The Funan Kingdom, believed to have started around the first century BC, is the first known kingdom of Cambodia.  The kingdom was strongly influenced by Indian culture by  shaping the culture, art and political system.

An alphabetical system, religions and architectural styles were also Indian contributions to the Funan Kingdom.  There is archeological evidence of a commercial society in the Mekong Delta that prospered from the 1st to 6th centuries.

Returning from abroad, a Khmer prince declared himself the ruler of a new kingdom during the 9th century.  Known as Jayavarman II, he started a cult that honored Shiva, a Hindu god, as a devaraja (god-king) which then linked the king to Shiva.

He also began the great achievements in architecture and sculpture while his successors built an immense irrigation system around Angkor..  His successors (26 from the early 9th to the early 15th century), built a tremendous number of temples – of which there are over a thousand sites and stone inscriptions (on temple walls).

By the 12th century, Cambodia had spread into other areas, now known as Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia (the peninsula).  There is actually still evidence of Khmer inhabitance in Thailand and Laos to this day.

The 13th and 14th centuries were not as successful for Cambodia, some believe it was due to the increased power of (and wars with) Thai kingdoms that had at one time paid homage to Angkor.  Others believe it was due to the induction of Theravada Buddhism, which was totally contrary to the Cambodian societal structure at that time.  After this time historical records are rather sketchy at best regarding Cambodia and it is considered the “Dark Ages” of Cambodian history.

Cambodia was ravaged by Vietnamese and Thai invasions and wars up until the 19th century, when new dynasties in these countries fought over control of Cambodia.  The war, that began in the 1830’s almost destroyed Cambodia.  King Norodom signed a treaty that enabled the French to be a protectorate, thus effectively stopping the Viet-Thai war within.  For the next 90 years, France in essence ruled over Cambodia.

Although officially they were just advisors, it was known that the French had final say on all topics of interest.  Although the French built roadways and made other improvements regarding trade and transportation, