camps on the border with Thailand, but they were repatriated to Cambodia in May 1993.
Between 1979 and 1987 there was a new migration of ethnic Vietnamese into Cambodia. Official sources insisted that the total number was under 60,000, and was comprised, for the most part, of residents who had left in the early 1970s; opposition groups contended that the number totaled over 500,000 and was intended to consolidate Vietnamese control over the country.
In 1997, the conflicts between government forces and the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge) drove rural populations from their homes. In 1997 and 1998, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assisted up to 60,000 Cambodian refugees who had fled the fighting in north-west Cambodia. Also in 1997, the UNHCR helped several thousand ethnic Vietnamese fisher families return to their Cambodian homes after having camped on the Vietnam border. Following the peace settlement between the government of Cambodia and resistance forces in December 1998, the repatriation of approximately 36,000 refugees remaining in camps in Thailand was rapidly implemented. By April 1999, all of the camps were closed, and by June 1999 some 47,000 refugees had returned home. In 2000 there were 211,000 noncitizen residents living in Cambodia.
In Cambodia as of 2004, 382 people were registered as refugees and another 316 were registered as asylum seekers. Also in 2004, over 14,00 Cambodians sought refuge in France. The net migration rate for Cambodia in 2005 was estimated as zero. The government continued to view the emigration level as too high.
Over 90% of the entire population are ethnic Khmers, descendants of the original population in the area. The largest minority groups are the Vietnamese, estimated at 5% of the population, and the Chinese, estimated at 1%. Groups designated as other comprise the remaining 4% of the population. National minorities are the Cham and a number of small tribal groups.
Khmer, the national language, is spoken by about 95% of all inhabitants. Unlike Thai or Vietnamese, Khmer is a nontonal language; most words are monosyllabic. French, the second language, is often used in commercial and official circles. The Vietnamese and the Chinese use their own languages, as do other minorities. English is also spoken.
Buddhism has been the state religion since 1989. About 93% of all inhabitants practice either Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism. It is believed that most people also practice some forms of animism. The Chinese and most Vietnamese in Cambodia practice a traditional mixture of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, ancestor worship, and animism. In 2004, there were about 700,000 Muslims, representing the four branches: Shafi, Wahhabi, ImanSan, and Kadiani. The ethnic Chams are predominantly Muslim. Less than 1% of the population is Christian, with over 100 separate organizations represented. There are also small groups of the Vietnamese Cao Dai religion and Baha'is.
In 1975, the government virtually abolished Buddhism, defrocking some 70,000 monks and turning pagodas into warehouses. Islamic spokesmen have claimed that 90% of Cambodia Muslims were massacred after 1975. Of some 6,000 Roman Catholics left in Cambodia at the time of the revolution, only a few survived. All mosques and Catholic churches were razed. The PRK regime that came to power in 1979 permitted the return of religious practice, and hundreds of pagodas were reopened. In insurgent areas controlled by the Khmer Rouge, Buddhism was allowed after 1979, and in non-Communist resistance camps there reportedly was full freedom of religion.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the government reportedly respects this right in practice. All religious groups register through the Ministry of Cults and religious Affairs in order to build places of worship and freely conduct religious activities.
Land transport facilities suffered wholesale destruction during the 1970–75 war. Cambodia's first railway, a 385-km (239-mi) single track from Phnom Penh to Paoy Pet, was badly damaged in the fighting; moreover, a just-completed 262-km (163-mi) line from Phnom Penh to Kampong Sam was also disabled. The line to Kampong Sam was restored in November 1979, and a Phnom Penh-Băttâmbâng railway was reopened in February 1980. Rail service has been periodically disrupted by guerrilla operations. In 2004, rail trackage totaled 602 km (374 mi) of 1.000m narrow gauge track.
All major cities and towns are connected with Phnom Penh by highway, and from there roads connect to Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. The US-built 214-km (133-mi) Khmer-America Friendship Highway links Phnom Penh with Kampong Sam. As of 2002, Cambodia had an estimated 35,769 km (22,226 mi) of main roads, of which only 4,165 km (2,588 mi) were paved; most are in poor condition.
The Mekong is the most important inland waterway. Total length of navigable waterways is 3,700 km (2,300 mi) for craft drawing 0.6 meters, but only 282 km (175 mi) for craft with a draft of 1.8 meters. The river port of Phnom Penh has been upgraded. Until 1975, Saigon was the major transshipment point for outgoing and incoming Cambodian goods; the opening of the deepwater port of Kompong Som made Cambodia largely independent of Vietnam for oceangoing shipping. In 2005, Cambodia's merchant fleet totaled 479 ships (1,000 GRT or over) with a capacity of 1,913,910 GRT.
As of 2004, Cambodia had an estimated 20 airports, of which 6 had paved runways, and two heliports (as of 2005). The main airport is at Phnom Penh; there are regular flights between Phnom Penh, Hanoi, Vientiane, and Ho Chi Minh City. In 2003, airline passenger traffic totaled about 116,000 passengers.
Most Cambodians are descendants of the Khmers, who in the 6th century established the Indian-influenced Angkor Empire, and for the next 900 years ruled the area of present-day Cambodia. According to legend, the founder of the Khmer dynasty was Kampu Svayambhuva, from whose name "Kampuchea" derives. From the 10th to the 14th century, after years of military expansion, the Khmers reached their apogee. Their empire extended over most of Southeast Asia (from central Vietnam south-west into the Malay Peninsula, and from Thailand north to the border of Burma, now known as Myanmar). Angkor, the capital city, was a flourishing complex of great temples, palaces, and shrines. In the subsequent centuries, however, continuing attacks by the Thai (who captured Angkor in 1431) and the Vietnamese weakened the empire, and by the end of the 18th century much of Cambodia had become a Thai and Vietnamese condominium. In 1863, the king of Cambodia placed the country under French protection. The French, joining Cambodia to Laos and Vietnam to form French Indochina, ruled the protectorate until the end of World War II. Cambodian nationalism received its greatest impetus during the World War II period, while Japan controlled Indochina. King Norodom Sihanouk, who had ascended the throne in 1941 and had been held a virtual prisoner under the Japanese occupation, proclaimed Cambodia independent in 1945, but yielded before a temporary resumption of the French protectorate, enforced by Allied troops, which occupied Phnom Penh. Cambodia became a constitutional monarchy on 6 May 1947, and was granted nominal independence within the French Union on 9 November 1949. King Sihanouk, meanwhile, had assumed leadership of Cambodia's growing nationalist movement. On 17 October 1953, during the height of the Franco-Indochinese war, he was granted full military control of his country by France. Sihanouk, a skilled politician, abdicated in March 1955 in favor of his father and mother, King Suramarit and Queen Kossamak, and then emerged as prime minister with the unanimous support of the national legislature. King Suramarit died on 31 April 1960, but Prince Sihanouk, although retaining the title of chief of state, did not return to the throne. During the Franco-Indochinese war, Communist-controlled Viet-Minh troops from Vietnam operated in Cambodia (1954), and gave support to a small Khmer Communist movement.
The Geneva agreements of July 1954, which ended the Fran-co-Indochinese war, secured the withdrawal of French and Viet-Minh troops from Cambodia and the surrender of most of the Khmer rebels. During the next 15 years, Sihanouk sought to keep Cambodia neutral in the deepening Vietnam conflict. This proved increasingly difficult, however, as the National Liberation Front (also known as the Viet-Cong) used Cambodian border areas as bases from which to launch attacks on the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, or South Vietnam), and as the United States in 1969 launched an undeclared air war against the guerrilla sanctuaries. On 18 March 1970, Marshal Lon Nol, prime minister and army chief, overthrew the chief of state, Prince Sihanouk, while the prince was on a visit to the USSR; the right-wing coup ended 1,168 years of rule by Khmer monarchs. Sihanouk thereupon took up residence in Beijing, where, on 5 May, he announced formation of the Royal Government of National Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK) under the political auspices of the National United Front of Kampuchea. In the interim, on 30 April, US president Richard M. Nixon announced an "incursion" into Cambodia of 30,000 US and 40,000 Vietnamese troops, with the object of destroying their opponents' strongholds along the Vietnam border. The operation was terminated on 30 June with its military objectives apparently unfulfilled, and bombing of the region continued, to devastating effect on Cambodia's economy.
Formal diplomatic relations with the United States, severed by Sihanouk in 1965, were resumed on 2 July 1970, and Sihanouk was condemned to death (in absentia) three days later. On 9 October, the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh abolished the monarchy and changed Cambodia's name to the Khmer Republic. In elections held during June 1972, Lon Nol was elected president of the republic. Pressures from GRUNK insurgents continued to mount, especially following the conclusion of a ceasefire in Vietnam in January 1973 and the withdrawal of the last US troops from that country in March. US aid to the Lon Nol government had been substantial, totaling $1.18 billion in military supplies and $503 million in economic assistance for the whole of the 1970–75 period, but with most of the aid concentrated in the early years of direct involvement. With the reversal of US policy in Vietnam, however, support for the Khmer Republic began to taper off, and by the start of 1975, the Lon Nol government was plunged into a struggle for survival. In January, GRUNK military forces, generally referred to as the Khmer Rouge, launched a major offensive aimed at gaining control of the Mekong River and isolating Phnom Penh. Fierce and costly fighting ensued over the next three months, with the United States undertaking a massive airlift to Phnom Penh in February to fend off starvation and military collapse. On 1 April, the strategic Mekong ferry crossing at Neak Luong fell to the insurgents, clearing the way to a direct, final assault on the capital. On that day, Lon Nol fled the country, to be followed by much of the ruling hierarchy. On 17 April, the Khmer Republic government officially capitulated to GRUNK forces, commanded by Khieu Samphan.
The GRUNK government reported in March 1976 that the war had resulted in one million casualties, including 800,000 killed. On 5 January 1976, the country was officially renamed Democratic Kampuchea (DK). On 20 March, the first general elections were held for a new 250-member People's Assembly. The Assembly on 14 April named Khieu Samphan chairman of the State Presidium, replacing Prince Sihanouk, who had returned to the country in September 1975, as head of state. Pol Pot was named prime minister. Even before these political reforms were undertaken, the GRUNK government had undertaken a massive—and perhaps unprecedented—reorganization of the country's economic and social life. As an initial step, the new government ordered the neartotal evacuation of Phnom Penh, where food, shelter, and medical resources had been stretched to the limit by the press of some 2.5 million refugees. The country was thereupon plunged into almost complete isolation, even from its neighbors in Vientiane and Hanoi. Currency was abolished, social relations completely overhauled, religion almost eradicated, education suspended, and families divided. From two million to three million people may have died from starvation, exhaustion, disease, or massacre under the Pol Pot (Cambodian Communist leader Saloth Sar) regime.
Meanwhile, tensions with Vietnam (traditional enemy of Cambodia until 1976 and again after 1989) were growing, and there were border clashes during 1977 and 1978. In December 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia with a force of more than 100,000 troops; by January 1979, they had installed a pro-Vietnamese government, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), headed by Heng Samrin, a former division commander in the GRUNK army. The PRK had to contend with resistance from the very beginning, and the Khmer Rouge rebels, who had fled to the jungles in the west and south, continued to harass the government despite Vietnamese counteroffensives. In order to improve its international standing, the Khmer Rouge began in 1981 to pursue a united-front strategy; Pol Pot, branded with the 1975–79 atrocities, reportedly withdrew into the background, and Khieu Samphan, supposedly the most moderate of the Khmer Rouge leaders, emerged as chief spokesman. In 1982, the Khmer Rouge formed the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), with two noncommunist factions led by Prince Sihanouk and a former politician, Son Sann. The fighting during 1982–83 reflected a pattern of PRK and Vietnamese dry-season offensives alternating with an upsurge of guerrilla operations during the wet season. Militarily, the PRK and Vietnam appeared firmly in control at the end of 1987; diplomatically, however, the PRK had won recognition only from Vietnam, the former USSR, and their allies, with most nations joining the United States and China in giving qualified support to the CGDK. In March 1986, an eight-point plan to settle the Cambodian conflict was issued by the leaders of the coalition.
Progress towards a peaceful settlement had an uneven course in 1988. Prince Sihanouk resigned, retracted his resignation, and resigned again as president of the Democratic Kampuchean Government-in-exile. Informal meetings in Indonesia, one in July shunned by Prince Sihanouk and the other in October ignored by the Khmer Rouge, made no progress on peace plans. However, a subsequent announcement supported the creation of an international peacekeeping force. A conciliatory statement made in August 1988 indicated the Khmer Rouge was ready to reduce its armed forces to the level of the other Cambodian factions. Vietnam announced the repatriation of 50,000 troops from Cambodia in 1988 and the complete withdrawal of troops by late 1989, or early 1990. In January of 1989 Heng Samrin pledged that, if a political settlement could be achieved, all Vietnamese troops would be repatriated by September. Further encouraging gestures were made by Vietnam, China, and Thailand: Thai and Vietnamese officials met in Hanoi; Vietnamese and Chinese ministers met in Beijing; and, Thailand abandoned its policy of isolating the Heng Samrin government and invited talks with them. In 1989 Prince Sihanouk resumed leadership of the Democratic Kampuchean Government-in-exile, later resigning from leadership of the National Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC). In protest of Thaiand's contact with the Heng Samrin government, Sihanouk refused to attend a second "informal meeting" in Jakarta. This meeting still failed to resolve two outstanding major issues: the make-up of an international force to oversee troop withdrawals and the composition of an interim government before elections. As a further sign of its commitment to change, in April 1989 an extraordinary session of Cambodia's National Assembly ratified amendments to the Constitution: the name of the country was changed to the State of Cambodia (SOC), a new national flag, emblem and anthem were introduced; Buddhism was reinstated as the state religion; and the death penalty abolished. Hun Sen met in Bangkok with the Thai prime minister who appealed for a ceasefire among the four Cambodian factions [The government of the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP) installed by the Vietnamese (the Heng Samrin government), and three antigovernment groups that comprised the umbrella organization, the national Government of Cambodia (NGC): FUNCINPEC, the Khmer Rouge, and the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF)]; the Khmer Rouge rejected this suggestion. In July 1989 Hun Sen and Prince Sihanouk met in Paris prior to the Paris International Conference on Cambodia (PICC). In September 1989 Vietnam completed the timely withdrawal of its forces from Cambodia. Throughout 1988 and 1989 the Khmer Rouge forces continued to make military gains in Cambodia. The UN adopted a resolution supporting the formation of an interim government that included the Khmer Rouge, although past atrocities of the Khmer Rouge were alluded to indirectly.
In January 1990 the UN Security Council approved an Australian peace initiative—UN monitored ceasefire, the temporary assumption of executive powers by the UN secretary-general, formation of a national supreme council, and the holding of internationally supervised elections. Prince Sihanouk resigned as Supreme Commander of the High Council of National Defense and leader of the resistance coalition, but retained his position as President of Democratic Kampuchea. In February 1990 the Government-in-exile of Democratic Kampuchea was formally renamed by Sihanouk as the National Government of Cambodia and restored the traditional flag and anthem. This change distanced the coalition from association with the Khmer Rouge's former regime, Democratic Kampuchea (DK). (The DK had been named the Khmer Rouge by Sihanouk.) In a third meeting held in Jakarta in February the four Cambodian factions as well as representatives of Vietnam, Laos, ASEAN, France, and Australia met and agreed to the main principles of the UN plan. Prince Sihanouk resumed the presidency of the resistance coalition in May and in June he and Hun Sen signed a conditional ceasefire in Bangkok. In June a meeting in Tokyo was attended by representatives of all four Cambodian factions including Hun Sen and Prince Sihanouk. The Khmer Rouge, however, refused to sign a ceasefire agreement and proposed that each faction should have equal representation on a supreme national council. Prince Sihanouk offered support for the Khmer Rouge proposal, despite his previous agreement with Hun Sen; the discussions collapsed. In June and July reformist political allies of Hun Sen were dismissed or arrested for alleged attempts to establish a new party. Supporters of conservative Chea Sim, Chairman of the National Assembly, replaced them. Also in July the United States withdrew its support for the National Government of Cambodia's occupation of Cambodia's seat at the UN and indicated willingness to provide humanitarian assistance for the Phnom Penh regime. The UN Security Council in late August endorsed a plan for a comprehensive settlement in Cambodia: UN supervision of an interim government, military arrangements for the transitional period, free elections, and guarantees for the future neutrality of Cambodia. In addition, a special representative of the UN secretary-general would oversee the proposed United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). The UN would also assume control of government ministries. Both China and the former USSR subsequently pledged to cease providing supplies of military equipment to their respective allies, the Khmer Rouge and the Phnom Penh regime. In reversals of previous policy the United States announced it would hold talks with the Phnom Penh regime, and the USSR declared that it would hold talks with Prince Sihanouk. The four Cambodian factions accepted the UN proposals at an "informal meeting" in Jakarta in September 1990. In addition, they agreed to the formation of the Supreme National Council (SNC), with six representatives each from the National Government of Cambodia and Phnom Penh regime. The SNC was to occupy the Cambodian seat at the UN General Assembly. At its first meeting in September the SNC failed to elect a chairman. The Khmer Rouge heightened military action in the northern provinces. Even as the final draft of the peace plan was prepared by the UN Security Council the Phnom Penh regime continued to oppose the principal provisions of the plan. In December all 12 members of the SNC attended another meeting of the PICC and all factions endorsed most components of the UN plan.
The SOC replaced three of its six SNC members in February 1991. In May a temporary cease-fire was agreed upon by the four factions in order to facilitate discussions. In June the Khmer Rouge refused to discuss SNC leadership issues, requiring the Phnom Penh regime's prior acceptance of the full terms of the UN peace plan, and the Khmer Rouge refused to comply with a proposed extension of the temporary cease-fire. Prince Sihanouk became an ordinary member of the SNC chairing a meeting in Thailand where all four factions resolved several issues: implementation of an indefinite cease-fire, pledges not to receive further foreign military aid, approval of a flag and anthem for the SNC, and establishment of Phnom Penh as the headquarters for the SNC. Prince Sihanouk was elected to the chairmanship of the SNC and resigned as leader of the resistance coalition and as president of the National Government of Cambodia. His replacement in both positions was Son Sann. From August through October the SNC worked out the details of the armed forces reduction and election procedures. Elections would be held to establish a constituent assembly comprised of 120 seats, which would subsequently become a legislative assembly. The electoral system would be proportional representation based on the 21 provinces. The constituent assembly would be empowered to adopt a new constitution. In October the SOC released hundreds of political prisoners including associates of Hun Sen arrested in 1990 for starting a political party. The Kampuchean (or Khmer) People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), the communist party aligned with the Vietnamese communist movement, changed its name to the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), removed the hammer and sickle from the party emblem, and replaced Heng Samrin as Chairman of the Central Committee with the conservative Chea Sim. Reformist Hun Sen was elected vice-chairman of the CPP.
On 23 October 1991 what was hoped to be an end to 13 years of war in Cambodia was achieved with the signing of the Comprehensive Political Settlement for Cambodia by the 4 Cambodian factions and 19 participating countries. The agreement called for the creation of a United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) to carry out the peacekeeping operations which included the demobilization of 70% of each faction's army and enforcement of a cease-fire; verifying the withdrawal of foreign forces; administering the country until an election in 1993 by taking over certain portfolios; assuring that human rights were maintained; and the repatriation of 600,000 refugees and internally displaced people. In November a threat to the tenuous peace process occurred when a mob attacked Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Son Sen in a Phnom Penh villa. The SNC government's response was slow, and it was alleged that Hun Sen sanctioned this incident and that Vietnamese officials were involved in it. In December violent student demonstrations protesting against high-level corruption and in support of human rights were suppressed by the armed forces and in later demonstrations several protestors were killed. Several high-level government officials were dismissed based on the corruption charges.
In January 1992 the four factions approved the formation of political associations and the promotion of freedom of expression. However, on 22 January, Tea Bun Long, minister for religious affairs and an outspoken critique of corruption, was killed. On 28 January, Oung Phan, organizer of a new political party emphasizing anticorruption, was shot but survived. These and other arrests, threats, and disappearances were viewed as intimidation by the secret police geared at undermining the peace process and free elections, and served to intimidate government critics. Yasushi Akashi, the Japanese UN Under Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, was appointed as the UN Special Representative to Cambodia in charge of UNTAC. The UN Security Council authorized mine clearing operations, the dispatch of a 22,000 member peace keeping force to establish UNTAC, at an estimated cost of $2 billion.
In September 1991 approximately 5% of the Cambodian population was in refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border, 340,000 refugees in border area camps, and another 190,000 refugees within Cambodia. The plan was to move refugees to transit camps in Thailand, then on to six reception centers in Cambodia, and finally to villages. In October the Khmer Rouge began to forcibly repatriate tens of thousands of civilians in UN refugee camps to areas under its control in Cambodia. International reaction prevented the Khmer Rouge from forcibly repatriating inhabitants of the Khmer Rouge controlled camp, Site 8, just one of the eight refugee camps. The UNTAC refugee repatriation program began in March, in spite of ceasefire violations between the Khmer Rouge and the State of Cambodia forces. Throughout 1992 the Khmer Rouge denied free access to the zones it controlled, refused to comply with the disarmament phase, violated the cease-fire agreement, played upon long-standing racial/ethnic tensions by contending that Vietnamese soldiers were concealed in Cambodia, complained that the UN peacekeepers were not impartial to them, failed to attend meetings, and demanded the dismantling of the Phnom Penh regime as a precondition for the implementation of the peace accords, amongst other demands.
In May 1992 the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), the political and military party formed by Son Sann for the purpose of resisting the Vietnamese, was transformed into a political party called the Buddhist Liberal Democracy Party (BLDP) and still headed by Son Sann. FUNCINPEC also became a party, headed by Prince Ranariddh. At a Ministerial Conference on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia held in Tokyo in June, the application of economic sanctions against the Khmer Rouge was considered and 33 donor nations and 12 nongovernmental organizations attending the conference pledged $880 million to finance the peacekeeping operation. In August Akashi, the head of UNTAC, approved elections, and the registration of parties began. He also affirmed that the elections would proceed without the participation of the Khmer Rouge if it continued to refuse to cooperate. The demands of the Khmer Rouge were impossible to meet and were viewed as efforts to gain territory in order to increase its representation in the proposed national assembly, perhaps with as much as 35% of the population (a tactic laid down by Pol Pot in a 1988 speech). In September the Khmer Rouge made two new demands: the resignation of Akashi and a redrawn border between Cambodian and Vietnam. This latter demand referred to territory allegedly annexed by Vietnam that would make the elections incomplete if not returned to Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge protested an electoral law drafted by UNTAC that enfranchised citizens aged more than 18 years whose parents or grandparents were born in Cambodia, effectively permitting Vietnamese immigrants to take part in the election.
October 1992 UNTAC began voter registration. The Khmer Rouge boycotted voter registration and escalated destruction of bridges and roads, effectively cutting off its territory in the northeast from the rest of the country. The UN Security Council set a November deadline for the Khmer Rouge's compliance with the terms of the peace accord, but eventually extended the deadline to 31 January 1993 as the Khmer Rouge's last chance to participate in the elections. The Security Council also approved an embargo on supplies of petroleum products to the Khmer Rouge and a ban on timber exports (a principal source of income for the Khmer Rouge). The Khmer Rouge announced the formation of the Cambodian National Unity Party to contest the elections on the day the UN resolution was adopted. Ethnic and racial tensions were increasing as the Khmer Rouge incited and escalated actions against the Vietnamese based on deep-rooted Cambodian sentiments towards the Vietnamese. In December the KPNLF joined the Khmer Rouge in the ethnic cleansing of the "Vietnamese germs." Six members of the UN peacekeeping forces were seized and held for a few days by the Khmer Rouge in December 1992.
In January 1993 Prince Sihanouk ceased cooperation with UNTAC and suggested that a presidential election be held prior to the legislative election, but in February he reversed his position. Voter registration was completed in February; registered voters numbered 4.5 million and 20 political parties were registered. The election was set for May 23–25, 1993. The CPP intimidated its political rivals with attacks and stopped the gradual expansion of the Khmer Rouge into Phnom Penh government territory. In a dry season offensive the SOC attacked three of four of the Khmer Rouge's most important zones.
In early 1993 the Khmer Rouge refused to disarm and attacked UN offices, cars, helicopters, and personnel. In addition to the Khmer Rouge's accusations of collusion between UNTAC and the SOC, the presence of the UN forces was a source of growing tension and dissatisfaction in Cambodia. Inflation, official corruption, and crime were increasing and UNTAC's presence and policies were blamed. The Khmer Rouge issued their own currency, thus emphasizing steps toward further partition. In a secret speech a year earlier (6 February 1992), Pol Pot had set out an incremental approach by which the Khmer Rouge could gain popular strength which he considered more important than land: develop local autonomy; set up a money economy with their own banks which would hold the surplus earnings of farmers (projected to be 30% of earnings); distribute land, sell land in order to support the army, and continue to fight the yuon (savage), or Vietnamese. As the Khmer Rouge again refused to disarm and take part in the elections, it appeared to follow this program as it also increased attacks on Vietnamese fishermen and their families, killing 34 and injuring 29 in March at the floating village of Chong Kneas. Furthermore, citing its allegations that UNTAC colluded with the Vietnamese aggressors and rubber stamped the Vietnamese occupation, the Khmer Rouge refused to cooperate with the peace process. The UN goal was to have all refugees back in Cambodia by mid-April for elections. By 19 March, some 330,000 refugees were repatriated. A cash inducement had been added as incentive ($50 for adults and $25 for children) and this rapidly accelerated the process. Roughly 87% had taken the cash option, nearly one–third going to Phnom Penh; 80–85% of the returnees chose areas under Phnom Penh government (Hun Sen) control, (about 85% of the country's) territory; 10% chose areas controlled by the Khmer People's National Liberation Front; 2% chose zones controlled by forces loyal to Prince Sihanouk; and 1% chose Khmer Rouge areas. In April the Khmer Rouge closed its office in Phnom Penh and slipped out of the city; it pledged to prevent the planned elections. A Japanese UN worker was killed and eventually 30 of the 460 volunteers for the election work resigned. In May the Khmer Rouge mounted its boldest offensives yet with targets defined for maximum political impact including major cities; they took briefly the Siem Reap airport. Under these pressures UNTAC abandoned 400 of its 1800 polling places.
The election took place 23–28 May 1993; four million Cambodians or 85% of those registered voted. FUNCINPEC won the election with 45% of the vote, or 58 of 120 seats in the constituent assembly; the CPP took 38% of the votes, or 51 seats in the assembly; the BLDP had over 3% of the votes, which gave them 10 seats; and, MOULINAKA (Movement for the Liberation of Kampuchea, a proSihanouk group formed in 1979 by Kong Sileah, considered an offshoot of FUNCINPEC) took one seat. The constituent assembly had three months within which to draft a constitution and form a new government. To the CPP its political defeat was an unacceptable surprise and it demanded a revote and threatened riots; the Khmer Rouge denounced the CPP for contesting the election. The CPP's 51 assemblymen were technocrats and education officials (people who never wielded power within the party); this supported the belief that the CPP paid only lip service to constitutional arrangements as it maintained its grip on power. The CPP's two leaders, hardliner Chea Sim and reformer Hun Sen, were foci of an internal struggle. In a move towards cooperation FUNCINPEC leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh and CPP Primer Minister Hun Sen served as cochairmen of the government, and control of the major ministries was divided, with FUNCINPEC getting the finance and foreign affairs portfolios while the CPP retained the Information Ministry. The CPP had 200,000 armed forces and 40,000 national police; FUNCINPEC's armed forces numbered 5,000. In August for the first time the three government factions, royalist FUNCINPEC, former Phnom Penh ruling regime CPP, and the BLDP, agreed to joint military operations. The Khmer Rouge would not be allowed to enter the political mainstream until it agreed to unconditionally join the unified armed forces and open up areas under its control, estimated to be 20% of Cambodia.
Cambodia's new constitution was adopted on 21 September 1993. Prince Norodom Sihanouk was crowned king, resuming the title first bestowed on him in 1941. In an attempt to restore central control of the economy to the government on December 28 the National Assembly passed a national budget and financial laws. These new laws stripped individuals of the power to collect taxes independently and by law all revenue would be channeled to the national treasury. Minister of Economics and Finance, Sam Rainsy, set about to root out official corruption and centralize Cambodia's budget. The entrenched businesses protested, but Rainsy received the backing of Sihanouk and international lending institutions. The two co-prime ministers, First Premier Norodom Ranariddh and Second Premier Hun Sen, asked King Sihanouk for sanction to fire Rainsy, but instead received a statement praising Rainsy, who was becoming a popular hero. King Sihanouk also urged the government to grant total freedom to the domestic and foreign press.
Within the SOC there was significant difference of opinion on how to deal with the Khmer Rouge. FUNCINPEC's Ranariddh counted on diplomacy to isolate the Khmer Rouge while using development aid and investment for poverty reduction and infrastructure improvement. On the other hand, many of his counterparts in Hun Sen's CPP sought a military solution to the Khmer Rouge problem. There was consensus, however, that Cambodia should look to Malaysia's experience with the Malayan Communist Party, which consisted of marginalizing the Malaysian communists. UNTAC's failure to disarm the Khmer Rouge was a burden for the new government. The Khmer Rouge was emerging with its prestige enhanced, territory expanded, and weaponry intact. Cambodia had been critical of the role Thailand played in supporting the Khmer Rouge, and renewed its appeals to Thai neutrality. The Khmer Rouge presence benefited Thailand by aiding in securing its border, and with lucrative trade in gems, timber, and armaments. The Khmer Rouge radio station was located inside Thai territory.
The government captured Pailin, official headquarters of the Khmer Rouge on 19 March 1994, but the Khmer Rouge retook it one month later. The dry season campaign by the government against the Khmer Rouge was a failure. Both sides were scheduled to resume peace negotiations during 2–7 May. The Khmer Rouge looked to its military successes as leverage for a power sharing compromise with the government; Sihanouk sought to make deals that gave the Khmer Rouge some key posts in return for laying down its arms and opening areas under its control. One year after the elections major problems were security, corruption, and the economy. Corruption included national assembly members keeping their seats while serving in other branches of government; parties swelling the number of senior officers and civil servants as they vied to match each other in number and in rank; and the National Assembly voting themselves a raise equal to 100 times that of a typical soldier. The economy was undermined by continuing military activity, and privatization was stalled by lack of capital and skilled workers, and political instability.
On 3 July 1994 there was a coup attempt. Less than 300 troops were involved and it was directed against FUNCINPEC, and possibly Hun Sen as well, by hard line figures at the highest levels of the CPP attempting to take over the government. After the coup attempt the National Assembly voted to outlaw the Khmer Rouge and seize its assets, a move that was partly directed at Thailand. The Khmer Rouge's response was to announce the formation of a parallel government, with its headquarters in northern Cambodia and Khieu Samphan as president.
In July 1994, it was estimated that 55,000 Cambodians were again fleeing Khmer Rouge attacks in the western provinces. For the first time since the 1970s, the United States provided military aid to Cambodia. The need to remove the land mines infesting the fields of Cambodia became a high priority. Mines may have inflicted more wounds than any other weapon, and Cambodia has the world's highest percentage of physically disabled persons. As foreign advisors sought to strengthen the country's human rights laws, ethnic considerations were raised. Cambodia's constitution fails to guarantee basic rights for racial groups other than ethnic Cambodians. The definition of Cambodians does include ethnic minority Chams and Chinese, but excludes ethnic Vietnamese.
The Khmer Rouge began to weaken in 1995, with mass defections of guerrilla fighters. The government remained worried by the hard core of dedicated Khmer Rouge rebels and their leaders, who remained at large in northern and western strongholds. Tensions continued within the fragile coalition government, with the CPP fighting off royalist political movements wherever they cropped up. There were also factional disputes within each of the coalition parties. Sam Rainsy's role as an opponent of foreign aid to Cambodia's "undemocratic" government earned him the condemnation of FUNCINPEC and the CPP. The Khmer National Party, formed by Sam Rainsy, was officially unrecognized. Internal rivalries essentially disbanded the government's third partner, the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party.
Marginalization of the Khmer Rouge continued in 1996, as the group split between the leadership of ailing Pol Pot and a breakaway faction headed by Ieng Sary. In late 1996, Ieng Sary received a royal pardon, and his force became the object of courtship by CPP and FUNCINPEC. The government parties sought the votes and arms of Ieng Sary's supporters, plotting against each other in the process. This jockeying for position, accompanied by political violence and rumors of coups, continued into 1997.
In February 1997, FUNCINPEC's Ranariddh began an alliance with Sam Rainsy in strong opposition to Hun Sen's CPP. Hun Sen announced in March that he would seek to amend the constitution to prevent members of the royal family from involvement in politics, a direct hit at Ranariddh, Prince Sihanouk's son. Hints of negotiations between Ranariddh and the Khmer Rouge fueled Hun Sen's fears about his government "partner." A demonstration on 30 March, by Sam Rainsy's supporters, was attacked with hand grenades, which killed several protesters and wounded scores. The violence and tensions came to a head on 2 July, with open fighting between forces loyal to FUNCINPEC and CPP. A brief coup d'etat set up Hun Sen as the sole power in charge. Ranariddh fled Cambodia and Hun Sen's forces killed many of Ranariddh's party leaders and supporters in the days immediately following the coup.
Hun Sen moved to establish CPP legitimacy, with the party winning a flawed national election in July 1998 with 41.4% of the vote to FUNCINPEC's 31.7%. Ranariddh was able to return as an opposition leader, and he, along with Sam Rainsy, whose party gained 14.3% of the vote, condemned the election as rigged. Foreign aid, suspended due to the coup, resumed. Throughout 1998, the Khmer Rouge continued to disintegrate, as Pol Pot, the architect of their genocidal regime, died on 15 April and other leaders surrendered or were captured.
With the entire top echelon of living Khmer Rouge leaders in custody, Cambodian government concerns from 1999 through 2001 centered on how to bring them to justice. Hun Sen's preference was for a series of trials conducted within Cambodia's own legal system, while the UN, fearing mere "show trials," called for an international tribunal. Compromises involving foreign judges participating in the Cambodian trials were proposed.
In August 2001, King Sihanouk signed legislation creating a special tribunal to prosecute the Khmer Rouge members responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people through execution, torture, starvation, and hard labor. The trials were to be presided over by three Cambodian judges and two foreign judges, but further negotiations with the UN were necessary to finalize the details of the court. The UN insists that international standards of justice are met for the Khmer Rouge leaders living freely in Cambodia. In February 2002, the UN concluded that the independence, impartiality, and objectivity of the proposed court could not be guaranteed, and pulled out of the negotiations. The Cambodian government indicated it would proceed with plans for the tribunal, with or without support from the UN. The issue of the trials was divisive in Cambodia, with some fearful that they would reopen old wounds and set the country back on the path of civil war. In December 2002, the UN passed a resolution authorizing negotiations on the tribunal to begin again, and in 2004 an agreement between the UN and the Cambodian government on a tribunal system was formalized. UN members pledged $38 million to fund the trials in August 2005.
Cambodia was a constitutional monarchy from 6 May 1947 until 9 October 1970, when Marshal Lon Nol formally established the Khmer Republic. On 30 April 1972, a new constitution was passed by a national referendum. It provided for a directly elected president and a bicameral legislature consisting of an elective 126-member National Assembly and 40-member Senate. Upon the surrender of the Lon Nol government to insurgent forces on 17 April 1975, rule by the Royal Government of National Union of Kampuchea (Gouvernment Royal de l'Union Nationale de Kampuchea—GRUNK) was installed in Phnom Penh, with Prince Norodom Sihanouk as titular head of state. A new constitution, effective 5 January 1976, provided for a unicameral, 250-member People's Assembly, elected for a five-year term by universal suffrage of citizens over age 18. The PRK government, installed in January 1979, enacted a new constitution in June 1981. Under this constitution, an elected National Assembly was the supreme organ of state power; it was headed by a 7-member Council of State, which the Assembly elected from among its own members.
On 23 October 1991 the UN peace accord was signed by Cambodia's four factions. From 23–28 May 1993, a six-day election, the first multiparty election in more than 20 years, was held to determine the 120 members of the National Assembly. FUNCINPEC took 45.5% of the votes amounting to 58 seats in the assembly; the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), formerly the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), received 38.2% of the votes equaling 51 assembly seats; and Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) had 3% of the votes giving them 10 seats; and Moulina-ka (Movement for the Liberation of Kampuchea, a pro-Sihanouk group formed in 1979 by Kong Sileah, considered an offshoot of FUNCINPEC) took one seat. This newly elected National Assembly was authorized to draft a constitution. In June 1993 FUNCINPEC and the Cambodian People's Party agreed to joint control of the defense and interior ministries, while FUNCINPEC controlled the foreign and finance ministries; Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh served as co-chairmen of the interim government. The National Assembly ratified a new constitution on 21 September 1993. The monarchy was reestablished and commitments to liberal democracy, the rule of law, and women's rights were included. Prince Norodom Sihanouk ratified the constitution and again became King of Cambodia. The government of the State of Cambodia was an extremely fragile coalition after the elections, with enormous rivalries between Hun Sen's CPP, and Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC, as well as opposition from Sam Rainsy's unrecognized Khmer Nation Party. Much of the tension centered on attempts to win over factions of the Khmer Rouge, which were "coming out of the cold" en masse, their fighters and votes up for grabs by the rival political parties. In July 1997 Hun Sen's forces defeated FUNCINPEC in a brief but violent coup d'etat. In 1998, the number of seats in the National Assembly was increased to 122 (as of 2003, it stood at 123). July 1998's national election legitimized Hun Sen's CPP dominance of the nation, but FUNCINPEC won a high percentage of seats as well, and Ranariddh became Speaker of the National Assembly. The CPP took 64 seats, FUNCINPEC held 43, and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) took 15 seats in the National Assembly.
In March 1999, amendments to Cambodia's 1993 constitution allowed the formation of an unelected 61-seat Senate. Two Senate seats are appointed by the king, two elected by the National Assembly, and 57 are elected by "functional constituencies." Members serve five-year terms.
Under Sihanouk, the People's Social Community Party (Sang Kam) was the most important political group. In the 1955, 1958, 1962, and 1966 elections, with a platform of nonalignment, economic aid, and development, it captured all seats in the National Assembly. Exiled in Beijing following his overthrow by Lon Nol in March 1970, Sihanouk allied himself with Cambodia's leftist insurgents under a group called the National United Front of Kampuchea (Front National Uni de Kampuchea—FNUK). Under the Khmer Republic government headed by Lon Nol, five political groups came to the fore. The Socio-Democratic Party (SDP), Lon Nol's own group, was quickly established as the most powerful political organization. Centrist opposition groups included the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. In the presidential elections held in June 1972, Lon Nol, the SDP's candidate, won by a relatively narrow margin of 55%.
With the victory of their forces in April 1975, leaders of the pro-communist FNUK became the dominant political power in Kampuchea. The leading element in FNUK was the Khmer Communist Party (KCP), founded in 1951 and now dominated by radicals Pol Pot (previously known as Saloth Sar) and Khieu Samphan. Khieu Samphan was named prime minister of the new regime, while Pol Pot remained party head. During the next few years the Pol Pot faction systematically purged all suspected pro-Vietnamese members of the party organization. In late 1978, opposition elements, headed by Heng Samrin, formed the Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation (KNUFNS) in an effort to overthrow the Pol Pot regime. Following a Vietnamese invasion in December, Heng Samrin became the head of the pro-Vietnamese PRK government installed in January 1979. In 1981, the KNUFNS was renamed the Kampuchean United Front for National Construction and Defense, the primary mass organization in the PRK. Popularly known as the Khmer Rouge, the movement allied during the 1980s with two non-Communist factions, the Sihanoukists and Son Sann's KPNLF.
The Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), the tripartite, anti-Vietnamese resistance group formed in June 1982, changed is name to the National Government of Cambodia (NGC) in 1990. Autonomous coalition members were the Sihanoukist FUNCINPEC, the KPNLF, and the Khmer Rouge. Prince Sihanouk's main political organization, formed in 1981, was known as the National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia, or its French acronym, FUNCINPEC; he resigned as its head in 1989. In 1992 the Front was registered as a political party for the 1993 elections and Prince Norodom Ranariddh was elected president.
In 1992 the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), headed by Son Sann, formed the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP), also headed by Son Sann. The military wing of the KPNLF was the KPNLAF, the Khmer People's National Liberation Army formed under Son Sann in 1979. Although it boycotted the elections and attempted to undermine the peace process, the Khmer Rouge had also formed a party to contest the elections, the Cambodian National Unity Party, headed by Kieu Samphan and Son Sen.
The Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), the Communist Party originally installed by Vietnam in 1979 as the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), was also known as the Heng Samrin Government in the late 1980s. In 1991 the KPRP dropped the word "Revolutionary" from the party name, becoming the Khmer People's Party or Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Hun Sen remained chairman of the Council of Ministers of the government of the State of Cambodia a position he had held since 1985. At an extraordinary party congress, 17–18 October 1991, Chea Sim was elected party president, replacing Heng Samrin, and Hun Sen was elected party vice president; these events signaled a shift from hardline communist ideology to a reformist position prior to the UN-supervised elections. Chea Sim remained president of the National Assembly.
In the coalition government following the 1993 election, Hun Sen was made second premier, and FUNCINPEC's Ranariddh became first premier. Hun Sen was able to push Ranariddh out of that position with 1997's brutal coup d'etat, and the CPP won enough seats in the 1998 election to establish Hun Sen as sole prime minister.
Perennial opposition leader and anticorruption crusader Sam Rainsy transformed his unrecognized Khmer Nation Party into the eponymous Sam Rainsy Party, which won significant assembly seats in the 1998 election. Sam Rainsy has repeatedly stooped to racebaiting directed against Cambodia's Vietnamese population during his political career. At the same time, he is an eloquent spokesman for increased democratization and openness in Cambodia, and a persistent antiauthoritarian thorn in Hun Sen's side. When his parliamentary immunity was stripped by the National Assembly in February 2005, he fled the country in fear of arrest for defamation. Within months he had returned to Cambodia, assured by the CPP that he would not be arrested.
In May 2002, Prince Ranariddh's half-brother formed a new party, the Prince Norodom Chakrapong Khmer Soul party, to contest the national elections in July 2003, in which the CPP won the most votes and eventually formed a coalition government with FUNCINPEC. Hun Sen continued as prime minister. Violence again marred the election, with more than a dozen political killings during the campaign and voting.
In December 2002, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared that he wished to rule for another 10 years. He was the sole candidate for prime minister of the CPP following the 27 July 2003 general election. The next general election was scheduled to take place in 2008. FUNCINPEC and the CPP formed an alliance in September 2005 for mutual support in the 2008 general election, with CPP potentially backing Prince Ranariddh as prime minister. In October 2005, following controversy over a border pact with Vietnam, Hun Sen launched a sudden, severe crackdown on dissent, with arrests and arrest warrants targeting government critics, journalists, trade unionists, and opposition political figures.
King Sihanouk abdicated the throne in October 2004, after a 60-year reign. Prince Norodom Sihamoni (not previously involved in politics) was chosen as the new monarch of Cambodia by a Throne Council, becoming King Norodom Sihamoni on 29 October 2004.
Under the Lon Nol government, Cambodia was divided into 20 provinces (khet ), 7 sub-provinces (anoukhet ), 147 districts (srok ), and more than 1,200 townships (sangkat or khum ) and villages (phum ). Under the Pol Pot regime, administration was essentially decentralized into several major regions. Regions were divided into 41 districts, and the population as a whole was organized in massive rural communes. Under the PRK regime, the pre-1975 system of administration has been restored. Based on the People's Republic of Kampuchea's new constitution of June 1981 Local Assemblies, popularly elected by the respective localities—province, district, subdistrict, ward—were instituted with the number of representatives fixed by law, and People's Revolutionary Committee's chosen by the respective assemblies. In 1987 Cambodia was divided into 18 provinces, two special municipalities (krong ), and Phnom Penh and Kâmpóng Saôm, which were under direct central government control. The provinces were subdivided into about 122 districts, 1,324 communes, and 9,386 villages. Municipalities were subdivided into wards (sangkat ). The same system of assemblies and committees remains in place. The new constitution of the State of Cambodia was adopted on 21 September 1993. People's Committees established in all provinces, municipalities, districts, communes, and wards were responsible for local administration, public security, and local order. Within this system provincial officials and the governor effectively controlled the armed forces and security services, tax collection, civil service—and through them 80% of the Cambodian population. The country's provinces remained under the sway of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and responded to the old political loyalties rather than the central authority of the State of Cambodia. To alter this system the National Assembly passed laws to secure central control of the economy. Effective 1 January 1994 a national budget and financial laws were enacted to try to ensure that all revenues came totally and directly to the national treasury. Provincial corruption and lawlessness remain severe problems, as communications and infrastructure are extremely underdeveloped within Cambodia and smuggling is rife.
In February 2002, Cambodia held its first local elections in 23 years. The CPP claimed victory in all but 23 of the 1,621 communes. FUNCINPEC won only seven of the village communes. At least 20 political activists, mostly from opposition parties, were killed in the run-up to the elections. The proportion of female candidates in the elections was 16%.
As of October 2005, there were 20 provinces (khett ) and 4 municipalities (krong ).
The 1993 constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia provides due process protections such as presumption of innocence and also guarantees an independent judiciary. Efforts are still being made to train judicial personnel to implement these principles, and to ensure basic human rights for Cambodians.
Prior to 1989, the constitution of 1976 provided for a supreme judicial tribunal whose members were to be appointed by a People's Assembly. Because of the civil and military turmoil, however, this system was never fully implemented. The judicial system that was outlined in the constitution of 1989 provided for provincial court judges named by state officials. In practice, the judiciary was controlled by the government.
The legal system consists of lower courts, an appeals court and a Supreme Court. There is also a military court system. The 1993 constitution provides for a Constitutional Council, and a Supreme Council of Magistrates, which appoints and disciplines judges. With low revenues and high crime rates plaguing Cambodia, the justice system is burdened by substandard police procedures. Many serious crimes, notably political killings, go unsolved. Judicial and police corruption and abusive imprisonment conditions remain endemic.
Cambodia in 2005, had 124,300 active personnel in the armed forces. The Army consisted of 75,000 personnel with over 150 main battle tanks, more than 20 light tanks, an undisclosed number of reconnaissance vehicles, 70 armored infantry fighting vehicles, over 190 armored personnel carriers, and more than 428 artillery pieces. The Navy numbered around 2,800, including 1,500 naval infantry personnel. Equipment included 10 patrol/coastal craft. Cambodia's Air Force in 2005 totaled 1,500 personnel with 24 combat capable aircraft that included 14 fighter aircraft. Provincial forces number some 45,000. There is a paramilitary of 67,000 police including gendarmerie. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $73.8 million.
Cambodia has been a member of the United Nations since 14 December 1955 and participates in ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies. Cambodia was admitted to the WTO 13 October 2004. Cambodia is also a member of the Asian Development Bank, the World Federation of Trade Unions, and G-77. Cambodia was accepted as the tenth member of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) in May 1998. The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement and a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. In environmental cooperation, Cambodia is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change, and Desertification.
Cambodia's economy has been based traditionally on agriculture. About 85% of the cultivated area is devoted to the production of rice, while rubber trees account for a major part of the remainder. Prior to the war years, Cambodia's rice crop was usually ample enough to permit exports. The Tonle Sap is one of the major fishing reservoirs in Asia, and its products have played a key role in the Cambodian economy and diet. Cattle breeding is another important source of income. During the 1970–75 period, Cambodia's economy came to rely critically on US assistance, as the expansion of the war caused widespread damage and limited economic activity. The Pol Pot regime, which came to power in April 1975, was determined to emphasize the growth of agriculture and restore national self-sufficiency. The entire population was mobilized in a mass labor campaign to improve agricultural production through massive irrigation projects in the countryside. The cities were virtually emptied, and industrial production drastically declined. Private ownership of land was disallowed, and landholdings were transferred to the state or to state-organized cooperatives. All industrial enterprises were similarly transferred to state ownership. Sparse food supplies were distributed through a system of government food rationing and other forms of allotment.
When the PRK government took over in 1979, it was faced with a major challenge in restoring the national economy. The first problem was to end the threat of famine. A massive international campaign to feed the population took place during 1979–82. In the meantime, similar efforts were undertaken to stimulate the industrial sector and expand exports in order to obtain needed foreign exchange. Reliable sources note that the infrastructure was so severely degraded that it had only 40–50% of prewar capacity. By the mid-1980s, the economy had essentially returned to the level of the pre-1975 period, although the regime was still vitally dependent on foreign aid, chiefly from Vietnam and the former USSR. In July 1986, the PRK issued an emergency appeal to international organizations for rice.
Rule by the Khmer Rouge, 20 years of civil war, economic isolation, and a centrally planned economy imposed heavy burdens on Cambodia. Serious damage to basic infrastructure, industrial and agricultural production, and human resources required massive rehabilitation and reconstruction. Market-oriented reforms have been introduced which dismantle the centrally planned economy. Since 1989 Cambodia passed legislation to restore the right to own and inherit property, freed prices, passed a liberal foreign investment code, began to privatize state assets, and property, decontrolled the official exchange rate, and liberalized foreign trade. Reforms generated increased agricultural production and foreign investment. Phnom Penh and other urban areas received the greatest benefit from this economic activity.
In the 1990s Cambodia remained predominantly agricultural with more than 80% of workers employed in agriculture. Inflation rose steadily, the price of domestic commodities increased at least 140% in 1990, but by only 15% in 1998. In 1991 Cambodia halted the free trade of gold as part of an effort to stabilize the value of the currency, the riel. Triple-digit inflation made currency worthless in 1992 and it was pulled from circulation. In 1994 the riel was stabilized at 2,400–2,600 riel to one US dollar. In 1991–1993, the transition period from a command to a market-driven system, the presence of 22,000 UN personnel aided the Cambodian economy, although the growth was mainly urban, barely affecting rural areas. Western consumer goods such as motor vehicles, tinned food, alcohol, and cigarettes, were readily available in Phnom Penh and other cities. On 4 January 1992 President Bush announced the lifting of the US trade embargo against Cambodia shortly after the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement on Cambodia in 1991.
One outcome of the May 1993 elections was a division of government portfolios between the winning party, FUNCINPEC, and the surprised runner-up, the Cambodian People's Party (CPP). FUNCINPEC took over the financial and economic portfolios. An aggressive campaign was mounted to restructure tax, investment, banking and currency laws. As part of the battle against official corruption some contracts signed by the previous government were revised or abrogated. The government moved to strengthen the currency and provide new banking legislation. Effective 1 January 1994 were Cambodia's national budget and financial structure laws aimed at establishing central control of the economy. In August 1994, the government adopted a new liberalized foreign investment law with protections against nationalization and guarantees of national treatment except in matter of land ownership. The economy propelled into a period of strong growth, with real GDP increasing at an average annual rate of 7.2% 1993–97. The peak was reached in 1995, when real growth reached 8.4%. Inflation was only 3% in 1995, falling from 17.9% in 1994. During the next year two years, real growth declined, to 3.5% and 3.7%, respectively, while inflation rose, to 9% for both years. A more serious slowdown occurred in 1998 the Asian financial crisis; drought, civil violence, and political squabbles all conspired to slow growth to a barely discernable 1%, while inflation surged to 13.5%.
Cambodia's admission into ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), scheduled for 1998, ended up being delayed until April 1999 due to a breakdown into factional violence in July 1997. The after-effects of the Asian financial crisis were also felt, reducing GDP growth to 1% in 1998, and spiking inflation to 12.6%. Recovery in 2000 was propelled by a 29% growth in industrial production, but moderated by a contraction in agricultural output of -2.7% due to the worst flooding in 70 years. Services grew 3.1% in 2000, producing an overall GDP growth rate of 5.4%. Inflation was completely eliminated as prices showed a slight decline of -0.8%. Flooding continued to be a problem in 2001, keeping agricultural growth to 4.4%, while growth in services slumped to 2.4% primarily due to a decline in tourism. Industrial growth was again the main propellant, growing 12.5%, producing an overall GDP growth of 5.3% in 2001. Estimates for 2002 were a 3% growth in GDP with 3% inflation, up from a -0.6% rate in 2001. In November 2001, Cambodia was removed for the US list of Major Drug-Transit Countries by executive action of President George W. Bush because of lack of evidence in recent years of any heroin transiting Cambodia coming to the United States.
Economic growth has been steady in previous years, the GDP registering growth rates of 5.4% in 2002 and 2003, and 4.8% in 2004; in 2005, the economy was expected to experience a slight recession, with a growth rate of only 1.9%. Inflation and unemployment remained at unthreatening levels. The economy environment remained fragile, Cambodia still being dependent on donor aid and having more than 75% of its population engaged in subsistence farming. Another problem for the country was its skewed demographics—more than 50% of its population is 20 year old or younger, for which proper jobs have to be created.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Cambodia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $28.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,200. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.3%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 32.9% of GDP, industry 29.2%, and services 37.9%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $138 million or about $10 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $508 million or about $38 per capita and accounted for approximately 12.5% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Cambodia (Kampuchea) totaled $3.41 billion or about $254 per capita based on a GDP of $4.1 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.4%. It was estimated that in 2004 about 40% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.
In 2003, Cambodia's workforce was estimated at seven million, of which 75% were estimated in 2004 to be in the agricultural sector. The estimated unemployment rate in 2000 was 2.5%.
Although Cambodia's labor law provides the right for workers to form unions and bargain collectively, civil servants such as military personnel, judges and teachers are excluded, along with household servants. In addition aviation and maritime transport industry personnel are limited as to coverage, but can form unions. Enforcement of labor laws is spotty and with the exception of government employees, wages are set by the market place. Forced or compulsory labor is also prohibited, but again, enforcement is inadequate and involutary overtime is widespread. It is estimated that unions account for less than 1% of the country's labor force and are concentrated in the footwear and garment industries.
By law, the minimum legal working age was 15 years, with 18 as the minimum age for hazardous work. Minors between 12 and 15 can participate in light work that is not dangerous to their health and does not affect school attendance. However, enforcement once again remains inconsistent. Of all minors between the ages of 5 and 17, more than half (53%) were employed, of which one-third were over 14. About 71% were employed in the agricutural or forestry sectors, 21% in services or sales and 7% in production.
A 48-hour workweek and minimum safety and health standards are provided by law. However, these rules are not effectively enforced. Separate minimum wages are established for each sector of the economy but average wages are so low that second jobs and subsistence agriculture are usually necessary. The minimum wage in the garment industry is $45.00 per month. Many children are engaged in work activity, generally within the agricultural sector.
Because of the lack of natural resources and the primitive industrial base in Cambodia, agriculture is the key sector in the economy. Arable land amounted to 3,807,000 hectares (9,007,000 acres) in 2002, or 22% of the total land area. In 2004, agriculture accounted for 36% of GDP and engaged 69% of the economically active population.
Rice provides the staple diet and prior to 1970 was Cambodia's major export, along with rubber. Production peaked at 3,200,000 tons in 1968; it began falling because of the expansion of the war and by 1974 had declined to 635,000 tons, but had risen back to 2,155,000 tons in 1990. Production in 2004 totaled 4,170,000 tons from 2,094,000 hectares (5,174,000 acres).
Upon coming to power in April 1975, the Pol Pot regime embarked on a major rice production program, but the highest output achieved was only 1,800,000 tons in 1976 and in 1977; civil war, holocaust, and the Vietnamese invasion lowered the rice harvest in 1979 to one million tons. During the 1980s, rice production gradually increased, from about 1,564,000 tons in 1980–81 to an estimated 1,680,000 tons in 1985/86. During the mid–1980s the Khmer Rouge government attempted to stimulate production by delaying its plans for collectivization of the countryside. In 1989, the new government returned agricultural land to the tiller, which significantly boosted food production; average annual production in 1989–91 was 2,524,000 tons.
Rubber has traditionally been the second most important agricultural crop. However, rubber plantings, which covered 48,000 hectares (119,000 acres) in 1969, were almost completely destroyed by the end of 1971. Production, up to 51,100 tons in 1969, declined to virtually nil in 1971, recovering to about 16,000 tons in 1974. The Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge governments continued efforts to revive the rubber industry, the latter with aid from the former USSR and GDR. Recovery has been uneven and slow, however, and reached 46,000 tons in 2004. Other crops, with 2004 production levels, were coconuts (71,000 tons), corn (256,000 tons), soybeans (39,000 tons), sweet potatoes (34,000 tons), beans (24,000 tons), cassava (140,000 tons), tobacco (7,400 tons), and peanuts (10,000 tons).
Livestock, raised primarily by private households, traditionally supplied an important supplement to the Cambodian diet. The Pol Pot regime placed heavy stress on cattle and poultry breeding, but thousands died during the chaotic years of the late 1970s. Estimated livestock levels in 2004 were cattle, 3,000,000 (as compared with 700,000 in 1979), and pigs, 2,180,000 (as compared with 100,000 in 1979). Cambodia also had 625,000 head of buffalo, 14.5 million chickens, and 7 million ducks in 2004. In 2004, Cambodia produced an estimated 193,550 tons of meat, with pork accounting for 53%; poultry, 8% beef, 28%; and other meats, 11%.
Production of freshwater fish, the main protein element in the Cambodia diet, traditionally ranked next to rice and rubber in the national economy. About half of Cambodia's freshwater catch came from the Tonle Sap. Offshore fishing grounds present a potential resource not yet fully exploited.
Marine fishing developed significantly developed during the 1980s; the saltwater catch totaled 3,015 tons in 1982 and 64,021 tons in 2003. In 2003, inland fishing amounted to 326,636 tons, up from 72,640 tons in 1994.
About 53% of the country was forested in 2000. Forestry has been limited because of transportation difficulties and damage from war. The main products of the forest industry are timber, resins, wood oil, fuel, and charcoal. Production of roundwood, averaging about 4 million cu m (141 million cu ft) in the late 1960s, fell off sharply during the 1970–75 war, but increased to almost 9.7 million cu m (342 million cu ft) in 2003. Exports of sawn wood were valued at $14 million. Fuel wood production was 9.6 million cu m (337 million cu ft) in 2003.
Cambodia's mineral resources, though limited, had not been extensively explored and developed in the past two decades because of war, internal conflict, and the lack of appropriate legislation and policy to attract foreign investors. The mining sector, the smallest in the economy, contributed 0.3% to the country's GDP in 2004 and employed about 11,000 people in that year. In 2004, the country produced aggregates, laterite blocks (estimated at 230,000 metric tons), phosphate rock, quartz sand (1,000 metric tons in 2003), salt (estimated at 40,000 metric tons), sand (estimated at 500,000 metric tons), gravel (estimated at 10,000 metric tons), and stones (estimated at 600,000 metric tons). Other metallic minerals identified in the country were antimony, bauxite, chromium, copper, lead, manganese, molybdenum, silver, tin, tungsten, and zinc. In addition, Cambodia had resources of such industrial minerals as carbonate rocks, fluorite, quartz, silica sand, and sulfur. Iron deposits and traces of gold, coal, copper, and manganese have been reported in the Kampong Thum area. Substantial deposits of bauxite, discovered in the early 1960s north of Băttâmbâng and southeast of Phnom Penh, have yet to be worked. Potter's clay was common, and deposits of phosphates, used for fertilizer, existed in southern Kâmpât province and near Phnom Sampou. Precious gems were mined in the Pailin area and smuggled to Thailand. High-quality cornflower-blue sapphires are highly valued gemstones and high-quality rubies also have been found. It was un-likely that exploitation of the nation's mineral resources could be undertaken without continued removal of landmines.
Several new power-generating facilities were installed in the mid-1960s, but total capacity was reduced by about one-third in the course of the 1970s war, reaching 41,000 kW by 1973/74; in that period, production stood at 150 million kWh. Total generating capacity was 35,000 kW in 2002, with output for that same year at 0.108 billion kWh, of which 67.5% was from fossil fuels and 32.5% from hydropower. Electricity consumption was 0.101 billion kWh in 2002.
Offshore oil was reportedly discovered by a French firm in August 1974 in the vicinity of the Wai Islands. In 1995 a total of 17 foreign companies submitted bids to explore for oil and gas both onshore and offshore; the offshore areas are near Sihanouksville on the Gulf of Thailand.
Industrial activity has traditionally centered on the processing of agricultural and forestry products and on the small-scale manufacture of consumer goods. Rice milling has been the main food-processing industry. Industrial expansion came to a virtual halt in 1970 with the outbreak of war. A few sectors (such as textiles and beverages) enjoyed a short wartime boom due to military orders, but losses in territory and transport disruptions had caused a rapid decline in activity by 1973. The Pol Pot government placed all industries under state control in 1975. In the course of the next four years, some 100 industries were abolished or destroyed. When the PRK took over in 1979, industrial plants began to reopen. By late 1985 there were a reported 60 factories in the state sector producing household goods, textiles, soft drinks, pharmaceutical products, and other light consumer goods. Most plants operate below capacity because of poor management and shortages of electricity, raw materials, and spare parts. There is little information on the small Cambodian private sector. The overall value of local and handicrafts industries in 1984 was estimated at about 50% of the output value in state industry.
Efforts at recovery continued in the early 1990s, but were hampered by dilapidated equipment and shortages that continued to affect industrial production, principally textiles and rubber production. For instance, following the cutback of assistance from the former Soviet Union in 1990, Cambodia's primitive industrial sector suffered from raw material shortages; three of six government-owned textile mills shut down because of shortages of cotton. When major Soviet oil supplies were depleted local companies imported oil, but the cash-strapped state companies suffered electricity brownouts daily. Major industries include rice milling, fishing, wood and timber products, rubber (largely abandoned since 1975), cement, and gem mining. Cambodia has significant mineral deposits of gold, silver, iron, copper, marble, limestone and phosphate, and a gem industry. Construction in urban areas boomed with the signing of the Paris peace accords in 1991. After Cambodia opened oil fields to foreign investors in February 1991, sixteen companies expressed interest in oil exploration. In January 1994 it was reported that five oil companies were conducting offshore oil and gas exploration.
In 1996, clothing industry exports more than doubled. Some 36 factories employed around 20,000 people. The average annual industrial growth rate for 1988 through 1998 was 8.5%, but growth slumped to 7.7% in 1998 due to the effects of the Asian financial crisis, civil, drought, and political disruptions. However, recovery was rapid in the industrial sector as it posted growth output of 12%, 29%, and 12.5% for 1999 to 2001. The garment industry grew by 50% during this period. In 2000, industry constituted 20% of total GDP.
By 2002, the industrial production growth rate was 22%, well above the overall rate of growth of the economy. In 2004, industry made up 30% of the economy, but it employed only a fraction of the working population; agriculture was by far the biggest employer and an important contributor to the economy—35%.
Since 1979, foreign technicians have been helping to revive the economy. Aside from a School of Medicine and Pharmacy, there is virtually no opportunity within Cambodia to pursue scientific training or research. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 13% of college and university enrollments.
Phnom Penh has traditionally been Cambodia's principal commercial center. Formerly, most wholesale and retail business was in the hands of French, Chinese, and Vietnamese. In April 1975 all private shops in the country were closed and virtually all domestic trade fell under the control of the state. official currency was abolished in favor of barter. Following the installation of the PRK, currency was reestablished and some private trade resumed with official encouragement. After 1983, private shops resumed operation in Phnom Penh. Most of these shops are owned directly or subsidized by wholesalers. Goods are also sold from traveling vans or through newspaper advertisements.
In 1986, the government began collecting license fees, rents, and utility fees from private businesses and substantially increased their taxes. In the early 1990s the Heng Samrin government fell behind in its payments to government troops and bureaucrats, printing more money to meet these obligations. Without revenue this vicious cycle peaked in triple-digit inflation by 1992, when the currency was rendered worthless and pulled from circulation. Market prices rose as the currency value dropped meaning poorer Cambodians could not afford their staple food, rice. The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) introduced imported rice and sold it at a fixed price in an effort to halt the inflationary spiral.
Despite the economic benefits of the UN presence, political disruptions, and violence in 1997 and 1998 reversed economic growth. In Cambodia depressed economic output is supplemented by goods smuggled in from Thailand and Singapore. Economic reforms became in earnest in 1999, which marked the first full year of peace for the nation in about 30 years.
As of 2001, about 80% of the population was employed in agriculture; however, the service sector is beginning to grow as the nation attempts to expand tourism. The economy was still heavily reliant on international aid.
Cambodia has traditionally been an exporter of primary products and an importer of finished goods. The country's normal trade patterns virtually disintegrated during the war as exports declined, and Cambodia was largely sustained by US-subsidized imports. Under the Pol Pot regime, foreign trade virtually ceased. According to Western estimates, total trade (excluding trade with China) was $3 million in exports and $22 million in imports in 1977. With the installation of the PRK government, foreign trade began to rise in volume. The value of total exports rose from an estimated $3–4 million in 1982 to approximately $10 million in 1985; imports in that year came to about $120 million. The main import categories were food, vehicles, fuels, and raw materials. Cereal imports dropped from 223,000 tons in 1974 to 60,000 tons in 1985. Foreign trade is legally restricted to licensed private sector firms and government agencies, although there is considerable smuggling between Cambodia and Thailand. In 1985, Cambodia and Vietnam signed an agreement to double their mutual trade in 1986.
In 1986 major export and import trading partners with Cambodia were Vietnam, the USSR, Eastern Europe, Japan, and India. Assistance to Cambodia from the USSR ceased in 1991, when that country broke apart. The US trade embargo against Cambodia was lifted in January 1992 by President George H. W. Bush. As of 1992 Cambodian exports were mostly agricultural, comprised of timber mainly and rubber. Logging is a ready source of badly needed export revenues for both the government and the other political factions. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimated that the forest cover had fallen to as little as 40% of the land area by 1992. Cambodia's own forestry department figured that in 1969 forests covered 73% of the country's land area. The UNDP concluded that deforestation was a major threat to Cambodia's development.
In 2000, major export commodities were timber, garments, rubber, rice, and fish. Major import commodities were cigarettes, gold, construction materials, petroleum products, machinery, and motor vehicles.
In 2004, exports reached $2.3 billion (FOB—free on board), while imports grew to $3.1 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to the United States (55.9%), Germany (11.7%), the United Kingdom (6.9%), Vietnam (4.4%), and Canada (4.2%). Imports included petroleum products, cigarettes, gold, construction materials, machinery, motor vehicles, and pharmaceutical products; these mainly came from Thailand (22.5%), Hong Kong (14.1%), China (13.6%), Vietnam (10.9%), Singapore (10.8%), and Taiwan (8.4%).
Cambodia's balance-of-payments position showed a deficit every year during the period 1954–74. Payments transactions with other countries virtually ceased under the Pol Pot regime, when China conducted Kampuchea's external financial dealings. From 1979, Kampuchea continued to run a substantial trade deficit, much of which had been financed by grant aid and credits extended by the USSR and Vietnam. The current account deficit, which stood at 11.5% of GDP in 1999, was mainly financed by official development assistance grants and loans, and foreign direct investment. The country's official reserves at the end of 1999 were able to cover the equivalent of 3.5 months of imports.
In 2000, the country's foreign debt stood at approximately $1.3 billion, the majority of which it owed to Russia; as of that date, it
|Balance on goods||-549.3|
|Balance on services||132.1|
|Balance on income||-183.1|
|Direct investment abroad||-9.7|
|Direct investment in Cambodia||87.0|
|Portfolio investment assets||-7.7|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||…|
|Other investment assets||-184.5|
|Other investment liabilities||299.6|
|Net Errors and Omissions||-10.7|
|Reserves and Related Items||-12.8|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
had yet to reach agreement with the Russia on repayment of the debt.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Cambodia's exports was $1.05 billion while imports totaled $1.4 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $350 million.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Cambodia had exports of goods totaling $1.38 billion and imports totaling $1.73 billion. The services credit totaled $257 million and debit $244 million.
Exports of goods and services reached $3.2 billion in 2004, up from $2.6 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $3.0 billion in 2003, to $3.7 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, reaching -$400 million in 2003, and -$500 million in 2004. The current account balance was also negative, deteriorating from -$105 million in 2003, to -$262 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) grew to $890 million in 2004, covering less than three months of imports.
All banking institutions were nationalized by the Sihanouk government on 1 July 1964. The National Bank of Cambodia, a semi-autonomous government agency functioning as the sole currency authority, was charged with central banking responsibilities, including the control of credit. The decision by then Premier Lon Nol to permit foreign banks to do business in the country in early 1970 was a factor leading to his break with Prince Sihanouk and to the latter's overthrow in March 1970.
In April 1975, the Pol Pot government assumed control of the National Bank, and virtually all banking operations in Kampuchea were liquidated. The PRK government reintroduced a money economy, and by 1983 the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) and a Foreign Trade Bank had been established. In 1991 the government created a state commercial bank to take over the commercial banking operations of the national bank. Banks in Cambodia include the Cambodian Commercial Bank, Cambodian Farmers Bank, and the Cambodian Public Bank. There were at least 50 commercial banks operating in 2001. The NBC has implemented new regulations for licensing banks, causing two banks to be closed. There is no securities trading in Cambodia.
The riel resumed its fall against the dollar in January and February of 1997 after briefly strengthening in December of 1996. It fell about 2% against the dollar in 2000 alone, trading at about 3,916.3 riels per dollar in 2001.The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $155.7 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $562.7 million.
All insurance companies were "Cambodianized" in 1960; 16 companies were in operation prior to 1975. Under the Pol Pot government, normal insurance operations were suspended. No current information is available concerning insurance in Cambodia.
All government budgets of the two decades preceding 1975 were marked by an excess of expenditures over domestic revenues; foreign aid and treasury reserves made up the difference. There probably was no domestic public finance system during 1975–78; any public funds in that period came from China. During the 1980s, public expenditures were financed by the former USSR, either directly or through Vietnam. From 1989–91, the public deficit nearly tripled as a result of falling revenue collection. As assistance from the Soviet bloc ceased after 1990, monetary expansion soared to cover the deficit. By the middle of 1992, with hyperinflation imminent, the government began a series of stabilization efforts to halt the fiscal deterioration. With only limited international aid, however, public expenditures for the necessary reconstruction and development of Cambodia have been restricted.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Cambodia's central government took in revenues of approximately $559.4 million and had expenditures of $772 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$212.6 million. Total external debt was $800 million.
Until 1975, indirect taxes were the most profitable source of domestic revenue, especially such monopoly excises as the sales tax on salt. Other indirect taxes included those on alcohol, tobacco, sugar, radios, and livestock. Taxes ceased to exist with the abolition of currency during the Pol Pot regime and were replaced by payments in-kind. In 1984, the PRK introduced an agricultural tax to soak up profits earned by private farmers. The tax reportedly amounted to about 10% of total output. In 1986, taxes on private business were increased, which forced some shopkeepers out of business. In 2002, there was a general corporate tax of 9%, except for in the fields of resource exploitation.
Cambodia has simplified its tariff system in recent years and eliminated most nontariff barriers to trade. Customs duties are now divided into four simple categories. Luxury goods, such as automobiles, alcohol, tobacco, and cosmetics have a rate of 70%. Finished products such as electronics, paint, and furniture carry a tariff of 35%. Machinery and capital equipment have a rate of 15%, and raw materials carry a tariff of 7%. A few products, such as agricultural equipment and pharmaceutical products, are exempt from import tariffs, but are still subject to the 10% value-added tax (VAT). The United States resumed diplomatic ties with Cambodia in September 1993. Cambodia joined ASEAN in 1998.
There was little private foreign capital in pre-1975 Cambodia. French capital in rubber plantations represented more than half of the total investment. Foreign investment was prohibited under the Pol Pot regime and was not resumed under its successor, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). As part of Cambodia's economic reforms the July 1989 Foreign Investment Law and the regulations implementing the law contained in the May 1991 sub-decree on foreign investment created a favorable foreign investment climate in Cambodia. From 1989 to 1991 there were over 200 investment applications, 20 being granted and 70 given tentative approval. Foreign investors from Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, France, and the United States accounted for over half these applications; overseas Khmers accounted for 30%, and 10% were from local investors. By 1993 it was reported that final contracts had been signed for 45 of these 200 applications. The value of these proposals is small, $1–5 million, and the proposals are concentrated in services, tourism, and textiles. The most visible projects are the 380-room Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh, a satellite earth station project that provides international direct dial service, and a cellular telephone system in Phnom Penh. The primary hindrance to foreign investment is the lack of infrastructure—roads are in dismal condition, bandits roam, power outages are common, and phone service is inadequate.
The new foreign investment law was adopted by the National Assembly on 4 August 1994. It guarantees that investors shall be treated in a nondiscriminatory manner, except for land owner-ship; that the government shall not undertake a nationalization policy which adversely affects private properties of investors; that the government shall not impose price controls on the products or services of an investor who has received prior approval from the government; and that the government shall permit investors to purchase foreign currencies through the banking system and to remit abroad those currencies as payments for imports, repayments on loans, payments of royalties and management fees, profit remittances, and repatriation of capital.
In October 1999, the government entered into a three-year IMF-monitored program that included as a priority goal, making the country more attractive for foreign direct investment. In February 2000 this program was complemented by a World Bank program aimed at revising Cambodia's 1994 Law on Investment (LOI). Foreign investment commitments averaged over $800 million in the period 1996 to 1998, but fell to $482 in 1999. Actual foreign investment in 1999, the latest data available, was $160 million. In 2002, over 100 US companies and companies representing US products and services were active in Cambodia. Inflows of foreign capital have receded in subsequent years, reaching $77 million in 2003 and $83 million in 2004.
Until 1975, Cambodian governments sought aid from public and private foreign sources and attempted to improve the climate for private foreign capital investment, although the volume of investment was small. Both Sihanouk and Lon Nol also increased local control of economic activities within the country. Aliens were prohibited from engaging in 18 professions or occupations, including those of rice merchant and shipping agent. The Sihanouk government promoted economic development through two five-year plans designed to improve the nation's light industrial sector and its educational and technological infrastructure. Progress was mixed. Strained economic conditions were a factor leading to the overthrow of Sihanouk in 1970. The outbreak of war following his fall brought almost all major production to a halt. The economic objectives of the 1975–79 Pol Pot regime were centered almost entirely on agriculture and the improvement of the irrigation network. Self-sufficiency was stressed, and foreign aid was almost nil except for an estimated $1 billion from China. When the PRK government took over, it inherited a shattered economy and a depleted population. The 1986–90 five-year plan stressed growth in the agricultural sector, the restoration of light industry (which faces shortages of raw materials and electrical supply), gradual socialist transformation of ownership, dependence upon the former USSR and its allies for foreign assistance, and an increase of economic cooperation with its Indochinese neighbors. The PRK signed a number of aid, trade, and cooperation agreements with the former USSR and other Eastern European countries and was receiving substantial technological aid from neighboring Vietnam. Development assistance from the CMEA bloc totaled an estimated $700 million between 1980 and 1984.
The PRK moved slowly on its plan to transform the Cambodian economy to full socialist ownership, in recognition of the relatively low socialist awareness of the population. A small private manufacturing and commercial sector was recognized by the constitution in 1981, and farmers were being introduced to collectivization through the formation of low-level "solidarity groups" which combined socialist and private ownership. PRK plans were to advance more rapidly toward socialist transformation during the 1990s. However, since the mid-1980s the emphasis has been placed on private sector economic activities. Newly introduced market-oriented reforms dismantled the old central planning regime. However, the structural underpinnings of a capitalist system—legal, financial, and institutional—exist only in rudimentary form.
Many of Cambodia's nationalized industries were allowed to operate with limited autonomy from the state planning system, but the lack of capital and management expertise, as well as institutionalized corruption and bureaucratic red tape have mired this recovery process. In 1991 at the Tokyo Conference on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia, $880 million in assistance was pledged to Cambodia by donor countries and multilateral institutions. An additional $80 million in aid was pledged by the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank planned a $75-million assistance program. Under Sam Rainsy, Minister of Finance and Economy, the national assembly passed a budget and new Financial Structure Laws effective 1 January 1994. The government's aim was to establish central control of the economy and at the same time strike out at corrupt practices. About 48% of the budget was made up of international assistance; there was no land or income taxes with tax revenues providing only 6% of GDP, and customs duties provided 54% of total revenue.
In October 1999, after the disruptions caused by civil unrest and the Asian financial crisis, the government entered into a three-year arrangement with the IMF under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). The program focused on bank restructuring; reform of the Foreign Trade Bank; reform of forestry policy; and strengthening the public sector accounting and expenditure management. Concurrently, a Structural Adjustment Credit (SAC) loan program under the World Bank was approved in February 2000. The SAC program included conditionals related to the pilot military demobilization program, public expenditure management, forestry policy and revisions to the 1994 Law on Investment (LOI). Development in Cambodia is inextricably linked to the government's ability to maintain peace.
The economy has expanded at impressive rates in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This growth was fueled by a strong manufacturing sector, especially the garment industry; a textiles factory opened in 1996. However, the fact that the economy seems to be pulled ahead by just one engine (the textiles industry, since agriculture suffered a recess due to droughts in 2004), it seemed unlikely that these growth rates would be sustained.
The Sihanouk and Lon Nol governments enacted limited social legislation regulating hours of work, wages, and workers' compensation. During the Pol Pot period, the social fabric of the country was severely damaged. Although installation of the PRK government brought an end to the wide-ranging trauma of 1975–79, overall social conditions in Cambodia remained among the worst in Southeast Asia. Unstable conditions have also limited improvement in the standard of living, still one of the lowest in the region.
Cambodia's constitution provides equal rights for women in areas including work and marriage. Women have property rights equal to those of men and have equal access to education and certain jobs. However, traditional views of the roles of women act to prevent women from reaching senior posts in government and business. Domestic violence against women remained a wide-spread problem. Domestic abuse victims rarely issue formal complaints. Trafficking in women and children for prostitution continued both domestically and across the nation's borders.
Cambodia's human rights record includes a number of abuses, including extrajudicial killings, and other uses of excessive force by security forces. Impunity for such abuses remained a problem. Discrimination against the ethnic Vietnamese persists.
One of the most impoverished countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is prey to the health problems that arise from malnutrition and inadequate sanitation, including diarrhea, respiratory infections, and dengue fever, as well as those that could be prevented by an adequate vaccination program, such as tuberculosis. The 1970–75 war and the 1975–79 upheaval exacerbated many of these problems. Malnutrition became widespread among the millions driven to Phnom Penh in the wake of the fighting and who were driven out of that city when the Khmer Rouge took over. Tens of thousands died from shortages of food and medical facilities and supplies. Cambodia had only 50 physicians in 1979.
In 1995 the government mapped out a new public health program, which was only partly implemented as of 2000. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 6.9% of GDP.
Life expectancy in Cambodia in 2000 was 54 years, and increased to 71 years by 2005. In that year the infant mortality rate was still high at an estimated 58 per 1,000 live births. Dysentery, malaria, tuberculosis (in 1999, 560 reported cases per 100,000 people), trachoma, and yaws are widespread. In 2000, 30% of the population had access to safe drinking water and only 18% had adequate sanitation. Prior to 1975 there were 3 hospitals, with 7,500 beds (about 1 bed for every 893 persons). During 1979–81, 7 large hospitals and 3 pharmaceutical factories opened. As of 2004, there were an estimated 16 physicians, 61 nurses, 2 dentists, and 4 pharmacists per 100,000 people.
AIDS spread rapidly in Cambodia during the latter half of the 1990s. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 2.60 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 170,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 15,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003. Eighty percent of the urban population and only 50% of the rural population had access to health services. As of 2000, an estimated 53% of children under five were malnourished. The immunization rates for children up to one year old were diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 49%, and measles, 55%.
Cambodia's housing traditionally compared favorably with that of other countries in Southeast Asia. The most common type of dwelling consists of one or more rooms raised on mangrove piles some 3 m (10 ft) above the ground; it is generally crowded. Some homes in more remote rural areas consist simply of a conical roof-like structure which reaches almost to the ground, leaving an entrance opening. Many houses in the cities are larger and of better quality.
Mass emigration from the cities during the period 1975–76 resulted in many dwellings being left vacant, in contrast to the dire overcrowding that occurred in the last years of the war. In the countryside, meanwhile, the waves of new migrants placed inordinate pressures on existing facilities, with much of the transplanted population forced to reside in improvised shelters. By the early 1980s, this pattern had been reversed somewhat and Phnom Penh was once again experiencing population growth.
In 1998, there were about 2,188,663 households with an average of 5.2 people per household. According to a 2004 intercensal survey, there were about 2.3 million dwellings in the country; 2.03 million of which were located in rural areas. Only 11% of all homes had access to all three of the basic amenities: safe drinking water, electricity, and an in-home toilet. Nationwide, only 44% of the population have access to safe drinking water, 17% have electricity in their home, and 5% have indoor toilets. Firewood and charcoal are the primary heating fuels. About 93% of all dwellings are owner occupied. Only 26.9% of the total population live in permanent structures; in urban areas, only 66% or the population have permanent housing.
Under the Pol Pot regime, education was virtually abolished, as all children were sent to work in the fields; education was limited to political instruction. Most of the educated class had been killed by 1979. According to PRK sources, only 50 of 725 university instructors and 307 of 2,300 secondary-school teachers survived the Pol Pot era.
Currently, the educational system is being rebuilt and is recovering. All schooling is public, and six years of primary education (ages 6–12) is compulsory. Following this, children may go through six years of secondary education, of which only the first three are compulsory. The academic year runs from October to July. The primary language of instruction is Cambodian.
In 2001, about 7.4% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 93% of age-eligible students; 96% for boys and 91% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 24% of age-eligible students; 30% for boys and 19% for girls. It is estimated that about 80% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 56:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 24:1.
Institutes of higher education include the University of Phnom Penh, the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, the Royal University of Agriculture, Royal University of Fine Arts, and Maharishi Vedic University. In 2003, about 3% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 73.6%, with 84.7% for males and 64.1% for females. Many students continue their higher education at foreign universities.
As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 1.8% of GDP, or 14.6% of total government expenditures.
The National Library is located in Phnom Penh and holds about 103,635 volumes in a variety of languages, including Khmer, French, English, Russian, Vietnamese, and Thai. The national document collection comprise 8,327 documents. Also in the capital is the Buddhist Institute (25,000 volumes), which contains collections on religion, philosophy, literature, linguistics, history, and art. The École Française de l'Extrême-Orient, which previously had charge of all archaeological research in the country, also had its own research library in Phnom Penh. The Hun Sen Library of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) opened in January 1997 and now houses a collection of at least 50,000 items in Khmer, English, and French. The Toshu Fukami Library of the University of Cambodia is open to the public, offering over 30,000 volumes.
Cambodia, in effect, is a museum of the cultural achievements of the Khmer Empire. Surviving stone monuments, steles, temples, and statuary attest to a formidable and unique artistic heritage. Particularly imposing are the world-famous temple of Angkor Wat and the Bayon of Angkor Thom. In the chaotic years of the 1980s and early 1990s, there were many press reports of pillaging of these historic sites. The PRK government established museums in what it portrayed as GRUNK death camps, with exhibits on atrocities committed during 1975–79. The National Museum of PhnomPenh (1917), an excellent repository of national art, has an extensive collection of Khmer art from the 5th through 13th centuries.
As of 2002, the telephone service was said to be adequate for government needs and for residents of Phnom Penh and other main provincial cities. Rural areas generally had very little access to land-line phone service. In 2003, there were an estimated three main-line telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 35 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
TV-Kampuchea began color transmission in 1986. In 2004, there were seven television stations, all of which were controlled by the government. In 2003, there were 2 AM and 17 FM radio stations. Foreign radio broadcasts are received from neighboring countries. In 2003, there were an estimated 113 radios and 8 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 2.3 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 2 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were two secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.
There are two daily newspapers, Rasmei Kampuchea (2002 circulation 15,000) and The Cambodia Daily (2,000). The Phnom Penh Post is a weekly publication. There are over 50 newspapers in all, including weeklies, bi-weeklies, and monthlies, mostly in the Khmer language. The official news agency is the Agence Khmer de Presse (AKP). Most newspapers are nominally independent, but many receive significant funding from political parties and the government. English language weeklies were launched in July 1997.
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, but the government is said to sometimes limit the press in practice. The intimidation of journalists is said to be declining. The government, political forces and the military dominate the broadcast media.
There is a Chamber of Commerce in Phnom Penh. The Cambodian Federation of Employers' and Business Associations was established in 2000. Other major worker organizations include the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Workers' Union for Economic Development, Cambodian Union Federation, Cambodian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, and the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia. There are professional organizations, including the Cambodia Medical Association.
The Khmer Youth Association, founded in 1992, has been very active in promoting education and job training, as well as the championing the rights of women and children. There is an organization of Girl Guides in the country and well as an independent national scouting groups that are partly affiliated with political parties. Several sports associations are present as well, representing such pastimes as tennis, badminton, weightlifting, and track and field.
The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, established in 1991, promotes respect for human rights and the rule of law by providing legal services and educational materials to the public.
There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Caritas, UNICEF, and Habitat for Humanity. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are also present.
Until the encroachments of war in the late 1960s, Angkor Wat and other remains of the ancient Khmer Empire were the major attractions for visitors to Cambodia. Under the Pol Pot regime, tourism was nonexistent, and it was not substantially revived under Vietnamese occupation. However, since the 1992 UN peace plan, tourism rebounded, spurred by the opening of hundreds of new facilities and scores of new diplomatic missions. Tourists are attracted to the Independence Monument and National Museum in Phnom Penh. The beaches of Sihanoukville and the temples of Preah Vihear and Banteay Chhmar are also popular. A valid passport and visa are required for visitors from all countries except Malaysia and the Philippines. Visa applications are distributed on the airplane and can be processed upon arrival at the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International Airports. Visas are valid for one month after arrival in Cambodia.
In 2003, about 701,000 tourists visited Cambodia and tourist receipts totaled $441 million. There are two government-run tourist agencies and a number of private tour groups. Dozens of hotels have opened in the capital. As of 2002, the country had 11,426 hotel rooms with 19,398 beds and an occupancy rate of 50%.
In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Phnom Penh at $162. Travel expenses in Sihanoukville were estimated at $103 per day.
Foremost among ancient heroes were Fan Shihman, greatest ruler of the Funan Empire (150–550), and Jayavarman II and Jayavarman VII, monarchs of the Khmer Empire who ruled between the 10th and 13th centuries. Prince Norodom Sihanouk (b.1922), who resigned the kingship and won Kampuchea's independence from France, is the best-known living Cambodian. In exile in China during 1970–75, he founded the GRUNK government, from which he resigned in April 1976. In July 1982, he became president of the CGDK. In 1993, he once again became king, until his abdication in 2004. Sihanouk was succeeded by his son Norodom Sihamoni (b.1953). Khieu Samphan (b.1931), a former Marxist publisher and leader of the insurgency in Kampuchea, was named chairman of the State Presidium in the GRUNK government in April 1976, replacing Sihanouk as chief of state. The de facto head of the GRUNK regime during 1975–79 was Pol Pot, the nom de guerre of Saloth Sar (1925–98), who presided over the drastic restructuring of Kampuchean society that left as many as 2–3 million dead in its wake. Heng Samrin (b.1934) became president of the Council of State of the PRK in 1979; he lost his position in 1992. Photographer Dith Pran (b.1943), whose ordeal with the Khmer Rouge was portrayed in the film The Killing Fields, helped chronicle the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime.
Cambodia has no territories or colonies.
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Coates, Karen J. Cambodia Now: Life in the Wake of War. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2005.
Cook, Susan E. (ed.). Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda: New Perspectives. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 2005.
Corfield, Justin J. Historical Dictionary of Cambodia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2003.
Higham, Charles. The Civilization of Angkor. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
Hinton, Alexander Laban. Why Did They Kill?: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.
Marston, John and Elizabeth Guthrie (eds.). History, Buddhism, and New Religious Movements in Cambodia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004.
Roberts, David W. Political Transition in Cambodia 1991–1999: Power, Elitism and Democracy. Richmond, Va.: Curzon, 2001.
Ross, Russell R. (ed.). Cambodia: A Country Study. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1990.
Solomon, Richard H. Exiting Indochina: U.S. Leadership of the Cambodia Settlement and Normalization of Relations with Vietnam. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2000.
U Sam Oeur, with Ken McCullough. Crossing Three Wildernesses: A Memoir. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2005.
Wagner, Carol. Soul Survivors: Stories of Women and Children in Cambodia. Berkeley, Calif.: Creative Arts, 2002.
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"Cambodia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700193.html
"Cambodia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700193.html
Angkor, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Saom, Kampot, Koh Kong, Kratie, Pursat, Siem Reap
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated October 1994. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
CAMBODIA is a shattered nation that is struggling to find peace and stability. For nearly 25 years, Cambodia has been torn apart by civil war, genocide, and an invasion from neighboring Vietnam. Cambodia's troubles began in 1969 when American planes bombed North Vietnamese bases in eastern Cambodia during the Vietnam War. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, a radical Communist group, overthrew Cambodia's pro-Western regime. Immediately after its victory, the Khmer Rouge evacuated all cities and towns. Virtually the entire population was sent into the countryside to clear jungle and till the land. Approximately two million Cambodians died from executions, disease, or starvation at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 and drove the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979. The Khmer Rouge and three non-Communist groups formed a military coalition to force Vietnamese troops from Cambodia. The Vietnamese fought against the Khmer Rouge and its coalition allies until September 1989, when it announced that it had withdrawn all of its forces from Cambodia. Following the withdrawal of the Vietnamese, the coalition disintegrated and a bloody civil war erupted between the Khmer Rouge and the three non-Communist groups. Several international attempts to end the fighting were unsuccessful until October 1991, when a United Nations peace plan was signed in Paris by the Khmer Rouge and the three non-Communist groups.
In March 1992, the United Nations sent its first contingent of peace-keeping troops to Cambodia. The mission of the United Nations troops during 1992 was to disarm all warring factions, repatriate 375,000 Cambodian refugees living in camps in Thailand, and prepare the country for democratic elections. However, the Khmer Rouge refused to disarm and launched attacks against civilian targets and United Nations troops. Opponents of the Khmer Rouge have also refused to give up their weapons. By early 1993, several thousand refugees had returned to Cambodia but many others have stayed in Thailand out of fear that the civil war may resume. At press time, the Khmer Rouge continued to ignore the peace agreement it signed in October 1991. Also, attacks by Khmer Rouge guerrillas on United Nations peacekeepers increased in number and ferocity. Several U.N. soldiers had been killed or taken prisoner since their arrival in Cambodia in early 1992. The United Nations had nearly 19,000 soldiers in Cambodia in February 1993.
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia since the mid-15th century and the country's largest city, has a population of approximately 1 million. The city lies at the confluence of the Mekong River, the Bassac River, and the Tonle Sap, and consists of four urban districts and three suburban districts. Phnom Penh is a sprawling city, with a mix of wide, tree-lined boulevards and narrow dirt roads, large French-colonial houses, apartment buildings, and small wooden thatch-roofed dwellings. The city is laid out in a rough grid system, with odd numbered streets running basically north/south and even numbered streets running east/west. However, streets are not always numbered sequentially, and a map is frequently helpful in locating streets and addresses. The Phnom Penh Post, a local English-language newspaper published semimonthly, prints a useful city map in each issue. The streets have been renamed and renumbered several times in recent years, and to avoid confusion, people frequently use both the old and the new street names and numbers when giving directions or listing addresses. Most of the posted street numbers reflect an old numbering system.
Ninety percent of Cambodia's population live in rural communities, but in recent years, an increasing number of residents have relocated to the capital city, most to try and make a better living and some to attend school or receive technical training. Like all of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is a city struggling to overcome the ravages and neglect of civil war and the city's basic infrastructure is in various states of dis-array and disrepair. Phnom Penh is hot and humid year round, with a rainy monsoon season from June to October, cooler at the turn of the year and hot from February to May. September and October are the months of heaviest precipitation.
Food shortages are not a problem in Phnom Penh, and a variety of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables are always available. There are four markets that stock supplies of imported meat, both fresh (imported from Australia and New Zealand) and frozen (imported from the U.S.). Available types of meat vary but usually consist of various cuts of beef, pork, and chicken. Prices for imported meat are higher than in the U.S. Locally produced meat is available but is not recommended as there are no standards for quality control or hygienic handling or processing. Locally produced milk should be avoided, but imported fresh pasteurized milk is sometimes available at two markets, and four markets stock UTH milk, dried milk, and canned condensed milk. Imported western-type foods are available at several markets, but selection and availability vary. Imported processed baby food is available at two markets.
Cambodian culture and custom dictate modesty in dress, particularly for women. Very short skirts and shorts should be avoided, although sleeveless tops are acceptable for women (shoulders should be covered when visiting temples and wats). Many Cambodians wear western-style clothing, particularly in Phnom Penh, but traditional skirts and sarongs are also common. Clothing appropriate for a tropical climate is worn year round, and most occasions call for casual attire.
Local markets stock a wide supply of inexpensive secondhand western clothing, including an abundance of children's clothing. Clothing can also be made locally at very low cost (the material—cotton, silk, polyester—is more expensive than the labor), and local tailors are adept at copying favorite articles of clothing. Good quality shoes are difficult to find. Leather shoes and sandals, for adults and children, can be custom made locally at relatively inexpensive prices.
During the raining season, rubber boots, a long, lightweight raincoat, and a rainhat are desirable. Umbrellas are also a necessity during the rainy season.
Men: At work, men are most comfortable in short-sleeved dress shirts and cotton pants. Long-sleeved dress shirts and neckties are appropriate for more formal occasions. Cotton material is available locally and dress shirts can be made inexpensively. Personnel should bring tropical-weight suits for formal occasions, although for most situations shirt and tie is adequate. Formal entertaining is rare in Cambodia.
Women: Women are most comfortable at work wearing at or below the knee lightweight skirts and dresses, or appropriate slacks. Shorter styles are acceptable for Westerners but are not customary in Cambodian culture. Tight, scanty, or otherwise revealing clothing should be avoided. In Cambodia's tropical climate, natural fiber clothing, especially cotton, is usually the most comfortable. Sandals or other casual shoes are appropriate for work; for more formal occasions, pumps or dress sandals are appropriate. At more formal functions, women should wear skirts or dresses rather than dress pants. Women should not wear black or white to Cambodian weddings (these colors are worn at funerals).
Supplies and Services
Necessary toiletries, cleaning and household supplies can be purchased locally, although selection and brand names are limited. Most available products are imported from Thailand, and some European and a few American brands are available.
Local tailors are adequate and inexpensive. Fine quality is sometimes limited by sewing machines that are very basic and frequently manually powered. Some minor shoe repairs can be done locally, and leather shoes and sandals can be custom made at inexpensive prices. Good quality repair services can be hard to find. Poor quality, dry-cleaning services are available at two hotels. Beauty-and barbershops are widely available locally, at very low prices by American standards, although services are generally limited to haircuts. There is also a more expensive French salon located at the Cambodiana Hotel.
Religious facilities in Phnom Penh include two Muslim services (conducted in Arabic), a weekly Catholic mass, and several Protestant services. The Anglican Church of Christ Our Peace and the Assemblies of God both hold English-language services. Buddhist services, conducted in Khmer, are also readily available. There are no Jewish or Eastern Orthodox services currently available in Phnom Penh (although there is an Eastern Orthodox chapel located at Norodom and 352 streets).
There are two suitable primary/secondary schools located in Phnom Penh. The International School of Phnom Penh, founded in 1989, is an independent coeducational school that offers an educational program from preschool through grade 10 for students of all nationalities. The school year comprises four terms extending from August through June. The curriculum is an internationally based program focusing on the academic needs of students from more than 30 countries. All instruction is conducted in English. The school is housed in four separate buildings on three interconnected compounds and includes 12 classrooms, a library, an outdoor eating area, and a theater. A basketball and volleyball court and an elementary playground comprise the outdoor facilities. The school is governed by a 7-member board, elected annually by the Parents' Association, which is automatically conferred on the parents or guardians of children enrolled in the school. About 98% of the schools income is derived from school tuition and fees.
The Ecole Francaise, operated as part of the French school system under the direction of the French Foreign Ministry, offers an educational program from kindergarten through age 15 (approximately equivalent to U.S. grade 10). The academic program emphasizes basic skill development, and American personnel who have young children in attendance feel that at the primary level the school is comparable to schools in the U.S. school system. All instruction is conducted in French. The Ecole Francaise does not have lunch facilities and students go home for 2 hours in the middle of the day. Tuition fees are about $2,000 per year.
Because of Cambodia's hot and humid weather, sports enthusiasts should take proper precautions to avoid heat stroke, sunburn, and dehydration. Tennis, swimming, boating, volleyball, soccer, and running are among the locally available sports. The International Youth Club has several hard packed tennis courts that can be reserved in advance. They also have an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a weight room equipped with a variety of free weights, weight machines, and stationary bicycles. There are plans to build a squash court in the next year.
There are several types of individual and family memberships (in various price ranges) available at the International Youth Club; non-members and guests are required to pay a small entrance fee. There is also a smaller swimming pool at the Cambodiana Hotel (entrance fee for non-hotel guests), and the Hotel is in the process of building a small fitness center.
The National Olympic Stadium has two soccer fields, several volley ball and basketball courts, and a 400-meter dirt running track. Facilities are rudimentary, but are free and open to the public. To avoid traffic, dust, smog, and curious stares, most runners prefer to run at the Olympic Stadium rather than through the streets of Phnom Penh. The Hash House Harriers, an expatriate running club, meet weekly for group runs and socializing.
Boating and fishing can be done on the Mekong and Bassac Rivers. Small, rudimentary fishing and motor boats can be rented at reasonable cost by the hour or the day (usually a driver is included in the rental cost). Local boats are not equipped with life preservers or other safety equipment. Some basic fishing tackle can be purchased locally, but anglers will be better off if they bring gear with them. For gardeners, Cambodia's lush tropical climate encourages rapid growth of a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and tropical flowers.
Spectator sports include volleyball and soccer tournaments, and Thai kick-boxing matches. Occasionally, boat and swimming races are held on the Mekong and Bassac Rivers, usually in conjunction with a local holiday or festival. Cyclo races have recently become an annual event.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Travel by air is possible to some locations in Cambodia, and in many cases is required due to unsafe or impassable road conditions. Cambodia has eight usable airports, with daily flights to Siem Reap and the temples at Angkor Wat, and several weekly flights to Battambang (Cambodia's second largest city, located to the northwest of Phnom Penh), Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, and several other destinations. A newly available "high speed" boat service offers daily trips up the Mekong River to Kompong Cham and Kratie. Package boat tours are also available to Mekong Island, situated in the Mekong River near Phnom Penh. Visitors can see a variety of local handicraft demonstrations, visit a small zoo, and have lunch on local cuisine.
The white sand beaches at Sihanoukville, located on Cambodia's coast on the Gulf of Thailand, are approximately a 3-1/2 hour drive from Phnom Penh. Koh Kong Island, located just off of Cambodia's western coast in the Gulf of Thailand, is being developed as a tourist destination. Flights are available from Phnom Penh, and the Island can also be reached by boat from Sihanoukville.
Day trip destinations from Phnom Penh include Udong, Cambodia's capital from 1619 to 1866, located 24 miles north of Phnom Penh; Tonle Bati and Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau Temples, located 20 miles south of Phnom Penh; temples at Phnom Chisor, located 33 miles south of Phnom Penh and 13 miles south of Tonle Bati; and Koki Beach, which is not really a beach at all but a popular Khmer destination—especially on Sundays—located on the Mekong River, 7 miles east of Phnom Penh.
Formal and organized entertainment in Phnom Penh is limited. The French Cultural Center shows movies in French and sponsors a monthly schedule of lectures. Several times a year they bring classical musicians or theater performances to Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh Players, an amateur acting group, put on two plays a year. Cambodian dance performances are held occasionally. Performances, ceremonies, and races are also held in conjunction with most Cambodian national festivals. There are a number of nightclubs in Phnom Penh that offer dancing (most clubs play a combination of Cambodian, Thai, and western rock music).
The international community in Phnom Penh is small, and it is easy to meet and get to know people of all nationalities. Although opportunities for formal socializing and entertainment are minimal, opportunities for meeting host country nationals and nationals of other friendly countries include the International Youth Club, the Hash House Harriers, socializing at local restaurants and bars, and the Women's Forum (an international group that meets monthly for brunch and socializing).
Undetonated land mines are a hazard that travelers outside of Phnom Penh should beware of. Bombs and mines were laid throughout Cambodia during the 1970s, and many of these still remain. As skirmishes between the Khmer Rough and the Royal Government Army continue, new mines continue to be laid everyday, even in areas previously cleared and deemed safe. At the end of 1993, it was estimated that there remain 6-9 million mines yet to be cleared. Countrywide, there are nearly 100 casualties per day from mine blasts, and mine accidents rank among malaria and tuberculosis as Cambodia's greatest public health hazards. As a result of mine accidents, Cambodia has a higher percentage of amputees than any other country in the world.
Located about 200 miles north of Phnom Penh, ANGKOR offers some of the countries most beautiful archeological sites. The Angkor was once the capital of the Great Khmer Empire, which reigned from the 9th to 15th centuries AD. The ruins of 100 or more temples and buildings are hidden beneath a stunning rain-forest canopy. Sandstone carvings on the sides of the temples tell their stories. Local tour guides can help you interpret them. One of the most magnificent sites is Angkor Wat, the temple complex built between 879-1191AD to honor the Hindu god Vishnu. The complex covers 500 acres and boasts a number of soaring towers, beautiful courtyards and galleries, and a large moat meant to symbolize the ocean surrounding the world. The Wat contains one of the largest bas relief sculptures in the world, which depicts scenes from Hindu legends.
Nearby is Phnom Bakheng Hill, the first "temple mountain" at Angkor. The temple there originally had 109 towers supporting a seven level structure, meant to symbolize the seven heavens of Hinduism. According to Hindu mythology, this temple mountain represents Mount Meru, the center of the universe.
Visitors may need to stay in Siem Reap, a town located only a few miles away from Angkor. Package tours, ranging from 2 to 5 days in duration, can be arranged through several travel agents in Phnom Penh. Prices include all ground and air transportation, hotel and meals, admission fees at all temples, and an English-speaking guide. Trips can also be arranged individually. Round-trip airfare to Siem Reap is approximately $100 (daily flights are now available from Phnom Penh), and there are government-set fees to visit the temples.
BATTAMBANG is located in western Cambodia along the banks of the Sangker River. It is approximately 160 miles (258 kilometers) northwest of Phnom Penh. The city is situated in the heart of large rice growing region and has developed into a major marketing center. Before 1975, Battambang was the site of productive textile and cigarette manufacturing industries. These industries were heavily damaged by the Khmer Rouge. Two ancient Khmer temples, Prasat Sneng and Prasat Banon, are located near Battambang. These temples date back to the 11th and 12th centuries, respectively. Within the city, the Pothiveal Museum contained many beautiful examples of Khmer art. The present condition of Prasat Sneng, Prasat Banon, and the Pothiveal Museum is unknown. With a population of approximately 195,000 in 2002, Battambang is Cambodia's second largest city.
One of central Cambodia's largest cities is KAMPONG CHAM . It is located roughly 45 miles (75 kilometers) northeast of Phnom Penh. Kampong Cham is situated near a heavily forested region of Cambodia where several varieties of trees, particularly rubber trees, are found. Several large rubber plantations have been constructed near the city. Kampong Cham's location on the Mekong River has led to the development of a productive fishing industry. The soil around Kampong Cham is extremely fertile and supports the growth of corn, cassava, beans, tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, rice, and potatoes. An 11th century Buddhist shrine, Wat Nokor, is located on the outskirts of the city. Kampong Cham has a population of over 35,000. Current population figures are unavailable.
KAMPONG CHHNANG , with a population of approximately 56,000, is situated on the Tonlé Sap River and is the home of a large fishing industry. The city is central Cambodia's transportation hub and is linked by rail, road, and river ferry with Phnom Penh. The residents of Kampong Chhnang and the surrounding region are noted for the creation of beautiful Cambodian pottery.
KAMPONG SAOM is Cambodia's major port city. The city was constructed in 1960 with French assistance. By 1966, Kampong Saom had developed into a modern city with parks, schools, and hospitals. The city was heavily damaged during years of civil war and all port facilities were closed by the Khmer Rouge. All port facilities were reopened in late 1979. In 1984, Kampong Saom's port handled 2.5 tons of cargo per day.
The coastal city of KAMPOT is located in southern Cambodia near the border with Vietnam. Kampot is located in a rich agricultural region and is a trading center for the rice, bananas, coconuts, and pepper grown near the city. Kampot is also noted for the population of durian, a tropical fruit whose seeds are roasted and eaten like chestnuts. The city is connected by road and rail with Phnom Penh. Road conditions near Kampot are extremely poor. Kampot was heavily damaged by the Khmer Rouge and many areas of the city need to be rebuilt. Kampot has a population of approximately 19,000.
The name KOH KONG refers to the province, the town, and the island located in southwest Cambodia near the border of Thailand. The main attractions of the island are the white sand coves and lush tropical forests. Though the island has not been fully developed for tourist stays, day trips can be made for those interested in swimming, diving, or backpacking around the island. The village boarder town on the mainland offers several hotels, restaurants, and even a few night clubs for an active nightlife.
KRATIE (also spelled Kracheh) is northeastern Cambodia's largest city. The city is situated along the Mekong River in the heart of a fertile agricultural region. Rice, vegetables, bananas, potatoes, sugarcane, corn, and cotton are grown near the city. The area around Kratie is heavily forested and is an excellent source of hard-woods such as teak, mahogany, and rosewood. Vestiges of Cambodia's proud history, such as the monastery of Phnom Sambok and the ancient city of Sambor, are located on the outskirts of Kratie. The city has a population of nearly 20,000. Current population figures are unavailable.
The city of PURSAT (also spelled Pouthisat) is located on the Pursat River in western Cambodia. The region around Pursat is one of Cambodia's largest rice-growing regions. Corn, potatoes, bananas, cotton, and vegetables are grown near Pursat. Other economic activity in the city revolves around distilling and trading in horns and hides. Pursat has an estimated population of 42,000 in 2002.
SIEM REAP is one of northwestern Cambodia's largest cities. The city is Cambodia's largest producer of pharmaceuticals. Located north of Siem Reap are the remains of Angkor Wat, an ancient temple city complex constructed in the 12th century. The largest religious edifice in the world, Angkor Wat is considered the greatest architectural work in Southeast Asia. Siem Reap has a population of approximately 142,000 in 2002.
Geography and Climate
The Kingdom of Cambodia covers an area 181,040 sq. km. (69,900 sq. mi.), approximately the size of Missouri. It is bordered on the northwest by Thailand, on the north by Laos, and on the east and southeast by Vietnam. Cambodia has a short coastline on the Gulf of Thailand.
The country terrain is largely flat, low-lying plains that are drained by the Tonle Sap (Lake) and the Mekong and Bassac Rivers. The Mekong River flows 189 miles through Cambodia; in places it is up to 3 miles wide. The rich sediment deposited during the rainy season when the Mekong River swells and floods each year adds to the very fertile growing conditions that exist throughout the Upper Mekong Delta. The Tonle Sap, located in western central Cambodia, connects with the Mekong River at Phnom Penh via a 60 miles long channel.
During the dry season when the water level of the Mekong is low, water flows southeast out of the Tonle Sap into the Mekong River. However, during the wet season when the level of the Mekong rises, an extraordinary phenomena takes place. The swollen Mekong River actually causes the flow of the Tonle Sap to reverse, forcing water to drain back into the Tonle Sap and over time causing the Lake to more than double in size. As a result of this unique occurrence, the Tonle Sap is one of the richest sources of freshwater fish in the world. The central lowlands are characterized by seemingly endless, flat rice paddies, fields of reeds and tall grass, and fields of cultivated crops such as corn, tobacco, sesame, and tapioca. Sprinkled throughout are tall sugar palm trees and occasional wooded areas. Rice is grown in 90 percent of the cultivated land. However, only two-thirds of the land cultivated before 1970 is cultivated today, largely as a result of dangerous land mines and a lack of equipment and irrigation.
There are heavily forested areas located away from the Lake and Rivers and mountainous areas in the southwest (the Cardamom Mountains), the south (the Elephant Mountains), and the north (the Dangrek Mountains). Most of the country lies at an elevation of less than 100 meters above sea level. The highest elevation, Phnom Aoral (60 miles northwest of Phnom Penh) is 1,813 meters. The mountainous areas are largely forested, with virgin rain forests in the southwest, evergreen and mangrove forests along the coastal strip, and towering broadleaf evergreen forests in the north. Much of the north and northeast is covered by a thick jungle of vines, bamboo, palm trees, and assorted other ground plants. The southwest provinces support large (although old) rubber plantations.
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia since the mid-15th century and the country's largest city, has a population of approximately 1 million. The city lies at the confluence of the Mekong River, the Bassac River, and the river flowing from the Tonle Sap and consists of four urban districts and three suburban districts. Phnom Penh is a sprawling city, with a mix of wide, tree-lined boulevards and narrow dirt roads, large French-colonial houses, apartment buildings, and small thatch-roofed wooden dwellings. Many residents have relocated to the capital from rural provinces, most to make a better living and some to attend school or to learn English. Phnom Penh is a city struggling to overcome the ravages and neglect of civil war, and most of the city's basic infrastructure is in disarray.
Upon leaving Phnom Penh, the scenery immediately becomes very rural. Cambodia's second largest city, Battambang (population approximately 200,000), is located 175 miles to the northwest. Approximately 3 hours (by road) to the southwest of Phnom Penh is the port of Sihanoukville on the Gulf of Thailand, with white-sand beaches. In the far northeast, Ratanakiri province is the home of Cambodia's ethnic minorities.
The climate in Cambodia is consistent throughout the country—hot and humid. There are two distinct seasons: a cooler dry season that last from November to May, and a hotter rainy season lasting from June to October. The country has an average annual rainfall of between 50 and 75 inches with the southwestern mountains, the area with the highest rainfall, receiving nearly 200 inches per year. October-December are the coolest months of the year, when temperatures can fall to the mid to upper 60°F (25-27°C). April is the hottest month, when temperatures regularly exceed 100°F (40°C). The average relative humidity is 81 percent. Although the heat and humidity, particularly during April and May, can be uncomfortable and fatiguing, all U.S. Embassy housing and offices are equipped with air-conditioning. During the rainy season, periodic flooding is a problem, as are increased mosquitoes, silver-fish, and vermin infestation. High levels of humidity and moisture encourage damage caused by mildew and rust.
The population of Cambodia is approximately 12 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.25% (2001 est.). Cambodia is the most homogeneous of the Southeast Asian nations, with ethnic-Khmers comprising nearly 90% of the population. There are small percentages of ethnic-Chinese and ethnic-Vietnamese, and a small Cham Muslim population that was nearly wiped out by the Khmer Rouge during the 1970s. Cambodia's ethno-linguist minorities (hill tribes), numbering fewer than 100,000, reside in the country's mountainous regions and are concentrated primarily in the northeast. As sporadic fighting continues between the Khmer Rouge and Royal Government forces, a fluctuating population of Cambodians seek refuge in Thailand. Years of violent and bloody civil war have taken their toll on the population and are reflected in the demographics of the country. Nearly 65 percent of the population are women, and 40% (4 million) is under age 15.
Cambodia's population is mostly rural with approximately 80 percent employed in agriculture or fishing. Nearly 90 percent of the population resides in the central lowlands. The average population density in Cambodia is 61 people per square kilometer.
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, and it is spoken throughout the country. Unlike Thai and Vietnamese, Khmer is a nontonal language with many disyllabic words. The Khmer language descends from Sanskrit and borrows a number of words from Pali. It is not directly related to either Thai or Vietnamese. For over a century during the period of French colonization, educated Cambodians also learned French. Today, however, the second language of choice is fast becoming English. Young people crowd English-language classes and practice their language skills with foreigners at every chance they get.
Buddhism is the state religion in Cambodia, and the vast majority of Cambodian people are Buddhist. Cambodians practice Theravada Buddhism, an earlier form of the religion that originated in India. Every male Buddhist is expected to become a monk for at least a short period of his life. Under the Khmer Rouge, the practice of Buddhism (and all religion) was forbidden. Monks were executed, and nearly all of the country's 3,000 wats (Buddhist temples) were severely damaged or destroyed. In recent years, despite a critical lack of resources, great emphasis has been placed on restoring and rebuilding the wats.
Cambodia's small Muslim community was nearly annihilated by the Khmer Rouge. There are several mosques in Phnom Penh, however, and in a number of villages to the north and east along the Mekong River.
The Kingdom of Cambodia is struggling to overcome decades of civil war, isolation, and massive destruction by the Khmer Rouge of its population, infrastructure, and national identity and culture. Historically, however, the Khmer nation has been both powerful and influential throughout the region. From the 9th to the 14th century, the Khmer Empire successfully ruled much of the area that is today Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. During the 14th and 15th centuries the power of the Khmer Empire waned, and a succession of Kings alternately fought with neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. In 1863, Cambodia signed a treaty of protectorate with France, and over the course of the next century became established as a French colony. Cambodia, under the leadership of King Norodom Sihanouk, declared independence from France in 1953. Shortly thereafter King Sihanouk abdicated the thrown to his elderly father in order to be elected prime minister and then Chief of State. Sihanouk severed diplomatic relations with the U.S. in 1965. In 1970, when Sihanouk was temporarily out of the country, his cousin, General Lon Nol staged a coup d'etat, and replaced Sihanouk as chief of state. Sihanouk established a government-in-exile operated out of Beijing, and became a figurehead leader of the group known as the Khmer Rouge. Meanwhile under Lon Nol, extreme levels of government greed and corruption led to violent fighting and the deaths of several hundred thousand Cambodians between 1970 and 1975.
On April 17-18, 1975, the Khmer Rouge invaded Phnom Penh and systematically and methodically emptied the city of all residents. Over the next 4 years, the Khmer Rouge attempted to implement a totally agrarian-based self-sufficient society, forcibly relocating Cambodia's citizens to rural work camps to work in the fields and perform manual labor. Under the genocidal leadership of the Khmer Rouge, nearly 1 million Cambodian people were tortured and executed and almost an entire generation of educated and professionally trained citizens was methodically annihilated. Widespread starvation, disease and despair contributed to the massive numbers of deaths that occurred during the 1975-79 reign of the Khmer Rouge regime. During this period, the country's basic infrastructure—systems of transportation, communication, education, health, economics, and government—was destroyed.
In January 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and forced the Khmer Rouge westward to the Thai border, and installed a new communist government headed by Hun Sen and Heng Samrin, two former Khmer Rouge leaders. For more than a decade Vietnam presided over the chaotic situation in Cambodia, plagued by continued guerrilla warfare with the Khmer Rouge, widespread famine, international isolation, and political, social, and economic instability.
Amidst international pressure and a declining economic situation at home, Vietnam ceased its occupation of Cambodia in 1990, and a year later the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements promised to end 13 years of Cambodian civil war and establish the country as a democracy. The Cambodian peace agreement called for the deployment of the largest and most costly peace-keeping force in the history of the U.N. The U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was created and charged with custodial administration of the country until a democratically elected constituent assembly could form a new government and ratify a national constitution. In May 1993, Cambodia held its first free and open elections (in which the Khmer Rouge refused to participate), with 95 percent of eligible voters registered to vote, and of those 90 percent casting a ballot.
The National Assembly, the leading legislative body, is made up of 120 elected members representing three major political parties. The Royalist FUNCINPEC party (the French acronym for Cambodian National Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia) and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) share a majority of power in the National Assembly (with the two co-prime ministers, H.R.H. Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen representing those two political parties), and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) has a smaller presence.
The main goals of the new government are national reconciliation to rebuild the country and to restore peace and stability where chaos has existed. A major obstacle confronting Cambodia is a severe lack of resources. Over the past two decades the country's infrastructure was nearly completely destroyed, and Cambodia is now faced with reestablishing basic levels of transportation, communication, food and water supplies, and government services. Poverty is a serious problem, and living standards and social indicators in Cambodia place it among the poorest countries in the world. Cambodia's new leaders have been working hard to reestablish ties with the international community and formulate a policy for foreign relations. A big part of this has been seeking desperately needed international aid and assistance. To date, Japan, France, Australia and the U.S. have been the major contributors. A key to the new government's success will be its ability to strengthen Cambodia's economy and improve living standards throughout the country.
The Kingdom of Cambodia is divided into 21 provinces that are broken down into districts, communes, and villages. Seats in the National Assembly are allocated proportionally by province.
Arts, Science, and Education
Cambodia, a country with a rich history of traditional architecture, music, dance, and handicrafts, suffered near cultural devastation under the Khmer Rouge regime. Pagodas and temples, museums, libraries, and theaters were routinely ransacked and destroyed. Between 1975 and 1979, the rich history and culture that had accumulated over thousands of years in the form of buildings, sculptures, paintings, and manuscripts was ruthlessly wiped out.
Today, the country is struggling to restore, rebuild, and resurrect its cultural institutions. Historically, Cambodia is perhaps best known for its unique and impressive architecture that climaxed during the Angkorian period (the 9th to the 14th century). At that time, Khmer art and architecture were widely influential throughout Southeast Asia. The most magnificent example of Khmer architecture can be seen at the world famous temples of Angkor, including Angkor Wat, the Bayon, and Angkor Thom. Although attacked and ransacked by the Khmer Rouge, these spectacular temples remain one of the architectural splendors of the world. With international assistance, a variety of conservation efforts are underway to protect and preserve these national monuments.
The National Museum of Khmer Art and Archaeology, located in Phnom Penh, has some of the finest examples of Khmer art and sculpture. Pagodas around the country are in various states of refurbishment and repair, and the Royal Palace and its surrounding compound including the Silver Pagoda—with its floor covered with 5,000 silver tiles—has undergone an impressive renovation and has sections that are open to the public for tours.
Cambodia's classic dance, with its graceful and controlled movements and colorful silk costumes, is performed to the accompaniment of traditional string and percussion instruments and vocalist. Under the Khmer Rouge, 90 percent of Cambodia's classical dancers were killed, and it is only recently that the government reestablished a national dancing troupe. Theater in Cambodia recently received a severe setback when the Bassac Theater, a historic site in Phnom Penh and Cambodia's national theater, caught fire and was destroyed. The country currently has no funds to replace or to rebuild the theater and is hoping for international assistance to help restore this culturally significant site.
Like most institutions in Cambodia, the educational system suffered greatly under the Khmer Rouge. By 1979, the educational system ceased to exist. In addition, the country was left with a severe lack of trained teachers, most of whom were executed during the Khmer Rouge regime. School buildings, books, supplies, and printing facilities were all destroyed. However, a major effort in the 1980s to reestablish a national school system resulted in the opening of nearly 4,700 primary schools and 440 secondary schools throughout the country. There are now over 2 million primary school students and 190,000 secondary school students, as well as a small university and technical school population in Phnom Penh. However, quality of education remains low. Primary school graduates risk lapsing into illiteracy, and secondary school graduates lack the required level of knowledge, particularly in the fields of mathematics, science, and foreign languages, to gain college admission.
One of the major problems facing the educational system in Cambodia is a continued shortage of competent and qualified teachers. For example, approximately one-third of all primary schoolteachers themselves have only a primary school education. In addition, teaching salaries are so low that new teachers are discouraged from entering the field (the World Bank recently calculated that average teacher salaries cover only half the cost of a typical household's monthly rice consumption). Educational resources of all types are lacking; only 4 percent of the projected 1994 national budget was allocated for education. Adult literacy in Cambodia is believed to be around 35 percent, a slight decline from where it was 25 years ago.
Commerce and Industry
Cambodia's economy, even before the widespread destruction and devastation brought on by the Khmer Rouge, was one of the least developed in Southeast Asia. Although with assistance from the international community, the economy has improved, Cambodia remains a poor, underdeveloped country, and its economy continues to suffer from decades of civil war and internal corruption. The average per capita income is approximately US$1,300 (2000 est.). Future economic development and growth will depend heavily on international aid and assistance and foreign investment.
Agriculture, including rice farming, livestock, forestry, and cultivation of other crops, is a primary part of the economy, involving 75% percent of the labor force. Agriculture accounted for about 37% of GDP in 1999. Excellent rice harvests in 1999 contributed to Cambodia's better-than-expected economic growth. With its large amount of arable land, ample rainfall, and close proximity to the major ASEAN markets of Thailand and Vietnam, agriculture will continue to have strong growth potential for the economy.
Industry and manufacturing remain low. Mining activities (for clay, dolomite, gold, limestone, pagodite, phosphate, quartz, sapphire, ruby, silica sand, and other precious stones) are also low. Although Cambodia's natural resources include a variety of gem-stones, the largest gemstone mines are currently not under government control, and their output remains largely unreported.
Since 1993, Cambodia has received major assistance from the IMF, World Bank, ADB, UNDP and other bilateral and multilateral donors that is earmarked for economic reform. Cambodia has already made considerable progress by improving control of the forestry industry, which had been plagued with management corruption and illegal logging operations. Timber and firewood are the main forest products (Cambodia does not have a large quantity of teak or other valuable hardwoods).
Cambodia is a member of ASEAN and the Asian Free Trade Area. Cambodia has begun the process of accession to the World Trade Organization.
In Phnom Penh and throughout Cambodia, vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road as they do in the U.S. However, in most locally available automobiles the driver's seat is on the right side of the vehicle. Traffic conditions in Phnom Penh can be confusing and dangerous, primarily because traffic regulations are rarely enforced. Few Khmer drivers have had any type of formal driving instruction and most do not have a license. The streets are shared by large cargo trucks, cars, a plethora of motos, bicycles, cyclos, a few ox-pulled carts, and pedestrians. The absence of stop signs at even major intersections adds to the confusion and danger of driving in Phnom Penh. Additionally, some informal but significant "rules of the road" may prove initially confusing to American drivers. For example, in Cambodia, the meaning of another car flashing its headlights is "you are in my driving path and I am not yielding my right of way to you."
Traffic conditions at night can be particularly challenging. Street lights in Phnom Penh frequently do not work, and in any case are only present on a few major roads. The roads are dark, and many cars, motos, cyclos, and bicycles travel at night without any lights. During the rainy season when roads frequently become flooded, drivers should beware of potentially slippery conditions and hidden potholes.
"Moto taxis"—small motorcycles that accept passengers to sit behind the driver—are widely available and are used regularly. Cyclos—large tricycles with a passenger seat in front and a peddler or driver behind—are also a widely used form of transportation. Both of these forms of transportation are inexpensive (usually costing between 20¢ and $1; prices are negotiable) and are readily available. Cars with drivers can be hired by the hour or by the day; rates are reasonable.
Transportation facilities available within Cambodia are limited. There are five National Highways linking Phnom Penh to other provinces. The conditions of these roads, the only main roads in the country, vary considerably and in some cases they are not passable even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. In 1990, it was estimated that only about 20 percent of the roads in Cambodia were covered with asphalt and were in passable condition. Missing or damaged bridges also creates travel difficulties as ferry services are frequently not available. To date, the government has not allocated significant budget resources for repairing the country's roads, and little attempt has been made to find private funding for road construction and repair. The highway system is being rebuilt in stages with the help of foreign assistance projects and loans, as they become available.
The Khmer Rouge continue to mine bridges, including those recently restored and rebuilt. Incidents of banditry, robbery, and kidnapping by Khmer Rouge and government soldiers has made road travel to many destinations additionally dangerous and unreliable. Private taxi service can be arranged to some destinations outside of Phnom Penh, subject to the same dangers as previously described.
Travel by air is possible to some locations, and in many cases is required due to impassable roads, damaged bridges, and unsafe travel conditions. Cambodia has 8 usable airports with daily flights to Siem Reap (and the temples at Angkor Wat), and several weekly flights to Battambang (Cambodia's second largest city, located 175 miles to the northwest of Phnom Penh), Stung Treng, and a few other destinations. Flights to the northeast of Cambodia fly only once per week, and there is no road access to this part of the country. Organized trips to visit the temples of Angkor Wat (accompanied by an English-speaking guide) are available through local travel agencies; trips ranging from 2 to 5 days can be arranged, although prices are expensive. There are daily flights from Phnom Penh to Bangkok (a one hour flight), where connections to other international carriers can be made. Daily or weekly flights to other international destinations, including Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur, are also available directly from Phnom Penh.
Cambodia has two rail lines, both originating in Phnom Penh, and a total of 367 miles of government owned single, one-meter-gauge track. Guerrilla activities continue to disrupt service, and the railroad is not safe for travel by American by Americans for either official or personal travel.
Likewise, Cambodia has 169 miles of navigable inland waterways for boats drawing up to 1.8 meters of water. Although several cities are theoretically reachable from Phnom Penh by boat, due to high incidents of banditry and generally unsafe conditions of equipment and lack of life preservers and safety devices, transportation by boat is generally not recommended.
Telephone and Telegraph
In Phnom Penh and throughout Cambodia, local telephone service consists of individual mobile telephones carried by the small (but growing) percentage of individuals who can afford them. There are only a few businesses and almost no homes with installed telephone lines, and they are difficult to get. Motorola telephones cover an area 18 miles around Phnom Penh where the antenna is installed. Samart telephones service a wider area of the country including Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, and Kompong Cham.
Phnom Penh does have a limited local telephone system, but overseas calls are frequently easier to make than local ones. There are a small but growing number of pay phones located in Phnom Penh, and local emergency telephone numbers have recently been established.
Because many businesses and most individuals do not have telephones, communication frequently requires a hand-delivered message or personal visit.
Radio and TV
Post receives shortwave radio broadcasts in English from the BBC, VOA, and Radio Australia. Radio France International, a French station, can be received on FM radio. Local TV programs (news programs, sitcoms, dramas, movies) are broadcast in Khmer, the official language of Cambodia. Occasionally, programs in French, Thai, or English are shown. The French channel CFI is retransmitted over Phnom Penh by the French cultural center. A small regular TV antenna is sufficient to receive it. A Thai company also operates a TV channel out of Bangkok. Cable TV (including Star TV that transmits BBC 24 hours per day, and CNN) can be viewed in several local restaurants and hotels.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals
Reasonably current news magazines are available, including international editions of Time magazine, Newsweek, and The Economist. English-language books are difficult to find in-country, but there are several well-stocked English-language bookstores in Bangkok.
Health and Medicine
Although there are several well-trained Cambodian medical specialists in Phnom Penh, local hospitals are poorly equipped and inadequately staffed. Locally available medications and sterilization techniques are for the most part inadequate.
A rudimentary and unsophisticated public health system exists in Cambodia, with hospitals established in most provinces and districts. In Phnom Penh there are nine hospitals (including both public and private facilities). However, throughout the country health services remain inadequate. The Ministry of Health recently began trying to rebuild a national health system, but resources are scarce and there remains a critical lack of trained doctors and nurses. In 1993, there were only 986 trained physicians in all of Cambodia, and due to very low civil service salaries there is little incentive for medical professionals to enter the public health sector.
Despite existing difficulties, the health sector has made significant progress in the past 2 years, and this trend of improvement is expected to continue. International aid and assistance has accelerated, largely in the form of direct assistance to individual facilities at the local level, and the availability of medications and supplies has increased throughout the country. Priorities facing the Ministry of Health include reestablishing functioning primary health services through a district-based health system approach, strengthening national programs aimed at the principal communicable diseases afflicting the country (including tuberculosis, malaria, immunizable childhood diseases, AIDS, diarrheal diseases, malnutrition, acute respiratory infections, and adequate birth space), and improving the capacity of the health system to perform functions and to manage resources efficiently (the public health system has become very decentralized in its management, which accounts for widely varying levels of service and unevenly distributed assistance throughout the country).
Sewage and garbage disposal facilities are generally inadequate but improving. Currently, the city of Phnom Penh has only 15 serviceable garbage trucks, and rubbish collection is notoriously bad due to a lack of government funds. Recently however, the Phnom Penh Municipality signed a tentative contract with a French company to improve the garbage collection and disposal in the city. To pay for the new services, the city has proposed new taxes for households and businesses.
Sickness is a significant problem, but with proper attention to methods of prevention and general sanitation, and by keeping immunizations current, many common diseases can be avoided. Malaria suppressants should be taken regularly when traveling up-country, but are not required within the confines of Phnom Penh where the risk of malaria is minimal. Recommended inoculations include typhoid fever, cholera, Japanese encephalitis, Hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps, rubella, and a post-childhood polio re-booster. All pets should be inoculated against rabies. To reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, it is advised that insect repellent be used at night, and protective clothing be worn during the dusk to dawn hours.
Tap water in Cambodia is not potable, and for drinking purposes most people use readily available and reasonably priced bottled water. Tap water can be used if it is boiled first for 10 minutes and then filtered. Iodine is also effective in purifying water. Tap water can be used for washing and bathing. Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant all year round, but they must be thoroughly cleaned and soaked in an iodine or chlorine solution and then rinsed with purified water before consumption. Where possible, fruits and vegetables should be peeled. All meat and seafood must be well cooked before eating. Locally produced milk should be avoided, but UTH whole milk, dried milk, canned condensed milk, and occasionally imported fresh milk is available.
The climate in Cambodia is hot and humid year round, and care must be taken to avoid prolonged sun exposure, sunstroke, heatstroke, and dehydration. Regular use of sun-screen is recommended, and individuals will appreciate having UV protective sunglasses, and a hat or sun visor. Dehydration can be a problem, particularly among children, but it can easily be prevented by consuming proper amounts of water throughout the day.
NOTES FOR TRAVELERS
Passage, Customs & Duties
The normal flight pattern from Washington, D.C. to Phnom Penh leaves from Dulles International Airport and flies to the U.S. west coast, and from there flies to Bangkok with one stop over (usually in Taipei, Taiwan). It is necessary to change planes in Bangkok to fly to Phnom Penh; no U.S. carriers currently fly to Cambodia.
A passport and visa are required. Tourists and business travelers may purchase a Cambodian visa, valid for one month, at the airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Both require a passport-sized photograph.
There is a $20 local entry fee (payable in U.S. dollars), and an $8 departure tax for all international flights. There is no restriction on the amount of currency that can be imported into the country, but amounts in excess of $10,000 must be declared. Current information about entry/visa and other requirements may be obtained from the Royal Embassy of Cambodia, 4500 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20022, telephone number 202-726-7742, fax 202-726-8381. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Cambodia.
All U.S. citizens in Cambodia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh where they may obtain updated information on travel and security within Cambodia. The U.S. Embassy is located at no. 16, Street 228 (between streets 51 and 63), Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The telephone number is (855-23) 216-436 or 218-931; fax (855-23)-216-437. A recording of security information is available twenty-four hours a day at telephone (855-23) 216-805.
Pets are permitted entrance into Cambodia. All pets should have standard vaccinations and certificates Contact the airlines for shipping information. There is an established veterinarian in Phnom Penh.
Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures
The official currency of Cambodia is the riel; there are approximately 2500 riel to the dollar (June 1994). Paper riel notes are issued in 100, 200, and 500 denominations. There are no coins in use. The U.S. dollar serves as a widely used unofficial currency and is accepted virtually everywhere in the country. Many times prices are given in U.S. dollars instead of riels. All monetary transactions in Cambodia are conducted in cash; credit cards are accepted only at the Cambodiana Hotel and at some airlines. U.S. travelers checks can be exchanged at local banks (for a fee), but they are not accepted by local merchants or businesses as a form of currency.
Cambodia uses the metric system for all weights and measures.
Jan. 1 … New Year's Day
Jan. 7 … Victory Day
Jan/Feb. … Chinese & Vietnamese New Year*
Apr. … Khmer New Year *
Apr/May … Royal Ploughing Ceremony*
Apr. 17 … Independence Day
Apr./May. … Vesak Bauchea*
May 1 … Workers Day
June 1… Children's Day
June 19… Memorial Day (Revolutionary Armed Forces founded)
June 28 … Memorial Day (Revolutionary People's Party founded)
Sept. 24 …Constitution Day
Sept/Oct. … Prachum Ben*
Oct. 30 …King's Birthday (3 days)
Oct/Nov. … Water Festival*
Nov. 9…Independence Day
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.
Ablin, David A., and Marlowe Hood, eds. The Cambodian Agony. 2nd ed. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1990.
Becker, Elizabeth. When the War Was Over. Simon and Schuster: New York, 1986.
Bram, Frederick Z., ed. Rebuilding Cambodia: Human Resources, Human Rights, and Law. Public Interest Publications: Virginia, 1993.
Canesso, Claudia. Cambodia. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.
Chanda, Nayan. Brother Enemy. Collier Books: New York, 1988.
Chandler, David P. A History of Cambodia. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.
——. Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot. Westview Press, Inc.: Boulder, Colorado, 1992.
Chandler, David and Ben Kiernan, eds. Revolution and Its Aftermath in Kampuchea. Yale University Press: New Haven, Connecticut, 1983.
Criddle, Joan D. To Destroy You Is No Loss: The Odyssey of a Cambodian Family. New York: Anchor Books, 1989.
Haas, Michael. Cambodian Pol Pot, and the United States: the Faustian Pact. New York: Praeger, 1991.
Jackson, Karl, ed. Cambodia, 1975-1978: Rendezvous with Death. Princeton, 1989.
Kiernan, Ben. How Pol Pot Came to Power. Verso: London, 1985.
May, Someth. Cambodian Witness. Random House: New York, 1986.
National Geographic. May 1982. The Temples of Angkor. National Geographic Society: Washington, D.C., 1982.
——. May 1982. Kampuchea Wakens from a Nightmare. National Geographic Society: Washington, D.C., 1982.
Neveu, Roland. The Great Little Guide: Phnom Penh and Cambodia. The Great Little Guide, Ltd.: Bangkok, 1993.
Ngor, Haing with Roger Warner. A Cambodian Odyssey. Warner Books, Inc.: New York, 1987.
Picq, Laurence. Beyond the Horizon: Five Years with the Khmer Rouge. Translated by Patricia Norland. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989.
Robinson, Daniel and Tony Wheeler. Cambodia: A Travel Survival Kit. Lonely Planet Publications: Berkeley, California, 1992.
Ross, Russell R. Cambodia: A Country Study. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 1990.
Sutter, Robert G. The Cambodian Crisis and U.S. Policy Dilemmas. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.
Szymusiak, Molyda. The Stones Cry Out: A Cambodian Childhood 1975-1980. Hill and Wang: New York, 1986.
Welaratna, Usha. Beyond the Killing Fields: Voices of Nine Cambodian Survivors in America. Stanford University Press: Stanford, California, 1993.
"Cambodia." Cities of the World. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700174.html
"Cambodia." Cities of the World. 2002. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700174.html
Kingdom of Cambodia
LOCATION AND SIZE.
Cambodia is one of the ten nations of Southeast Asia and part of mainland Southeast Asia. It is bordered on the north by Laos and Thailand, on the west by Thailand, and on the east by Vietnam. Its geographic area is 181,040 square kilometers (69,900 square miles), making it slightly smaller than the state of Oklahoma. Its total land boundaries are 2,572 kilometers (1,598 miles), and it has a coastline on the Gulf of Thailand of 443 kilometers (275 miles). The Mekong River flows directly through the country from north to south, eventually flowing into the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Cambodia's largest city and capital, Phnom Penh, is on the Mekong River. The other major cities in Cambodia are Battambang, Siem Reap (the gateway to Angkor Wat), and Kampong Saom (Sihanoukville), Cambodia's major port.
Cambodia's population was 12,491,501 in July of 2001, according to the CIA World Factbook. This compares with a population of 5,728,772 in 1962; 6,682,200 in 1981; and 11,426,223 in 1998. The current population growth rate is a relatively high 2.25 percent. If this population rate were to continue, the country's population would double to approximately 25 million by the year 2033. The major cause of this high population growth rate is the high fertility rate of Cambodian women. The average Cambodian woman has 4.74 children.
With such a high fertility rate and the loss of much of the adult population through the prolonged civil war (1970-75, 1979-98), the Cambodian population is extremely young. Around 41.25 percent of the population is less than 15 years of age, and only 3.47 percent of the population is over 65. Unfortunately, Cambodia has a serious AIDS problem, which will have a negative effect on its future population growth. In 1999, it was estimated that the HIV/AIDS incidence among adults was 4.04 percent.
Unlike many other Southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Burma, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the Cambodian population is relatively homogenous. Approximately 90 percent of the population is Khmer, with 5 percent Vietnamese, 1 percent Chinese, and 4 percent other (Cham, Lao, Tai, and various hill peoples in northeastern areas such as Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri). Khmer is also the official language. Theravada Buddhists are the dominant religious group, claiming 95 percent of the population.
OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY
Cambodia is one of the world's poorest economies, and, thus, economic development is its highest priority. Much of its population is involved in subsistence farming (families producing what is needed for daily living). About 66 percent of the country is forested or woodlands, with only 13 percent of the land arable.
Another major disadvantage has been Cambodia's long period of turmoil and civil strife, which began in 1970 with the overthrow of the government of Prince Sihanouk. That strife and instability lasted 28 years and severely and adversely affected the Cambodian economy, its human resource base, and its physical infrastructure .
With respect to its economic history, Cambodia is an excellent example of pre-development (advanced development centuries before the European Renaissance). Its prehistory dates back to the fourth millennium B.C. By 500 B.C., the use of metal had become widespread. As early as the 3rd century there was an Indianized trading state named Funan with Mon-Khmer inhabitants. In the last half of the 6th century, a new state Chenla emerged.
The years from 802 to 1432 mark the period of the great Angkor Khmer civilization. This Khmer civilization produced the largest religious monument in the world, the Angkor Wat complex. The Chinese sailor, Chou Ta-kuan, visited Angkor and described vividly the Khmer Empire at that time. The dynamic leadership of King Jayavarman VII produced an impressive network of hospitals, royal roads, rest houses, and advanced hydraulic irrigation schemes which allowed for as many as 3 crops of rice each year. During the reign of Jayavarman VII the Khmer Empire encompassed what is currently Cambodia and much of what is Thailand, Laos, and the southern part of Vietnam. After Jayavarman VII's death, Khmer power declined at the hands of the Siamese and later the Vietnamese. After the Siamese sacked Angkor several times the capital moved to Phnom Penh, which became a center for maritime trade. During the 19th century, Cambodia fell under Siamese and Vietnamese domination.
In 1863 the French then established a protectorate over Cambodia, and in the early 1900s Cambodia became part of colonial French Indochina. Under its colonial rule, the French established plantations to exploit Cambodian natural resources such as rubber. In 1953 Cambodia achieved its independence from France. Under the leadership of Prince Sihanouk, Cambodia enjoyed peace and stability. In terms of its economy, the country was poor, but most of the population enjoyed affluent subsistence. Farmers, for the most part, had their own land and there was adequate fish, rice, fruit, and vegetables for much of the population.
In 1970, Cambodia became a war-plagued economy. With a coup against Prince Sihanouk in March of that year, Cambodia was drawn into the vortex of the Cold War and the U.S. war in Vietnam. For the next 5 years there was civil war between the Khmer Rouge (the Cambodian communists) and the U.S.-backed rightist government of General Lon Nol. The United States provided both military and economic assistance to the Lon Nol government. The secret bombing of the Cambodian countryside by the United States and the civil war drove hundreds of thousands of rural people into the capital of Phnom Penh and devastated the economy.
On 17 April 1975, the Khmer Rouge captured the capital and immediately evacuated the population to the countryside. There then ensued the most radical socialist experiment in the history of the world, in which basically the entire population became a huge work camp engaged in various agricultural activities. As a result, as many as possibly 2 million Cambodians may have died between 1975 and 1978, due to starvation, overwork, disease, and executions (of those who were part of the old elite, those perceived to be a threat to the state, or those who were uncooperative).
In December 1978, the Vietnamese intervened to drive the Khmer Rouge to the remote countryside in the west and northwest and installed a new Vietnamese-oriented Cambodian government, which was called the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). Then Cambodia became a normal economy, though it still suffered from continued conflict with the Khmer Rouge. During this period, it also suffered from an economic boycott by the United States and other countries who would not recognize the legitimacy of the new government. In 1991, communism came to an end with the establishment of the State of Cambodia and the 2-year presence of the United Nations Transition Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) to oversee the transition to a multi-party democracy and free market economy. UN-supervised national elections were held in 1993. However, real political stability came to Cambodia only in 1998 with new national elections and the death of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in April 1998.
With this new stability, the Cambodian economy shows signs of recovering. Its being a dollarized economy (an economy which uses the U.S. dollar) gave it some immunity from the currency devaluations suffered by its close neighbors, such as Thailand and Laos. Cambodia achieved impressive economic growth of 4.5 percent in 1999 and 5 to 5.5 percent in 2000.
Two industries which have greatly helped the recovery of the Cambodian economy have been the garment industry and tourism. Output from the garment industry in 1993 was only US$4 million, but by 1999 it had increased dramatically to US$600 million. Cambodia is extremely fortunate to be home to the great Angkor Wat complex, recently publicized in the popular adventure feature film Tomb Raider. Cambodia wisely decided to allow direct international flights to Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat, and is one of the few countries in the world (if any) to allow international airlines to fly domestic flights within Cambodia. This flexibility has been a boon to Cambodian tourism, which was up 34 percent in 2000. A 3-day pass to visit Angkor Wat costs US$60. Thus, tourism is a major new source of significant foreign exchange earnings. Cambodia also benefits from considerable international aid, constituting 61 percent of its public funds.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION
Prior to 1991, Cambodia had long been dominated by authoritarian regimes. Since 1993, however, Cambodia has had a multi-party democracy. During its first phase of democracy, Cambodia actually had 2 prime ministers, 1 from each of the 2 major political parties, as a kind of political compromise. In 1993, Cambodia became a constitutional democracy with the popular Norodom Sihanouk serving as the king. Sihanouk has been an important force in contributing to compromise among competing political factions. The system of having 2 prime ministers, however, became unworkable and was highly inefficient. It also created a particularly complex environment for international investors or others pursuing economic or development activities in Cambodia. New national elections in 26 July 1998, resulted in a new government with only 1 prime minister.
Cambodia has a bicameral legislature, consisting of a popularly elected National Assembly (122 seats) and a Senate (61 seats). The members of both bodies serve 5-year terms. The king chooses the prime minister after a vote of confidence by the National Assembly. Since 1998, the prime minister has been Hun Sen. There is also a judicial branch led by the Supreme Court.
Taxation and the ability to collect revenues by the government remain weak, though government revenues increased 40 percent between 1998 and 1999. Such revenues represented only 11 percent of the GDP and direct taxes accounted for only 6 percent of total domestic revenue. Corruption and an inability to collect taxes plagued the government throughout the 1990s.
INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS
As the result of decades of conflict and civil war, Cambodia's infrastructure is extremely weak. There is a limited train system which runs to the southern seaport of Kampong Saom and to the northwest (Poipet) on the Thai border. There are plans to rehabilitate the railway to Poipet and to build a new railway linking Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam as part of the trans-Asia railway. These railways cover a total of 603 kilometers (375 miles). The country has 35,769 kilometers (22,227 miles) of highways, of which only 11.6 percent are paved. The best road is from the capital to the seaport of Kampong Saom. Past U.S. aid facilitated the renovation of that important road. Many factories are locating along that road because of its excellent access to a major Pacific seaport. Travel to many remote provinces is often done by plane. The country has 19 airports. The country also has 3,700 kilometers (2,299 miles) of navigable waterways, and it is possible to travel to the famous Angkor Wat complex by jetboat using the Tonle Sap River and the great Tonle Sap Lake.
In Cambodia's agricultural sector traditional forms of power such as waterwheels are still being used. Much of the population, especially in rural areas, does not have access to electricity. In 1999, Cambodia's electricity production was 147 million kilowatt-hours (kWh), of which 40.8 percent were derived from hydroelectric power; the rest was from fossil fuels.
Communications in urban areas has greatly improved in recent years. The number of mobile phones (which were estimated at 80,000 in 2000) are now 4 times greater than the number of conventional phone lines. Few rural areas have access to conventional phone lines. There are 10 radio and 5 television stations. In the capital of Phnom Penh, inexpensive cable television is available with a great number of diverse channels in many languages such as Thai, Japanese, Chinese, English, and French. The country had an estimated 97,000 televisions in 1997.
Cambodia has joined the Internet and has a .kh suffix. However, Internet access in Cambodia is extremely expensive relative to local income levels, which greatly restricts the use of the Internet by non-wealthy Cambodians.
With respect to print media, there has been a rapid expansion in recent years. There are currently 3 English language papers, a French language paper, 88 Khmer language newspapers, 19 Khmer language magazines, and 6 Khmer language bulletins.
During the decade of the 1990s, Cambodia's agricultural sector grew at an average of 2.1 percent, its industrial sector grew at an annual rate of 9.6 percent, and its service sector grew at a rate of 6.9 percent, resulting in shifts in the economic structure of Cambodia. In 1998, agriculture contributed 43 percent of GDP, industry contributed 20 percent, and services contributed 37 percent.
Based on the 1998 census, the active labor force in Cambodia was 4,909,100. Around 76.8 percent of these individuals were engaged in agriculture; only 3.4 percent in industry; and 19.8 percent in services.
Though most Cambodians are still involved in agricultural work, the country's industrial and service sectors are both growing rapidly. With Cambodia's excellent tourism potential and its low cost labor in close proximity to a major seaport, the economy will continue to shift in the direction of greater industry and services. Nike, for example, is now sourcing apparel production in Cambodia.
|Country||Newspapers||Radios||TV Sets a||Cable subscribers a||Mobile Phones a||Fax Machines a||Personal Computers a||Internet Hosts b||Internet Users b|
|aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.|
|bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
With a population density of just 263 persons per square kilometer (681 per square mile) of arable land, Cambodia has special advantages compared to much more densely populated rural areas such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, or Indonesia, whose densities are 3 or 4 times as great. However, the sector is far below its potential. The 80 percent of the workforce engaged in agriculture account for only 43 percent of GDP in 1998. Average rice paddy yield in 1997 was 1.8 tons per hectare, compared to an average of 2.7 tons per hectare achieved by neighboring countries. Among numerous problems affecting agricultural productivity are a lack of irrigation, shortage of male manpower, and the continued presence of land mines in the northwest region of the country, a major rice-growing area. At present only 16 percent of rice land is irrigated, though the government has the goal to increase this figure to 20 percent by the year 2003. Important secondary food crops are maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, vegetables, and fruit. Among industrial agricultural crops are cotton, soybeans, sesame, jute, sugar cane, and rubber. Principal crops in 1999 in order of magnitude of production were rice, cassava, vegetables, sugar cane, maize, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and mung beans.
FORESTRY AND LOGGING.
In 1969, 73 percent of Cambodia was forested. By 1997, only 58 percent of the country was forested. Much of this deforestation has resulted from illegal logging activities, with logs destined for Thailand, which has had a long-standing ban on logging. Illegal logging seriously threatens the long-term viability of Cambodia's timber resources. With sustainable forestry, the government could earn an estimated US$40 million to US$80 million in government revenue per year according to some estimates.
Major sources of freshwater fish are the great Tonle Sap Lake in the center of Cambodia and the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers. However, deforestation represents a serious threat to freshwater fishing because of increased runoff into rivers and lakes. In 1999 Cambodia produced 124,000 metric tons of fish, of which 57.3 percent were freshwater fish.
Industry now employs approximately 250,000 people, 5 percent of the labor force. Until the mid-1990s, Cambodia's industry was dominated by rice mills (of which there were approximately 1,500) and 80 to 100 state-owned enterprises, a legacy from the communist period. The major new development in the latter half of the 1990s is the rapid development of Cambodia's garment industry, facilitated by the achievement of political stability, an abundant supply of cheap labor, good road access to Cambodia's major seaport, and having Most Favored Nation trading status since 1997 for exports to the large U.S. market. By the end of 1999, there were approximately 200 garment factories employing about 100,000 workers. In 1995, by comparison, there were only 13 such factories. Another major growth area associated with the need to build and rebuild Cambodia's infrastructure has been construction, which is expected to increase in importance as more investment is made in infrastructure.
Mining contributed only 0.3 percent of the GDP in 1999 and the country has few commercially viable mineral resources. However, in western Cambodia in the Pailin area near Thailand, there is an abundance of high-quality gems, primarily sapphires and rubies. The trade in such gems was a major source of revenue for the Khmer Rouge in support of their guerilla warfare. Even currently the trade in gems is largely part of the informal economy and does not provide benefit to the central government.
BANKING AND FINANCE.
Under the new capitalist system, the former socialist state bank became the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) in 1992. The new system allows for private commercial banks, of which there are now approximately 30. Use of such banking services is limited, since much of the population has a preference for keeping their savings in either gold or U.S. dollars.
With the shift from a socialist to a capitalist system, the public sector has been downsized. Nearly all of the former state enterprises have been privatized . Many individuals lost jobs through this process. Major efforts have also been initiated to reduce the size of the military and police forces, including the elimination of "ghost soldiers" and "ghost police" who were listed only for budgetary purposes.
Cambodia has excellent potential to develop its tourism sector, which has grown significantly since the achievement of political stability in 1998. In 1999 tourism revenues increased 41 percent, and tourist arrivals have been growing 20 to 30 percent annually since 1998. In 1999, the number of visitors was 271,100. The largest number of tourists are from the United States, followed by China, France, and Taiwan.
Cambodia's major tourist attractions are the great Angkor Wat complex, attractive beaches with related tourist infrastructure at Kompong Saom (Sihanoukville), and ecotourism in pristine Ratanakiri Province in Cambodia's remote northeast. The capital Phnom Penh also is a charming city with numerous attractions. Its famous Royal Hotel has been totally remodeled. In the Angkor Wat area the Grand Hotel d'Angkor has been remodeled by the Raffles Group. At one point, 1 cabinet minister even proposed to have all of Cambodia become a national park as part of an effort to make Cambodia unique and attractive. This proposal was not approved, though Cambodia has developed an extensive system of national parks.
The operation of direct international flights to Siem Reap, gateway to the Angkor Wat area, has significantly improved Cambodian tourism, while adversely affecting tourism to the capital, Phnom Penh, which is no longer the sole gateway to Angkor Wat.
Primarily as the result of the presence of many UN military forces in the 1991-93 period and the shift to a free market capitalist system, a commercial sex industry has emerged which has contributed to international tourism, especially to Phnom Penh. Numerous Vietnamese prostitutes are guestworkers in this industry.
RETAIL AND THE INFORMAL ECONOMY.
With a high level of unemployment and underemployment , an informal retail economy provides employment to large numbers, especially in urban areas. In Phnom Penh there are a number of local markets and 2 large markets popular with tourists (the Central and Russian Markets).
For years Cambodia has been running a negative trade balance, meaning that the value of its imports exceeds that of its exports. In 1997 the deficit was US$328 million; in 1998, US$391.4 million; and US$215.7 million in 1999. Contributing to an improved trade balance was the dramatic growth in the export of garments, now the country's major export. The export of garments more than doubled in value between 1997 and 1999. Cambodia's major exports in 1999 (in order of value) were garments, logs and sawn timber, and crude rubber. Its major imports (in order of value) were petroleum products, cigarettes, motorcycles, gold, and other vehicles. In 2000, Cambodia had exports of US$942 million and imports of US$1.3 billion.
Cambodia's leading export markets (in order of importance) in 1999 were Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and Malaysia. Its imports were primarily from (in order of importance) Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, and France. Its greatest trade deficit is with Thailand followed by Vietnam and Hong Kong. It has a trade surplus with Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its shift to capitalism , Cambodia's trade with Russia has declined dramatically.
Since Cambodia is basically a dollarized economy, the National Bank of Cambodia has only limited influence
|Exchange rates: Cambodia|
|new riels per US$1|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
with respect to monetary policy . Given the strength of the dollar and, thus, Cambodia's relative immunity to currency devaluation problems, the country has done well in avoiding inflation , which was virtually nil in 2000, 4 percent in 1999, and only 12 percent in 1998, despite the Asian economic crisis. In fact, inflation has been extremely low since 1994.
POVERTY AND WEALTH
Cambodia is currently one of the poorest countries in the world. Its per-capita income is only US$260. However, if adjusted for purchasing power parity (which takes into account the low prices for goods in Cambodia), its per-capita income jumps rather dramatically to US$1300. Approximately 36 percent of the population is living below the poverty line. Because of the years of civil war and strife, more than 25 percent of households in Phnom Penh are headed by a single mother. The existence of poverty and unemployment among less-educated women has contributed to the emergence of a commercial sex industry. This industry is part of a large informal economy in Cambodia that is not reflected in the official statistics reported in this entry.
Working conditions in Cambodia are best for those with good education who can find modern sector employment, particularly in the rapidly growing service sector such as in tourism or banking. There are also now in Cambodia a large number of both international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which hire more educated Cambodians for work on diverse development projects.
Those working in the public sector, such as public school teachers, face the problem of receiving extremely low wages. Thus, they often are forced to take other part-time work to pay for their expenses.
Farmers possessing their own adequate land can enjoy a certain degree of affluent subsistence, if they can
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Cambodia|
|Survey year: 1997|
|Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.|
|SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
grow adequate rice, fruit, and vegetables and have access to fish resources. Recently, however, farmers, especially from western Cambodia, have complained about losing their land to business interests planning various kinds of development or agribusiness .
For those working in the rapidly expanding garment industry, there is concern about working conditions and low wages, though these jobs are desperately needed. Conditions are likely to vary considerably depending on the sub-contractors involved. Also, it is not appropriate to look simply at salaries of such workers in dollar terms. People with modern sector jobs tend to pool their "low" salaries in extended family situations. Also costs are much lower in Cambodia than in many other countries, particularly more advanced industrial countries.
COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
2ND-6TH CENTURIES. The state of Funan, predecessor to Cambodia, is established in the Mekong Delta.
9TH-15TH CENTURIES. The glorious Angkor Empire reigns in present-day Cambodia.
1863. France establishes a protectorate over Cambodia.
1953. On 8 November, Cambodia claims its independence from France.
1955-70. The reign of Prince Sihanouk as ruler of the Kingdom of Cambodia; Cambodia remains neutral and peaceful in a sea of political turmoil.
1970. Neutral Prince Sihanouk is ousted by General Lon Nol and Prince Sirik Matak, who abolish the monarchy and rename the country the Khmer Republic (KR). Subsequently U.S. and South Vietnamese armies invade eastern Cambodia and the economy is totally disrupted by the civil war that ensues.
1973. The United States carries out an intensive campaign of bombing rural Cambodia, forcing a tremendous influx of people into Phnom Penh and other cities and disrupting Cambodian agriculture.
1975. In April, Phnom Penh is overtaken by the radical Khmer Rouge, who are led by Pol Pot. The urban population is forced into the countryside and over the next 3 years, the country—renamed Democratic Kampuchea (DK)—becomes a massive work camp, with up to 2 million dying from overwork, starvation, poor health, and executions.
1978. Vietnam invades Cambodia and overthrows the Pol Pot regime.
1979-89. The Vietnamese-backed government (People's Republic of Kampuchea, PRK) wages a long civil war against the Khmer Rouge. Though the economy returns to near normalcy, it is boycotted economically by the United States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and many other nations because of its ties to Vietnam and the former USSR.
1993. United Nations-supervised elections are won by Prince Sihanouk's party, FUNCINPEC; as a compromise, a new 2-headed government is formed with 2 prime ministers, 1 representing FUNCINPEC and the other representing the Cambodia People's Party (CPP), the former communist party.
1997. The 2-headed government ends with military action by CPP Prime Minister Hun Sen.
1998. New national elections won by CPP and Hun Sen. Following the death of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in April, peace and stability return to Cambodia for the first time in 3 decades, and tourism begins to grow rapidly.
2001. The consultative group of international donors pledge US$560 million of international aid to Cambodia, primarily for infrastructure development.
With its debilitated infrastructure resulting from 3 decades of civil war and strife, Cambodia faces tremendous economic challenges in the years ahead. Major disparities between rural and urban areas remain a persistent problem. Reform implementation, particularly in the area of governance, also remains a major issue. There is considerable debate about the government and its commitment to reforms. In June, 2001, the International Monetary Fund representative in Cambodia stated "that the donors generally recognize that Cambodia, more than many other countries, has shown a high level of commitment to reform." The 2001 increase in aid pledges by the consultative group reflects such underlying confidence.
With its great Angkor Wat complex, Cambodia has tremendous tourism potential. The 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States will adversely affect Cambodian tourism in the short term, but in the long term, its tourist industry will provide substantial revenues to the government, which can be used for both physical and human infrastructure improvements. This special resource is not seen in many other developing countries. The country is also fortunate to have a deep seaport at Sihanoukville, which is being upgraded. With its great Tonle Sap Lake and with little of its agricultural land currently irrigated, it has considerable potential for improvements in agriculture as well. Finally, Cambodia has a special "wild card" that has been ignored. A good portion of its current population are survivors of the Khmer Rouge tragedy and, thus, represent a special genre of individuals with unusual capacities for survival, perseverance, and flexibility. Such a special human resource base augurs well for the economic future of Cambodia.
Cambodia has no territories or colonies.
Ayres, David. Anatomy of a Crisis: Education, Development, and the State in Cambodia, 1953-1998. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000.
Cambodia at a Glance. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, August 29, 2000.
Chandler, David. A History of Cambodia. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996.
"China and Cambodia: Bearer of Gifts." The Economist. 23 June 2001.
Eckardt, James. The Year of Living Stupidly: Boom, Bust and Cambodia. Bangkok: Asia Books, 2001.
Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Cambodia. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.
Embassy of Cambodia in Washington, D.C. <http://www .embassy.org/cambodia>. Accessed October 2001.
Export-Import Bank of Thailand. Kingdom of Cambodia Economic Indicators. <http://www.exim.go.th/main_ econmic_cambodia_emerging.htm>. Accessed October 2001.
Livingston, Carol. Gecko Tails: A Journey Through Cambodia. London: Phoenix, 1997.
Osborne, Milton. The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000.
Rooney, Dawn F. Angkor: Temples of Cambodia's Kings. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Passport Books, 1994.
Summers, Laura, and Sok Hach. "Economy of Cambodia." The Far East and Australasia 2001. London: Europa Publications, 2001.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http:// www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed September 2001.
U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Cambodia, January 1996. <http://www.state.gov/www/background_ notes/cambodia_0196_bgn.html>. Accessed October 2001.
Westlake, Michael, editor. "Cambodia." In Asia 2001 Yearbook. Hong Kong: Far Eastern Economic Review, 2000.
Cambodian riel (KHR). One riel equals 100 sen. There are no coins in use, but there are notes of 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 riel. The 1,000 riel note (worth about a quarter in U.S. currency) is the most commonly used. In recent years Cambodia has basically become a dollarized economy. People often pay for goods and services in dollars, but receive small change in riel banknotes.
Timber, garments, rubber, rice, and fish.
Cigarettes, gold, construction materials, petroleum products, machinery, and motor vehicles.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$16.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$942 million (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$1.3 billion (f.o.b.,2000).
Fry, Gerald. "Cambodia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100128.html
Fry, Gerald. "Cambodia." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100128.html
Cambodia (kămbō´dēə), Khmer Kampuchea, officially Kingdom of Cambodia, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 13,607,000), 69,898 sq mi (181,035 sq km), SE Asia. Cambodia is bordered by Thailand on the west and north, by Laos on the north, by Vietnam on the east, and by the Gulf of Thailand on the south. Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city.
Land and People
The heart of the country is a saucer-shaped, gently rolling alluvial plain drained by the Mekong River and enclosed by mountain ranges; the Dangrek Mts. form the frontier with Thailand in the northwest and the Cardamom Mts. and the Elephant Range are in the southwest. About half the land is tropical forest. In general, Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate, with the wet southwest monsoon occurring between November and April and the dry northeast monsoon the remainder of the year. During the rainy season the Mekong swells and backs into the Tônlé Sap (Great Lake), increasing the size of the lake almost threefold. The seasonal rise of the Mekong floods almost 400,000 acres (162,000 hectares) around the lake, leaving rich silt when the waters recede.
One of the few underpopulated countries of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is inhabited by Cambodians (or Khmers), who comprise about 90% of the population. About 5% of the people are Vietnamese and 1% are Chinese; other ethnic groups include the Cham-Malays and the hill tribespeople. Theravada Buddhism is the state religion, but religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed. About 95% of the people are Buddhists; the Cham-Malays are Muslims. Khmer is the official language, but French and English are widely used.
Cambodia is one of the world's poorer nations, although its economy has recovered significantly from the effects of the civil war that racked the country during the latter part of the 20th cent. Conditions are ideal for the cultivation of rice, by far the country's chief crop. Livestock raising (cattle, buffalo, poultry, and hogs) and extensive fishing supplement the diet. Corn, vegetables, cashews, tapioca, peanuts, tobacco, cotton, and sugar palms are widely cultivated.
Rice and rubber historically were the principal exports of Cambodia, but exports fell sharply after the onset (1970) of the civil war, which put most of the rubber plantations out of operation. By the 1990s, however, rubber plantings had been undertaken as part of a national recovery program, and rubber and rice were again being exported. The fishing industry also has revived, but some food shortages continue.
Until recently, inadequate transportation hampered exploitation of the country's vast forests, but by the mid-1990s timber had become a major export. Mineral resources are not abundant, but phosphate rock, limestone, semiprecious stones, and salt support important local mining operations. Garment manufacturing for export is now an extremely important economically; many of the country's other industries are based on the the processing of rubber and agricultural, fish, and timber products. Tourism also contributes significantly to the economy.
Cambodia is connected by road systems with Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam; waterways are an important supplement to the roads. The country has two rail lines, one extending from Phnom Penh to the Thai border and the other from Phnom Penh to Kompong Som (Sihanoukville). Clothing, timber, rubber, rice, fish, tobacco, and footwear are the main exports; petroleum products, cigarettes, gold, construction materials, machinery, motor vehicles, and pharmaceuticals are the main imports. The chief trade partners are the United States, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and China.
Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy governed under the constitution of 1993, as amended. The king, who is head of state, is chosen by the Royal Council of the Throne from among the members of the royal family. The government is headed by the premier, who is chosen by the head of the National Assembly and appointed by the king. The bicameral parliament consists of the popularly elected 123-seat National Assembly and the 61-seat Senate. Two members of the Senate are appointed by the monarch, two are elected by the National Assembly, and 57 are indirectly elected. All members of the parliament serve five-year terms. Administratively, Cambodia is divided into 20 provinces and four municipalities.
Early History to Independence
The Funan empire was established in what is now Cambodia in the 1st cent. AD By the 3d cent. the Funanese, under the leadership of Fan Shih-man (reigned 205–25), had conquered their neighbors and extended their sway to the lower Mekong River. In the 4th cent., according to Chinese records, an Indian Brahmin extended his rule over Funan, introducing Hindu customs, the Indian legal code, and the alphabet of central India.
In the 6th cent. Khmers from the rival Chen-la state to the north overran Funan. With the rise of the Khmer Empire, Cambodia became dominant in SE Asia. Angkor, the capital of the Khmer empire, was one of the world's great architectural achievements. After the fall of the empire (15th cent.), however, Cambodia was the prey of stronger neighbors. To pressure from Siam on the western frontier was added in the 17th cent. pressure from Annam on the east; the kings of Siam and the lords of Hue alike asserted overlordship and claims to tribute. In the 18th cent. Cambodia lost three western provinces to Siam and the region of Cochin China to the Annamese.
Intrigue and wars on Cambodian soil continued into the 19th cent., and in 1854 the king of Cambodia appealed for French intervention. A French protectorate was formally established in 1863, and French influence was consolidated by a treaty in 1884. Cambodia became part of the Union of Indochina in 1887. In 1907 a French-Siamese treaty restored Cambodia's western provinces. In World War II, under Japanese occupation, Cambodia again briefly lost those provinces to Siam.
In Jan., 1946, France granted Cambodia self-government within the French Union; a constitution was promulgated in May, 1947. A treaty signed in 1949 raised the country's status to that of an associated state in the French Union, but limitations on the country's sovereignty persisted. King Norodom Sihanouk campaigned for complete independence, which was finally granted in 1953. Early in 1954, Communist Viet Minh troops from Vietnam invaded Cambodia. The Geneva Conference of 1954 led to an armistice providing for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Cambodia. An agreement between France and Cambodia (Dec., 1954) severed the last vestige of French control over Cambodian policy. Cambodia withdrew from the French Union in 1955 and was admitted into the United Nations later that year.
Cambodia under Sihanouk
King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated in Mar., 1955, in order to enter politics; his father, Norodom Suramarit, succeeded him as monarch. Sihanouk subsequently formed the Popular Socialist party and served as premier. After Suramarit's death in 1960, the monarchy was represented by Sihanouk's mother, Queen Kossamak Nearireak. Sihanouk was installed in the new office of chief of state. Throughout the 1960s, Sihanouk struggled to keep Cambodia neutral as the neighboring countries of Laos and South Vietnam came under increasing Communist attack (see Vietnam War). Sihanouk permitted the use of Cambodian territory as a supply base and refuge by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops while accepting military aid from the United States to strengthen his forces against Communist infiltration.
In 1963, Sihanouk accused the United States of supporting antigovernment activities and renounced all U.S. aid. Following a series of border incidents involving South Vietnamese troops, Cambodia in 1965 severed diplomatic relations with the United States. Sihanouk remained on friendly terms with the Communist countries, especially Communist China, and established close relations with France. Economic conditions deteriorated after the renunciation of U.S. aid, and North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops continued to infiltrate. In the spring of 1969 the United States instituted aerial attacks against Communist strongholds in Cambodia; these bombings, carefully kept secret from the American people, later became an important issue in U.S. politics. As Communist infiltration increased, Sihanouk began to turn more toward the West, and in July, 1969, diplomatic ties with the United States were restored. Relations with South Vietnam and Thailand, after years of border disputes and incidents, began to improve.
In Aug., 1969, Lt. Gen. Lon Nol, the defense minister and supreme commander of the army, became premier, with Sihanouk delegating considerable power to him. Sihanouk began negotiating for the removal of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops, who now numbered over 50,000 and occupied large areas of Cambodia. His actions, however, were not enough to ease the growing concern of many army leaders. Discontent with Sihanouk's rule was further heightened by rising inflation, ruinous financial policies, and governmental corruption and mismanagement. On Mar. 18, 1970, while Sihanouk was in Moscow seeking help against further North Vietnamese incursions, premier Lon Nol led a right-wing coup deposing Sihanouk as chief of state. Sihanouk subsequently set up a government-in-exile in Beijing. Soon after the coup, Cambodian troops began engaging Communist forces on Cambodian soil.
In Apr., 1970, U.S. and South Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia to attack Communist bases and supply lines. U.S. ground forces were withdrawn by June 30, but South Vietnamese troops remained, occupying heavily populated areas. The actions of the South Vietnamese troops in Cambodia and the resumption of heavy U.S. air bombings in their support, with the inevitable destruction of villages and killing of civilians, alienated many Cambodians and created considerable sympathy for the Communists. The number of Cambodian Communists (known as the Khmer Rouge) increased from about 3,000 in Mar., 1970, to over 30,000 within a few years. Most of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops were able to withdraw, leaving in progress a raging civil war fought by Cambodians but financed by the United States, North Vietnam, and Communist China.
On Oct. 9, 1970, the national assembly declared Cambodia a republic and changed the country's name to the Khmer Republic. By that time, however, the national government controlled less than one third of Cambodia's total land area: Phnom Penh, most of the provincial capitals, and the central plain S of Tônlé Sap. Despite extensive U.S. military aid, the Khmer Rouge retained firm control of the northeast provinces and most of the countryside. Eventually, more and more territory fell into Communist hands, despite intensive U.S. bombing attacks which persisted until the halt imposed by the U.S. Congress in Aug., 1973.
The government's military position became desperate, with government forces concentrating primarily on keeping communications open with an increasingly beleaguered Phnom Penh. In Sept., 1972, severe food shortages in Phnom Penh sparked two days of rioting and large-scale looting, in which government troops participated. Lon Nol, aided by his brother Lon Non, exerted an increasingly oppressive rule, with massive political arrests and newspaper seizures. The Khmer Rouge insurgents launched a large-scale attack against Cambodia's third largest city, Kompong Cham, in Sept., 1973, and shelled Phnom Penh in 1974 and 1975, inflicting heavy casualties.
The Khmer Rouge and After
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, seized control of Phnom Penh and overthrew the U.S.-backed government of Lon Nol. The Khmer Rouge renamed the country the Democratic Kampuchea, and established Pol Pot as the premier. Immediately following the takeover, Phnom Penh was evacuated, and the entire population of the country's urban areas was forced to move to rural areas and work in agriculture. Most of the country's vehicles and machines were destroyed because the new regime was opposed to technology and Western influence. It is estimated that about a million and a half people were executed by the Khmer Rouge over the next four years. Members of the upper, middle, or educated classes, as well as suspected enemies of the Khmer Rouge, were victims of the genocide.
In 1978, after Pol Pot refused offers of negotiation and international supervision, the Vietnamese army invaded and seized Phnom Penh in 1979. Prince Sihanouk, who had been imprisoned in his palace by the Khmer Rouge, again fled to Beijing. The Khmer Rouge was driven into the western countryside, but the Kampuchean People's Republic, led by Pol Pot, was still recognized by the United Nations as the country's legitimate government. Throughout the 1980s various guerrilla factions formed and skirmished with the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge. One such group was a coalition force led by Sihanouk, who was still recognized by many Cambodians as the country's true leader.
In 1987 talks began in Paris to try to settle the civil war, and in 1989, Vietnam announced plans to withdraw its occupying troops from Cambodia. A peace treaty was signed by all of Cambodia's warring factions (including the Khmer Rouge, Hun Sen's Vietnamese-supported government, and Prince Sihanouk's faction) on Oct. 23, 1991. As agreed in the treaty, the United Nations assumed (1992) the government's administrative functions and worked toward democratic elections. However, provisions calling for disarmament of all factions were resisted by the Khmer Rouge, who resumed guerrilla warfare. Sihanouk denounced the Khmer Rouge, aligned himself with Premier Hun Sen, and again became head of state.
Cambodia's first-ever democratic elections were held in May, 1993, supervised by a large UN peacekeeping mission. Royalists won the largest bloc of national assembly seats (58 out of 120); Hun Sen's party came in second, and a coalition government with co-premiers—Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen—was formed. The government administration remained populated largely by bureaucrats who had operated under the Hun Sen regime. The Khmer Rouge, who had boycotted the elections, continued armed opposition, retaining control of substantial territory in the N and W parts of the country. A new constitution reestablished the monarchy, and in Sept., 1993, Sihanouk became king. Attempts at mediation with the Khmer Rouge failed, and fighting continued.
In 1996 the Khmer Rouge split into two factions, one of which made an accord with the government. Pol Pot was ousted and imprisoned by the remaining Khmer Rouge in 1997 and died in 1998; the Khmer Rouge subsequently lost most of its remaining power and support. Following fighting in July, 1997, between the factions of Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh, Hun Sen's forces declared victory and Ranariddh fled the country; he was replaced as first premier by Ung Huot. Prince Ranariddh returned to Cambodia in Mar., 1998, and became an opposition candidate in the legislative elections held in July. Hun Sen's party (the Cambodian People's party) was the official winner of the disputed election (with 64 seats out of 122), and he became the sole premier. Prince Ranariddh became the president of the national assembly, but Hun Sen further consolidated his control of the country.
Cambodia joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1999. Elections in July, 2003, failed to give Hun Sen's Cambodian People's party (CPP) the two-thirds majority needed to govern without a coalition, but the liberal and royalist opposition parties denounced the results, rejected a two-party coalition, formed the Alliance of Democrats, and insisted that the alliance be the cornerstone of a three-party coalition. The deadlock remained unresolved until June, 2004, when Prince Ranariddh's party agreed to a renewed coalition with the CPP. A 186-member cabinet, the seats in which were reportedly sold for large sums in the expectation that they would yield corrupt profits, was formed.
The king abdicated in Oct., 2004, in favor of his son Norodom Sihamoni, despite the fact that the constitution made no provision for abdication. In Feb., 2005, the national assembly lifted opposition leader Sam Rainsy's parliamentary immunity, subjecting him to potential defamation lawsuits from the governing coalition, which he had accused of corruption. He fled Cambodia, and was subsequently convicted of defamation. Other members of his party also were tried and convicted in trials that international human-rights groups said were shams, and subsequently independent human-rights activists were arrested.
A political truce in early 2006, due in part to pressure from international aid donors, resulted in a pardon for Sam Rainsy and others and in Rainsy's return to Cambodia. In Mar., 2006, the constitution was amended so that future governments could be formed with the support of a majority of the members of parliamemt instead of two thirds of the members. Evidence of corruption led the World Bank to suspend funding for three Cambodian development projects in mid-2006. In July, 2006, a tribunal staffed by both Cambodian and international judges was formed to try former Khmer Rouge leaders; the event marked the culmination of nearly nine years of negotiations concerning such trials. The first trial began in 2009 and resulted (2010) in the conviction of the former prison chief. Other former leaders were tried beginning in 2011; Khieu Samphan, a largely figurehead former head of state was convicted of crimes against humanity in 2014. In Oct., 2006, Prince Ranariddh was ousted as leader of the royalist party while he was out of the country. He was subsequently convicted (2007) in absentia of fraud in the sale of the party's headquarters; Ranariddh denounced the conviction as politically motivated; he was pardoned by the king in 2008.
Tensions flared between Cambodia and Thailand in July, 2008, over the Preah Vihear (Phra Viharn) temple on their border. Claimed by both nations but awarded to Cambodia in 1962, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Thai government support for that distinction became a Thai domestic political issue, sparking strong nationalism in both nations and creating a crisis between them. The reinforcement of troops along the border near the temple also led to concern over possible fighting, but in August both sides withdrew most of their forces from the area. Tensions increased in September, however, and there was a brief outbreak of fighting the following month; clashes erupted again in Apr., 2009, and recurred in subsequent years. A demilitarized zone was established around the temple in 2012; most of the disputed area was awarded (2013) by the International Court of Justice to Cambodia. Relations with the Thais worsened again in Nov., 2009, when Hun Sen appointed Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's deposed prime minister, as an adviser.
Cambodian parliamentary elections in July, 2008, resulted in a landslide for Premier Hun Sen, whose party received nearly 60% of the vote. International observers termed the election flawed but the result largely valid; Cambodian opposition parties, however, denounced the result as manipulated but ultimately accepted the outcome. Government corruption remains a significant problem in Cambodia. In Jan. and Sept., 2010, opposition leader Sam Rainsy was convicted in absentia on charges relating to his actions concerning the marking of the Cambodia-Vietnam border; he had questioned the government's marking of the border, saying it encroached on Cambodian territory, and had removed border markers during a political protest. There was a significant and deadly border clash between Thai and Cambodian forces at the Preah Vihear temple in Feb., 2011, and there and at other sites in April. In Dec., 2011, both sides agreed to withdraw their forces from the disputed areas around Preah Vihear. Cambodia experienced significant flooding during the 2011 monsoon season; by October, three quarters of the country's provinces had been affected by floodwaters.
In the July, 2013, elections, Hun Sen's party won a majority of the seats, but the government was accused of fraud by Sam Rainsy and his party. Sam Rainsy, who shortly before the election was pardoned and had returned to the country, led a parliamentary boycott and protests against the results that continued into 2014, when the government also faced strikes by garment workers and others. In Jan., 2014, the government violently crushed protesting strikers and also dispersed and banned opposition protests. In July, 2014, Sam Rainsy reached an agreement with the government that ended the opposition's year-long boycott, but his party again boycotted parliament for several months in late 2015 after thugs attacked two opposition lawmakers.
See M. F. Herz, A Short History of Cambodia (1958); M. Leifer, Cambodia, The Search for Security (1967); M. Osborne, The French Presence in Cochinchina and Cambodia (1969); D. A. Albin and Marlowe Hood, ed., The Cambodian Agony (1987); K. D. Jackson, ed., Cambodia, 1975–1978 (1989); D. P. Chandler, The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Power, War and Revolution Since 1945 (1992); C. Riley and D. Niven, ed., The Killing Fields (1997); D. Pran, Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (1997).
"Cambodia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Cambodia.html
"Cambodia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Cambodia.html
Known briefly from 1970-1975 as the Kymer Republic and Kampuchea, Cambodia is a Southeast Asian country that has been particularly and negatively affected by the rush to modernize and secularize since World War II. It is a land rich in occult history and lore, a heritage at essential conflict with the recent course of political history. In the tremendous upheavals following the Vietnamese war, many customs, traditions, and beliefs have been disrupted. Although the 1976 constitution of Cambodia granted freedom of worship to a people traditionally following the Theravada Buddhist faith, refugees report that religious practices are not permitted in the general political change to Marxist-Leninist ideology. The famous monument, Angkor, the capital of the ancient Khmer Republic, is now representative of the Buddhist religion. This temple, which exists second to the Pyramids in occult importance, was dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu, and is now considered, since 1992, a World Heritage site. The horrific excesses of the Khmer Rouge under the Pol Pot regime graphically dramatized in the film The Killing Fields (1984), represent one of the more horrific chapters in all of human history. In 1998 Cambodia's borders became open to international travel.
In the past, magic was mixed up to a surprising degree with the daily life of the people. They consulted sorcerers on the most trivial matters and were constantly at great pains to dis-cover whether any small venture was likely to prove lucky or un-lucky. There were two kinds of magical practitioners, the à thmop, or soothsayers, and the kru or medicine-sorcerers. Of these, the latter enjoyed the highest reputation as healers and exorcists, while the former were less respected, dealing in charms and philters for the sake of gain, or in evil incantations and spells.
The outcast kru, however, could be ministers of destruction as well as of healing. One of the means used to take the life of an enemy was the old device favored by sorcerers. They would make a wax figure of the victim, prick it at the spot where they wished to harm him or her, and thus bring disease and death upon the individual. Another plan was to take two skulls from which the tops had been removed, place them against each other, and secretly place them under the bed of a healthy man, where they were believed to have very evil results. Sometimes by means of spells the kru would transform wood shavings or grains of rice into a large beetle or worms, which were said to enter the body of the victim and cause illness, or even death. If the person thus attacked happened to possess the friendship of a more powerful sorcerer, however, a stronger magic could be obtained, and the original sorcery blocked. The more harmless occupations of the wizards consisted in making philters and amulets to insure the admiration of women, the favor of the king, and success at play.
The evil spirits, to whom were ascribed the most malicious intent, were called pray, the most fearsome variety being the khmoc pray, or wicked dead, which included the spirits of women who died in childbirth. From their hiding places in the trees these spirits were said to torment inoffensive passers-by with their hideous laughter, and shower stones down upon them. These practices were, of course, calculated either to kill or to drive the unfortunate recipients of their attentions insane. Among the trees there were also supposed to be concealed mischievous demons who inflicted terrible and incurable diseases upon mankind.
Those who suffered a violent death were also greatly to be feared. From the nethermost regions they would return, pale and terrible, to demand food from human beings, who dared not deny it to them. Their name, beisac, signifies "goblin, " and they were believed to have the power to inflict all manner of evil on those who refused their request. So the average Cambodian, to avert such happenings, used to put his offering of rice or other food in the brushwood to appease the goblins. The pray generally required to have their offerings laid on the winnowing fan that enters so largely into Cambodian superstition.
The werewolf, both male and female, struck terror into the hearts of the people. By the use of certain magical rites and formulae, people could be endowed with supernatural powers, such as the ability to swallow dishes, and thereupon change into werewolves. Women who had been rubbed with oil a wizard had consecrated were said to lose their reason and to flee away to the woods. They retained their human shape for seven days. If during that time a man underwent the same process of being rubbed with consecrated oil, followed the woman to the woods, and struck her on the head with a heavy bar, then the Cambodians claimed she would recover her reason and return home. If, on the other hand, no such drastic remedy was to be found, at the end of seven days the woman would turn into a tigress. In order to cure a man of being a werewolf, one should strike him on the shoulder with a hook.
The Cambodians believed that ghosts issued from dead bodies during the process of decomposition. When this ceased the ghosts were no longer seen, and the remains changed into owls and other nocturnal birds.
Most hideous of all the evil spirits were the srei ap, or ghouls, who, represented only by head and alimentary canal, prowled nightly in search of gruesome orgies. They were known by their terrible and bloodshot eyes, and much feared, since even their wish to harm could inflict injury. When anyone was denounced as a ghoul she was treated with great severity, either by the authorities, who may have sentenced her to banishment or death, or by the villagers, who sometimes took the law into their own hands and punished the supposed offender.
Astrology was also widely practiced in Cambodia. Astrologers, or, as they were called, horas, were attached to the court, and their direct employment by the king gave them some standing in the country. At the beginning of each year they made a calendar, which contained, besides the usual astronomical information, weather and other predictions. They were consulted by the people on all sorts of subjects, and were believed to be able to avert the calamities they predicted. In modern Cambodia, the Songkran, or astrology festival, is still celebrated.
It is not surprising that in such a country, where good and evil powers were ascribed so lavishly, much attention should be paid to omens, and much time spent in rites to avert misfor-tune. The wind, the fog, and the trees were objects of fear and awe, to be approached with circumspection lest they send dis-ease and misfortune, or withhold some good. For instance, trees whose roots grow under a house bring bad luck to it. Bamboo and cotton plants were also dangerous when planted near a house, for should they grow higher than the house, they would wish, out of a perverted sense of gratitude, to provide a funeral cushion and matting for the occupants.
Animals received their share of superstitious veneration. Tigers were regarded as malevolent creatures whose whiskers were very poisonous. Elephants were seen as sacred, and particularly so white elephants. Monkeys they would on no account destroy. Should a butterfly enter the house, it was considered extremely unlucky, while a grasshopper, on the contrary, indicated coming good fortune.
Angkor Wat. http://ce.eng.usf.edu/pharos/wonders/Forgotten/angkor.html. June 16, 2000.
"Cambodia." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3403800879.html
"Cambodia." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. 2001. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3403800879.html
Official name: Kingdom of Cambodia
Area: 181,040 square kilometers (69,900 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Phnom Aural (1,810 meters/5,939 feet)
Lowest point on land: Gulf of Thailand at sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 7 p.m. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 730 kilometers (454 miles) from northeast to southwest; 512 kilometers (318 miles) from northwest to southeast
Coastline: 443 kilometers (275 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Cambodia is located in the southwestern part of the Indochina peninsula. (Besides Cambodia, the countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and part of Malaysia make up the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia.) Cambodia lies completely within the tropics—its southernmost points are only a little more than ten degrees above the equator. Bordered by Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, Cambodia also has a short but heavily indented coastline on the Gulf of Thailand. Cambodia has an area of 181,040 square kilometers (69,900 square miles), or slightly less than the state of Oklahoma.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Cambodia claims no territories or dependencies.
Cambodia has a humid, tropical climate. There is little seasonal variation in temperatures, which generally range from 20°C to 36°C (68°F to 97°F). The two seasons are determined by monsoons. Southwestern winds bring the rainy season, which lasts from April or May to November; northeast monsoon winds trigger a drier season for the remainder of the year, characterized by lower rainfall, less humidity, and variable skies. Rainfall varies from 127 to 140 centimeters (50 to 55 inches) in the great central basin to 508 centimeters (200 inches) or more in the southwestern mountains.
|Rainy (summer)||April to November|
|Dry (winter)||December to March|
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
The heart of Cambodia, occupying three-quarters of the country, is the large drainage basin of the Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong River. Located in the center of the country, it consists mostly of plains with elevations generally less than 91 meters (300 feet) above sea level. It is bounded by highlands to the east and northeast and by the Cardamom Mountains and Elephant Mountains to the southwest. The mountain ranges that mark the southwestern edge of the central plains are bordered on the Gulf of Thailand side by a narrow coastal plain.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Cambodia is bordered on the southwest by the Gulf of Thailand.
Seacoast and Undersea Features
Recreational snorkelers enjoy exploring the waters off Kâmpóng Saôm.
Sea Inlets and Straits
The most important feature of Cambodia's short coastline is the deep, irregularly shaped bay at the port of Kâmpóng Saôm.
Islands and Archipelagos
Numerous islands dot the waters off the Cambodian coast. The largest include Kaôh Kong and Kaôh Rung.
Cambodia's coastline is heavily indented. The largest and deepest indentation is the bay at Kâmpóng Saôm.
6 INLAND LAKES
Cambodia's largest lake is the Tonle Sap, or Great Lake. Connected to the Mekong River by the Tonle Sap River, it acts as a natural reservoir during the Mekong's flood period. During this time, the area of the lake is enlarged from a low of about 260 square kilometers (100 square miles) to nearly 2,100 square kilometers (800 square miles) at the height of the flooding.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The Mekong River, together with its drainage basin, is Cambodia's dominant physical feature. The Mekong flows southward in Cambodia for about 505 kilometers (315 miles), from the Cambodia-Laos border to below the provincial capital of Krâchéh, where it turns westward and then southwestward to Phnom Penh. From Phnom Penh, the river flows generally southeastward. It divides at this point into two principal channels. The new one is known as the Tonle Basak River, which flows independently from here on through the delta area into the South China Sea. In the southwest, the Cardamom and Elephant ranges form a separate drainage divide. To the east of this divide, the rivers flow into the Tonle Sap; those to the west drain into the Gulf of Thailand. There are extensive rapids located just upstream of Krâchéh.
There are no desert areas in Cambodia.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The alluvial plain (area made up of soil deposited by a river) of the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap drainage basin occupies the center of the country, surrounded by a transitional zone of rolling land with elevations of up to several hundred feet above sea level. The regular flooding of the central plain irrigates the land for the cultivation of rice and other crops.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The Cardamom (Krâvanh) Mountains, extending in a northwest-southeast direction, have elevations rising to over 1,524 meters (5,000 feet); Phnom Aural, an eastern spur of this range, is the highest point in the country. The Elephant (Dâmrei) Mountains, running south and southeastward from the Cardamom, has elevations above 914 meters (3,000 feet). The Dangrek range at the northern rim of the basin consists of a steep cliff with an average elevation of about 487 meters (1,600 feet). Facing south, it constitutes the southern edge of the Khorat Plateau, which extends northward into Thailand.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
There are a few caves in Cambodia. At Phnom Proset, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Phnom Penh, is Prasat Ruong, or Temple of the Mountain Cave. Prasat Ruong was built over the opening to a cave that may be explored for about 50 meters (160 feet).
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
East of the Mekong River, mountains and plateaus extend eastward at an average elevation of 360 meters (1,200 feet), continuing past the border as the central highlands of Vietnam.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
Hydroelectric dams were being planned in 2001 and 2002, including one in Bokor National Park in southwest Cambodia.
DID YOU KNOW?
Dolphins swim in the waters of the upper Mekong River. Despite increased river traffic, Cambodian customs and environmental activists have managed to protect the estimated eighty dolphins that inhabit the river.
14 FURTHER READING
Downie, Susan. Down Highway One: Journeys Through Vietnam and Cambodia. North Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1993.
Livingston, Carol. Gecko Tails: A Journey Through Cambodia. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1996.
Wurlitzer, Rudolph. Hard Travel to Sacred Places. Boston: Shambhala, 1994.
Asian Studies Virtual Library Web site. http://www.iias.nl/wwwvl/southeas/cambodia.html (accessed February 26, 2003).
Internet Travel Guide. http://www.pmgeiser.ch/cambodia/ (accessed February 26, 2003).
"Cambodia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900040.html
"Cambodia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900040.html
|Official Country Name:||Kingdom of Cambodia|
|Language(s):||Khmer, French, English|
|Number of Primary Schools:||5,026|
|Compulsory Schooling:||6 years|
|Public Expenditure on Education:||2.9%|
|Educational Enrollment:||Primary: 2,011,772|
|Educational Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 110%|
|Student-Teacher Ratio:||Primary: 46:1|
|Female Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 100%|
Formal education in Cambodia was first provided solely to young boys by Buddhist monks, known as bonzes. During the second half of the nineteenth century, French leaders implemented a system based on their own model, with primary, secondary, and higher levels all overseen by the Ministry of Education. Although Cambodia maintained this system for several decades, it was not until the southeast Asian nation achieved independence from France in 1953 that educational efforts there became widespread.
Public and private schools in Cambodia offered six years of primary education, separated into two segments, each of which required successful completion of a national examination. Subjects included history, ethics, civics, mathematics, drafting, geography, language, science, and hygiene. Although Khmer was the language of instruction during the first three years of schooling, students were taught French, which became the language of instruction in the second three-year cycle of primary instruction. Secondary education consisted of four years at a college (lower secondary school) and an additional three years at a lycée (higher secondary school). Students who completed the first four-year cycle and passed a national examination received a secondary degree. Those who completed two years of the additional three-year cycle were required to pass a national examination to receive their first baccalaureate, and another examination after their final year, to receive their second baccalaureate.
Secondary education became increasingly focused on technology during the late 1960s and early 1970s; during this period, higher education institutions in Cambodia began to expand. Enrollment at the University of Phnom Penh grew to more than 4,500 men and 730 women. Three provincial universities opened in Batdambang, Kampong Cham, and Takev. However, the communist takeover of Cambodia in 1975 dealt the educational system there a nearly fatal blow. Schools were systematically closed, and of the 20,000 teachers living in Cambodia in the early 1970s, only 5,000 remained when the Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime and established the People's Republic of Kampuchea in 1979. Some teachers had fled, others died of malnutrition or illness, and others had been murdered. What education remained focused on Khmer doctrine.
In the early 1980s, Cambodia slowly began rebuilding its educational system under Vietnamese rule. The Ministry of Education, which later became known as the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MEYS), shortened the prior 13-year French-based program to 10 years. Primary and secondary education programs more closely resembled Vietnamese models, and students—limited to those who could afford tuition fees—were required to study the Vietnamese language. By 1986, several institutions of higher education had been founded or reopened, including the University of Fine Arts, the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, the Chamkar Daung Agriculture Institute, the Kampuchea-USSR Friendship Technical Institute (now known as the Institute of Technology), the Institute of Commerce (now known as the Faculty of Business), the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences, and the Center for Pedagogical Education. The Institute of Languages and the Normal Advanced School merged into the University of Phnom Penh in 1988.
The State of Cambodia (SOC) gained control of the country in 1989, followed by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) in 1992. Public education was again made free to all residents, and the coalition governments in power since 1993 have, in general, supported efforts by the MEYS to bolster literacy rates—81.8 percent for males and 58.1 percent for females in 1998—and improve access to education, particularly in rural communities.
In 1998, more than 5,000 primary schools were in operation; enrollment was roughly 78.3 percent of children aged 6 to 11. However, nearly 50 percent of all primary schools, mainly ones in rural areas, were unable to offer a full range of grades one through six. Lower secondary schools in operation totaled 350, while upper secondary schools numbered 125. The mid-1990s launch of a new 12-year education system, which included six years of primary education and two three-year cycles of secondary education, increased the school year to 38 weeks. As prescribed by the new curriculum, each five-day week consists of six periods lasting 45 minutes each. To help fund the expanded educational system, the government increased the 8.1 percent of the national budget spent on education in 1997 to 10.3 percent in 1998.
Credentials for primary and lower secondary school teachers have also been upgraded. Once simply required to complete lower secondary school and then a two- or three-year teacher training program, primary and lower secondary teachers must now graduate from both lower and upper secondary school prior to completion of a two-year teacher training program. Upper secondary school teachers must complete five years of study at the University of Phnom Penh.
Ayres, David M. Anatomy of a Crisis: Education, Development, and the State in Cambodia 1953-1998. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000.
Kingdom of Cambodia Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport. Country Education Profile. Phnom Penh, December 1999. Available from http://www.moeys.gov.kh.
U.S. Library of Congress. Federal Research Division. Cambodia—A Country Study. Washington, DC: August 1994. Available from http://rs6.loc.gov.
World Higher Education Database 2000. Cambodia—Education System. Paris: International Association of Universities/UNESCO International Centre on Higher Education, 1998-1999. Available from http://www.usc.edu.
—AnnaMarie L. Sheldon
Sheldon, AnnaMarie L.. "Cambodia." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700043.html
Sheldon, AnnaMarie L.. "Cambodia." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700043.html
181,040sq km (69,900sq mi)
Phnom Penh (998,000)
Khmer 94%, Chinese 3%, Cham 2%, Thai, Lao, Kola, Vietnamese
Riel = 100 sen
Climate and VegetationCambodia has a tropical monsoon climate, with constant high humidity and temperatures. Coastal regions have the highest rainfall. The dry season lasts from November to April. Forests cover c.75% of Cambodia. In the n mountains, on the border with Thailand, are dense tropical rainforests, while mangrove forests line the coast.
History and PoliticsIn the 6th century, the Khmer established an empire roughly corresponding to modern-day Cambodia and Laos. In 889, the empire was reunited, with its capital at Angkor. The Angkor period (889–1434) was the golden age of Khmer civilization, culminating in the 12th-century construction of Angkor Wat. In 1434, the Thai captured Angkor and the capital transferred to Phnom Penh. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Cambodia was a battleground for the empires of Siam and Annam. In 1887 Cambodia became part of the Union of Indochina. During World War II, Japan occupied Indochina. In 1953, Cambodia achieved independence from France. Prince Norodom Sihanouk became king. In 1955 he abdicated to become Prime Minister.
The Vietnam War (1954–75) dominated Cambodian politics. Initially, Cambodia received US aid, but in 1963 Sihanouk denounced US interference. The build-up of North Vietnamese troops persuaded Sihanouk to seek US help, and in 1969 the US conducted secret bombing raids on communist bases in Cambodia. In March 1970, Lon Nol Sihanouk overthrew Sihanouk and US and South Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia to destroy North Vietnamese camps. Many civilians were killed and public support rallied to the Cambodian communists (Khmer Rouge). In October 1970, the Khmer Republic was declared but the communists already controlled most of rural Cambodia, and civil war broke out. Despite US bombing and military aid, the government continued to lose ground. In 1973, the US Congress halted air attacks. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge (led by Pol Pot) seized Phnom Penh. Cambodia was renamed Kampuchea. A brutal form of peasant politics ensued, and a series of purges left 1–4 million people dead. In 1979, Vietnamese and Cambodian troops overthrew Pol Pot. Vietnam withdrew in 1989, and in 1992 UN forces began to disarm the factions. In 1993, elections were held (without the Khmer Rouge) and a coalition government was formed. Sihanouk was restored as king. In 1994, the Khmer Rouge was banned. In 1997, Hun Sen ousted his co-premier, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Hun Sen gained victory in 1998 elections, amid claims of widespread fraud.
EconomyCambodia is a poor nation (2000 GDP per capita, US$1300), wrecked by war. Until the 1970s it was agriculturally self-sufficient, but now depends on food imports and aid. Farming employs 80% of the workforce. Rice, rubber and maize are the major products. Corruption and instability persist.
"Cambodia." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-Cambodia.html
"Cambodia." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-Cambodia.html
|Official Country Name:||Kingdom of Cambodia|
|Region (Map name):||Southeast Asia|
|Language(s):||Khmer, French, English|
War and political strife have stifled modern Cambodia's media. The Cambodian government controls both the print and electronic press. Officials often intimidate, fine, or imprison journalists who stray from accepted media policies, particularly concerning human rights issues. Reporting is often hazardous, especially during volatile elections. Because the Khmer Rouge purged journalists, training programs teach media skills to inexperienced reporters. The Khmer Journalists Association encourages Cambodian journalists to act professionally; however, underpaid journalists sometimes resort to extortion to supplement their incomes.
Most media is centered in Khmer. More Cambodians acquire information from radio than from any other media. There are an estimated one million radios in Cambodia. Broadcasts are accessible in all provinces, and people who do not own radios can hear broadcasts on market loudspeakers. The Khmer Rouge seized control of Phnom Penh's radio station in 1975 to broadcast propaganda. After Vietnamese forces defeated the Khmer Rouge and temporarily occupied Cambodia, radio services were gradually restored. The Kampuchean Radio and Television Commission was established in 1983. The Voice of the Kampuchean People (VOKP), later called Voice of Cambodia, was on the air by the late 1980s.
Rebel Khmer Rouge forces continued to broadcast from remote locations. The Cambodia Radio Journalists' Training Project, aiming to improve Cambodia's 13 radio stations, was initiated in 1999.
There are only 100,000 televisions in Cambodia, and more urban dwellers than rural have access to television media. Skeptical Cambodians were convinced that Khmer Rouge dictator Pol Pot had died when his corpse was broadcast on television. In March 1986, Television Kampuchea (TVK) first broadcast in Phnom Penh. By the twenty-first century, six television stations broadcast various programming.
Phnom Penh is the nucleus of print journalism. The largest daily Khmer-language newspaper, Rasmei Kampuchea, has a circulation of 15,000. When United Nations peacekeepers encouraged democracy, more English-language newspapers began to be printed. The biweekly, independent Phnom Penh Post (http://www.phnompenhpost.com/) started in 1992. Newspapers Phnom Penh Daily (http://www.phnompenhdaily.com/), Cambodia Daily, Cambodia Times (which ceased publication in 1997), and magazines Bayon Pearnik and Indradevi feature contrasting views. Journalists have successfully countered government efforts to make Cambodia's press laws more restrictive. Several Internet sites also post Cambodian news.
Mehta, Harish C. Cambodia Silenced: The Press Under Six Regimes. Introduction and photgraphs by Tim Page. Bangkok: White Lotus Company Ltd., 1997.
Ross, Russell R., ed. Cambodia: A Country Study. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division Library of Congress, 1990.
Schanberg, Sydney H. The Death and Life of Dith Pran. New York: Viking, 1985.
Elizabeth D. Schafer
Schafer, Elizabeth D.. "Cambodia." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900042.html
Schafer, Elizabeth D.. "Cambodia." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900042.html
■ HILL TRIBESPEOPLE … 70
Over 90 percent of the 10 million people in Cambodia are ethnic Khmers, descendants of the original population in the area. The largest minority groups are the Chinese (about 61,000) and Vietnamese (estimated at 56,000). Other minorities include small tribal groups known as hill tribespeople that live in the mountains of the country. More information on the ethnic Vietnamese may be found in the chapter on Vietnam in Volume 9. Information on the Chinese can be found in the chapter on China in this volume.
"Cambodia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900084.html
"Cambodia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900084.html
Identification. The name "Cambodia" derives from the French Cambodge, which comes from the Khmer word Kâmpuchea, meaning "born of Kambu." During the socialist regimes of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) (1975–1979) and the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) (1979–1989), the country was known internationally as Kampuchea, but more recent governments have returned to using Cambodia, and the official name in English is now the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Khmer as a noun or adjective can refer to the Cambodian language, people, or culture and thus suggests an ethnic and linguistic identity more than a political entity. From 1970 to 1975, the country was known as the Khmer Republic (KR).
Location and Geography. Cambodia lies between Thailand and Vietnam in mainland southeast Asia, with a smaller stretch of the northern border adjoining Laos. The most central region culturally and economically is the lowland flood plain of the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake. The Sap River meets the Mekong at Phnom Penh, where the river soon divides again into the Bassac and the Mekong, which flow through southern Vietnam to the South China Sea. Although Cambodia also has a coastline on the Gulf of Thailand, the coast is separated from the central flood plain by mountains; only since the 1950s have railroads and roads provided ready access to the coastal port towns.
The economy is dominated by wet rice agriculture. The iconic image of the countryside is one of rice paddies among which are scattered sugar palms. Until recently, much of the area outside the flood plains was forested.
The ancient capital of the Khmer Empire was at Angkor, close to present-day Siem Reap. In the fifteenth century, the capital was moved to the area of the intersection of the Sap and Mekong rivers, near present-day Phnom Penh, perhaps to enhance trade. The most densely populated areas now are along the rivers in the provinces near Phnom Penh.
Demography. According to a 1998 census, the population is 11.42 million. There are no reliable statistics for ethnic populations, although the Khmer population is certainly the largest. A 1993 demographic study estimated that Khmer represented 88.7 percent of the population; Vietnamese, 5.2 percent; Cham, 2.5 percent; Chinese, 1 percent; and others (Thai, Lao, and smaller minority groups in the north and northeast), 2.6 percent.
Linguistic Affiliation. The dominant Khmer language belongs to the Austroasiatic language family and is related to Vietnamese, Mon, and a number of other Asian languages. Khmer writing, derived from Indian systems, may have begun as early as the third century c.e.; the first dated inscriptions in Khmer are from the seventh century c.e. While Khmer is closer to Vietnamese than to Thai, a shared literate tradition related to a common religion and centuries of cultural contact has resulted in much vocabulary being shared with Thai. As in Thailand, Laos, and Burma, the language of Theravada Buddhist scriptures, Pali, often is studied by young men during temporary periods as monks and is an important influence on literary Khmer.
A scarcity of written materials resulting from the colonial dominance of French and later periods of political turmoil had left the educated population highly dependent on second languages, and in urban areas there is a great desire to learn English and French. Despite the efforts of France to promote the continued use of French as a second language, it is probably giving way to English. Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cham, who are often bilingual, freely use their own languages, and Vietnamese and Chinese newspapers are published in Phnom Penh.
Symbolism. The most important cultural symbol is the ancient Khmer temple Angkor Wat, along with the ancient Khmer Empire and its monumental antiquities. Pictures and bas-relief carvings of the four-faced tower of the Bayon at Angkor Thom and of âpsâras (celestial dancing girls) are ubiquitous in homes and public buildings. Since independence, every flag except the one used by the United Nations when it administered the country in 1993 has featured the image of Angkor Wat. Classical dance, also an important national symbol, consciously tries in costume and gesture to recreate Angkorean bas-reliefs.
The institution of kingship, which was reestablished in 1993, is an important national symbol, especially in rural areas, where devotion to the king never died out during the socialist period. It is not clear to what extent the symbolism of kingship can be separated from its current embodiment in Norodom Sihanouk.
In the 1980s, the government promoted the memory of the atrocities of 1975–1979 DK period, also known as the Pol Pot regime, including holidays to commemorate bitterness (20 May) and national liberation (7 January). However, the DK atrocities symbolize Cambodian identity much less for its people than they do for foreigners. Nevertheless, many Cambodians express a sense that their culture has been lost or is in danger, and this cultural vulnerability stands as a kind of national symbol.
National identity sometimes is mobilized around the idea of hostility to Vietnam. This derives in part from the ways in which national identity was defined by resistance groups during the PRK period, when there was a strong Vietnamese military and cultural presence.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. The roots of the nation lie in the systematization of wet rice agriculture and the gradual development of a more extensive political organization that climaxed in the Khmer Empire in the period 802–1431. The Khmer Empire was not a nation in the modern sense and varied in size from king to king. However, at different times the empire ruled large parts of what is now Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. The population of the empire included Siamese and probably other Austroasiatic peoples who gradually assimilated to the Khmer. Khmer culture and language were clearly dominant during that period, and the Khmer population extended well beyond the current boundaries.
The rise of Siam (now Thailand) as an empire and nation and the gradual expansion of Vietnam drastically decreased Khmer territory and led to a period when Cambodia was dominated by those kingdoms. It is generally accepted that if Cambodia had not been colonized by France, it would have been swallowed by its neighbors.
National Identity. True national identity was created during the French colonial presence. The French fixed boundaries, systematized government and ecclesiastical bureaucracies, promoted the empire as a national symbol, encouraged an increasingly elaborate ceremonial role for the king, and introduced secular education.
Ethnic Relations. There are significant populations of ethnic Khmer in Thailand and Vietnam. The Khmer in Thailand are well integrated into the Thai state, with few significant links to Cambodia. The Khmer in southern Vietnam, called Khmer Kraom, have historically had much stronger ties to Cambodia proper, and several important Cambodian political leaders have been Khmer Kraom. There continues to be migration of Khmer Kraom to Cambodia, including young men who come as Buddhist monks; many Khmer Kraom have a strong sense of identity with the nation. Their role in Cambodia is complex in that while they are glorified as a symbol of lost territory, they are sometimes distrusted as being Vietnamese.
Large numbers of the Cambodian refugees who fled to camps in Thailand during the DK period and the early PRK period resettled in the United States, France, Australia, and New Zealand. The largest ethnic minority population is Vietnamese, whose numbers range between 500,000 and a million. However, those numbers are hotly contested for political reasons. Tension between ethnic Khmer and Vietnamese is strong. Scholars disagree about whether this hostility has a long history or is a recent political construction. State-sponsored killing and forced expulsion of Vietnamese occurred during the KR and the DK periods. Since the 1991 Paris Agreements, there have been two well-publicized massacres of Vietnamese villagers and numerous smaller incidents of violence against Vietnamese, mostly attributable to Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Other new political parties employ strong anti-Vietnamese rhetoric. Vietnamese influence in Cambodia dates at least to the seventeenth century. A significant Vietnamese population in Phnom Penh predated French colonialism; however, the pattern of migration increased when the French brought Vietnamese to Cambodia as administrators, plantation workers, and urban laborers. As rice farmers, Vietnamese have often been in direct economic competition with Khmer. There are also large fishing communities of Vietnamese, and in urban areas, Vietnamese engage in a number of small trades, including construction work, another area where they compete with ethnic Khmer.
The Cham, a predominantly Muslim people, began migrating to Cambodia in the fifteenth century from the South China Sea coast as that area came under Vietnamese political domination. Their population is between 240,000 and 300,000. Many Cham live in riverfront communities and engage in fishing, small business, and raising and slaughtering of livestock (an occupation avoided by Khmer Buddhists for religious reasons). Cham suffering during the DK period was especially severe, when resistance to Khmer Rouge communal discipline led to brutal pogroms. In recent years the Cham have cultivated links to Muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Arabic countries.
A recent estimate of the Chinese population is 100,000, although because of the numbers of Chinese who have historically lived in Cambodia, the numbers of persons with some Chinese blood, and Chinese cultural influence, the impact is much greater. There has traditionally been much more intermarriage between Khmer and Chinese than between Khmer and Vietnamese, and ethnic relations are considered much better, although there has been periodic discrimination. There has been a Chinese presence since the time of Angkor, but immigration increased dramatically during the colonial period. Chinese are particularly associated with urban areas; before 1970, there were more Chinese and Vietnamese than Khmer in Phnom Penh.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
Phnom Penh, the capital and the only major city, is relatively small, but rapidly increasing in population. At the time of the 1998 census, it was 997,986. A lack of political and economic integration with rural Cambodia and peasant resentment of the urban population probably influenced the decision of the DK government in 1975 to evacuate the entire urban population to the countryside. Since 1979, Phnom Penh has experienced only a gradual rebuilding. Architecturally, the city is a mixture of pre-1975 French colonial, Chinese, and modernist styles alongside the simple socialist styles of the 1980s, garish new buildings, and shanty towns.
The Royal Palace compound and the nearby National Museum lie on Phnom Penh's park-lined central riverfront and form a prominent cultural focal point of the country and city. Norodom Boulevard, lined with embassies, government buildings, and villas, runs between Independence Monument and the Wat Phnom temple. Several key markets, Buddhist temples, and luxury hotels serve as major landmarks. City streets are full of people, evoking a sense of social flux with no clear boundaries. Communication is easy and natural.
Provincial capitals have compounds of government buildings, large central markets in pre-1975 modern buildings, and several Buddhist temples. At the district and subdistrict levels, there are more modest temples, makeshift markets, and simple school buildings. Distinctions between public and private buildings tend to be free-flowing.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. The staples are rice and fish. Traditionally, a home meal is served on a mat on the floor or with the diners seated together on a raised bamboo platform. Meals are eaten in shifts according to status, with adult males and guests eating first and food preparers last. Breakfast typically consists of rice porridge or rice noodles. Lunch and dinner may be a combination of a spiced broth with fish or meat and vegetables, fish, fresh vegetables eaten with a fish-based paste, and stir-fried vegetables with chopped meat. A strong-smelling fermented fish paste called prâhok is the quintessential flavoring of Khmer food. Fruit is savored, and its display is considered a mark of abundance. It often is given as a gift. Teuk tnaot, a liquid tapped from sugar palms and drunk in various degrees of fermentation, generally is not taken with meals.
The tradition of Khmer cuisine in restaurants is undeveloped, and restaurants typically serve what is regarded as Chinese food. There are no food taboos, although devout Buddhists refrain from alcohol. Monks also cannot eat after noon and are enjoined to eat whatever they are given without making special requests.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. During festivals, elaborate and painstakingly seasoned dishes are prepared, such as curries, spiced fish sauces, complex stir fries, and a variety of sweets. At a temple festival, each family brings dishes that are ritually presented to the monks. After the monks have eaten, the remaining food is eaten by the lay community.
Basic Economy. The basis of the economy continues to be rice agriculture, and much of the population farms at a subsistence level, linked by a relatively undeveloped market system for rice, fruits, and vegetables, and using the riel for currency. Rice farmers are vulnerable to market fluctuations and to drought and insect infestation. State-owned rubber plantations dating back to the colonial period have remained a peripheral part of the economy.
Land Tenure and Property. Radical attempts to communalize property during the DK period and more modest attempts to encourage collective agriculture under PRK met with strong cultural resistance. Cambodians have a strong sense of personal property shared within the domestic unit. Constitutionally, the PRK recognized only three kinds of economic organization: state, cooperative, and family. Only after 1989, with the conscious shift to a market economy, did corporate enterprises and foreign investment become legal.
Commercial Activities. Cambodian artisans are known for silk and cotton weaving, silver work, silver and gold jewelry, and basketry. Handmade pottery is sold from oxcarts that travel from city to city. Straw mats made by hand at local workshops are available in markets; they also are made for personal use. In rural areas, plows, machetes, looms, fish traps, and winnowing trays are often made for personal use, although imported factory-made products now are used more often.
Tourism is an important part of the economy, but it was hindered by fear of political unrest during most of the 1990s. It increased dramatically in 1999 and 2000.
Major Industries. Industry is undeveloped. State-owned sawmills, soap and cigarette factories, and small workshops for the construction of aluminum products, together with larger state-owned textile and rubber tire factories, have been privatized, and new breweries and cement factories have opened. After 1994, foreign-owned garment factories began to appear, employing mostly female laborers at extremely low wages. The economic role of those factories has expanded rapidly.
Trade. The government lacks effective controls over cross-border trade. In the 1980s, resistance groups near the Thai border financed their activities by trading in gems and timber. Illegal timber exports to Thailand and Vietnam are uncontrolled, and the country is rapidly becoming deforested. Illegal sales of rice to Thailand and Vietnam are also considerable and in 1998 resulted in domestic shortfalls. Besides rice and wood products, Cambodia exports fish products, cement, brewery products, and handicrafts to nearby Asian countries. The garment industry is linked to markets in the United States and the European Union.
Classes and Castes. Ideas about status and the display of wealth have changed dramatically since 1991. Under socialism, the state promoted an ideology of egalitarianism, and personal wealth was not easily detected. Since 1991, extremely wealthy individuals have emerged among high-ranking government officials and well-placed businesspersons in a country where the population remains very poor. Cambodians have traditionally cultivated the practice of exaggerated respect for a small class of civil servants and other "big men," perhaps defined in terms more by influence than by wealth. There is great sensitivity to degrees of relative wealth, especially in decisions about marriage partners. A relative status hierarchy figures conspicuously in personal relations.
Symbols of Social Stratification. There is a general assumption that degrees of wealth can and should be publicly known. In the absence of banks, wealth was traditionally worn on the person as jewelry, which still is an important marker of status. Folk categorization distinguishes between the poor family's house of bamboo and thatch, the more economically secure family's traditional wood house on stilts, and the richer family's house of stone or cement. In Phnom Penh, the wealthiest families live in villas as opposed to apartments or wood houses. More contemporary markers involve cars and consumer goods.
Government. The 1993 constitution established a constitutional monarchy devoted to the principles of liberal democracy. The national government consists of a 120-member National Assembly, a Council of Ministers, and a Constitutional Council. In 1999, the Assembly voted to create a Senate. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the government was still in transition from the one-party system of the 1980s to a liberal democracy. Although 1993 United Nations-sponsored elections instituted a multiparty system at the national level, and multiparty elections determined the membership of the National Assembly and the choice of prime ministers in 1993 and 1998, there have not been local multiparty elections. While provincial governorships and ministerial positions were decided by negotiations between the major parties after the national elections, officials at the district level and below were usually persons who had been in office since the socialist 1980s. Local elections were tentatively scheduled for early 2002.
Leadership and Political Officials. The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is an outgrowth of the People's Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (PRPK), which through the 1980s served as the single party, providing discipline and leadership for the socialist state. It is not clear to what extent the transition to a multiparty democracy has taken place.
Social Problems and Control. There is much dis-trust of the police and judicial systems, which are believed to be corrupt. Traffic disputes and claims to property often are negotiated outside the legal system. Common criminals are dealt with brutally, and there is a widespread assumption that persons with wealth and political power are effectively outside the law. There have been many cases of violence against opposition politicians and journalists.
Military Activity. The military continues to dominate the national budget despite the collapse of the Khmer Rouge insurgency. In 1997, defense and security represented 53.9 percent of government expenditures. Fighting on the streets of Phnom Penh at the time of a 1996 coup is remembered with resentment. Individual soldiers often break the law with impunity. The military is not a particularly cohesive social force and has not threatened to seize power.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
While a basic government framework to address the needs of widows, orphans, veterans, and those handicapped by war has been in place since the PRK period, those programs have been plagued by a lack of funds. International organizations (IOs) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) played an important role in the emergency reconstruction of the country in 1979–1982, providing food and helping to rebuild the agricultural infrastructure. The issue of aid was complicated in the 1980s by an international embargo. Some aid organizations chose to provide relief to Cambodians on the Thai border; other organizations were restricted from working in the provinces. A small number of international NGOs continued to offer assistance in health care, rehabilitation for mine victims, food relief, and agricultural training and assistance. After the beginnings of a negotiated political settlement at the end of the 1980s, rapidly increasing numbers of NGOs and IOs have played a role in the country.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
Local NGOs usually are funded by IOs, donor countries, or international NGOs. In 1999, there were over two hundred local NGOs, all but two formed since 1992. Given a traditional absence of associations outside the state and religious institutions, NGOs represent a significant development. Some have focused on rural development, welfare, education, and women's issues. Perhaps the NGOs with the greatest immediate impact have been local human rights organizations, which have established extensive grassroots networks to document human rights abuses.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. In most spheres, there is some flexibility in gender roles. Most tasks performed by men occasionally are performed by women, and vice versa. Traditionally among villagers, men fished, plowed, threshed rice, made and repaired tools, and cared for cattle. Women transplanted seedlings; did washing, mending, and housecleaning; performed most of the child care; and did the everyday shopping. Women are traditionally responsible for a family's money and engage in small-scale marketing.
In the DK period, communal work further broke down gender barriers, and in the post-DK period, when conscription created a shortage of men in civilian life, women were forced to do more hard physical labor. This gender imbalance meant that a small number of women played important roles in civil service and politics. The numbers of women in civil service and politics decreased somewhat in the 1990s, but new foreign-owned textile factories employ almost exclusively women laborers. Only men can enter the monkhood. While women assume ascetic lifestyles and take up residence in temples, they are considered part of the lay population.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Bilateral kinship and a strong tendency toward matrilocality leave women in a position of relative strength. The fact that women control family finances may not be regarded as a sign of superiority but represents real power in practical terms. However, women have much less access than men to the highest positions of political and economic power.
Traditional codes of behavior for women are more elaborate and strict than those for men. Their role is often marked symbolically as inferior. While traditional art and contemporary media images of women show them as active agents, they often are depicted as physically vulnerable to men. Domestic violence against women at the village level is widespread, and those women have little legal recourse.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Marriage traditionally is arranged by the parents of the bride and groom or by someone acting as their representative. Ideally, the groom originates the courtship process by asking his parents to approach the parents of a woman to whom he is attracted. Neither the groom nor the bride is forced to take a marriage partner, although parents may have considerable influence in choosing a partner. Considerations of the benefits to the two families often figure more prominently in the choice of a marriage partner than does romantic love. It is not unusual for decisions about marriage to be made before a couple has had much contact. Specialists in reading horoscopes typically are consulted about the appropriateness of a wedding, although their advice is not always followed. The groom pays bride-wealth to the family of the bride; this money sometimes is used to buy jewelry or clothing for the bride or defray the cost of the wedding.
Although polygyny was legal before 1989, true polygyny, sanctioned by ceremony and both wives living in the same house, was rarely practiced outside of royalty in modern times. However, a mistress is referred to as a second wife, and even though bigamy was prohibited by the 1993 constitution, the practice of keeping a second or third wife does not carry a social stigma. There is strong social pressure to marry and for those who marry to have children. Divorce is a socially recognized option, although there is social pressure against it and some reluctance to grant it.
Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is classically a nuclear family consisting of parents and children; however, there is much flexibility in allowing other arrangements. Residence after marriage is ideally neolocal but often, for practical reasons, with the parents of one of the spouses. The preference is for matrilocality, although this is not a rigid rule. Aged parents often live with their adult children. Major family decisions are shared by the husband and wife.
Inheritance. An inheritance is ideally divided equally among children without regard to gender or age order, although the child who supported the parents in their old age may be favored and a child no longer living in the village may receive less property.
Kin Groups. Kin groups larger than the family have no socially prescribed role, although they can be a source of emotional bonds and personal alliance.
Infant Care. Infant care is characterized by almost constant attention to the child, who is rarely left alone. The child is carefully observed to determine the character it is believed to already possess; it is considered from birth an active agent and its wishes, such as who should hold it, are observed and respected.
Child Rearing and Education. Children are socialized early to respect the authority of parents and older siblings. There is a strong cultural value of "study," but little sense of study as oriented toward a specific goal or profession. Schools in Cambodia emphasize the copying of texts and memorization. Since the DK period, education has been plagued by the poor condition of buildings, lack of books and trained teachers, and the inability of the government to pay teachers. Boys sometimes enter the monkhood as an alternative to state education.
Higher Education. Tertiary education has only gradually been re-instituted since 1979 and is still on unsteady foundations. Over the course of the 1980s, different universities were reopened: The Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Dentistry in 1979, teacher training schools in 1980, a technical school in 1981, an Institute of Economics in 1984, and the Agricultural Institute in 1985. The University of Phnom Penh was not reopened until 1988. Tertiary education has been very dependent on foreign aid, foreign faculty, and overseas training of students.
Khmer has a complex system of pronouns and terms of address that distinguishes between people of formal rank, people with whom the speaker is in everyday interaction (further distinguished by relative age), and those with whom one assumes a marked informality, including people of clear inferior status and those with whom the speaker shares a long-standing familiar equality. Those addressing monks or royalty are expected to use even more complex linguistic systems, which, in addition to special pronouns and terms of address, include special vocabulary for sleeping, eating, walking, and, in the case of royalty, for body parts. Relative rank is also distinguished by the order by which traditional greetings, palms together raised in supplication, are made, the degree of the hands' elevation, and the consideration of whether this greeting or a Western handshake is used. A major part of etiquette involves knowing these systems and how to negotiate their ambiguities; the systems were partially abandoned during the socialist periods, but since 1991 have been revived with new emphasis.
There is a much stronger taboo against public touching between men and women than in Western countries, but same-sex touching is more accepted than, for example, in the United States. Conventional wisdom holds that the head is the highest part of the body and the feet the lowest, and it is rude to touch another adult's head, just as it is rude to point one's foot at another person. However, a certain kind of intimacy among equals is characterized by the breaking of the norm, with friendly cuffs to the other person's head.
Religious Beliefs. Theravada Buddhism spread in the later years of the Khmer Empire and is traditionally considered the religion of ethnic Khmer. Animist practices and what are called Brahmanistic practices are also part of the culture and are deeply intermingled with the everyday practice of Buddhism. They are not considered separate religions but part of the spectrum of choices for dealing with moral, physical, and spiritual needs. Buddhism is a national tradition, with a bureaucracy and a written tradition. Brahmanist and spirit practices are more localized and are passed on from person to person rather than as a formal institution.
All religious traditions were weakened by the banning of religious observances by the DK and by the religious policies of PRK, which restricted religion and emphasized a Buddhism consistent with socialist modernity. Since restrictions were lifted in 1989, religion has enjoyed a revival. Christian converts returned from refugee camps and foreign countries, and Christianity has established a strong foothold among ethnic Khmers. A number of other religious movements draw on the appeal of powerful traditional cultural icons and funding by overseas Khmer.
Religious Practitioners. Theravada Buddhist monks can be seen in saffron robes walking in procession in the early mornings, when they go from door to door asking for food. A lay specialist, the achar, also plays an important role as the person who leads public chanting and an expert in the formulas for different rituals.
Outside the formal sphere of Buddhism there are other practitioners. The krou (or krou khmaer ) specializes in traditional medicine and magic, including the making of amulets, and negotiating with certain kinds of spirits; the thmuap is a kind of krou specializing in black magic. The roup or roup arâkk is a spirit medium through whom special knowledge can be obtained.
Rituals and Holy Places. The Buddhist temple complex, or vott, is central to community life, as is the calendar of Buddhist holidays, which is linked to the seasons and the agricultural cycle. Monks must reside in a single temple for the length of the rainy season, and ceremonies mark the beginning and end of the retreat. The period around the end of the rainy season, after rice has been transplanted but before the harvest takes place, includes two major holidays: Pchum Ben (a two-week period of rituals in honor of the spirits of the dead) and Kâthin (a day for processions and the ceremonial presentation of monks' robes). The day of the Buddha's birth and enlightenment (May) and the day of the Buddha's last sermon (February) are also important holidays. The beginning of the Buddhist lunar calendar occurs in April and has both religious and secular aspects.
Death and the Afterlife. Cambodian Buddhists believe in reincarnation, although this may include temporary periods in realms resembling heaven or hell. The dead usually are cremated after an elaborate procession. Ceremonies in memory of the dead are held on the seventh and hundredth days after death.
Medicine and Health Care
Western and Chinese medicine and health care coexist with traditional Cambodian practices that partly derive from Ayurvedic tradition, under the guidance of krou khmaer. Western medicine enjoys great prestige, but there is a lack of professionals. Widespread use of imported western drugs, including intravenous serums and other injections, involves the role of semi-skilled professionals. Even when the medicine is "western," its practice is deeply shaped by Khmer folk categorizations of the nature of illness and the properties of medicine.
In Phnom Penh the most popular secular holiday is the Water Festival, 21–23 November, with its colorful longboat races and the nighttime display of illuminated boats. Spirit practices also associated with the boat races mean that the holiday is not completely secular.
Independence Day (9 November) and the King's Birthday (31 October) have in recent years involved large government-sponsored celebrations. However these holidays, and other smaller ones, like Constitution Day, the Day of the Royal Plowing Ceremony, and the Victory Day over Genocidal Crime, do not have the widespread cultural resonance of more religious celebrations such as New Year's, Pchum Ben, and Kathin.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. Since 1979, there has been a governmental effort to restore aspects of traditional culture destroyed during the DK period. Most state and international funding has gone toward the restoration of Angkorean antiquities, but there also has been support for classical dance and for recording traditional music and setting up workshops for making traditional instruments. In recent years, there has been NGO support for preserving and developing marketing strategies for traditional weavers. Some musicians, singers, and theater groups earn money by performing at village festivals and weddings. The most successful perform on radio and television and market their work on cassette tapes. Overseas Cambodian musical groups and video producers also sell their work in Cambodia.
Literature. There is a long tradition of the use of writing, with important religious texts, royal chronicles, and epic poetry, but modern literature is undeveloped. Oral traditions are strong: domestic storytelling and a genre of narrative singing to a banjolike instrument play important cultural roles.
Virtually no literature was produced during the DK period, and many writers were killed or fled. Literature in the 1980s had a socialist orientation. Since 1991, there has been greater freedom to publish pre-1975 literature but little money to publish new books. Small newspapers have flourished, and some satirical writing has appeared. Pre-1975 authors living overseas and younger writers have published Khmer books in their countries of resettlement.
Graphic Arts. While much work in graphic arts is produced, it often is seen as mere artisanship and has received little attention. Some art is produced for tourists and the decoration of homes and offices. Since the early 1990s, the most important project for painters has been the restoration of murals in Buddhist temples. Graphic art is rarely seen as the individual expression of the artist.
Performance Arts. Classical dance and music, originally associated with the court, enjoy great prestige, although live performances by the national companies are not frequent. Less professional musicians, singers, and theater artists keep alive local traditions. Virtually every village has musicians who play at weddings. A pop tradition has revived since the end of socialism.
While filmmaking was revived in the 1980s, the output remains small and the budgets are low. Television is dominated by films and soap operas from Thailand and Hong Kong, dubbed into Khmer.
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Cam·bo·di·an / kamˈbōdēən/ • adj. of or relating to Cambodia, its people, or their language. • n. 1. a native or national of Cambodia, or a person of Cambodian descent. 2. another term for Khmer (the language).
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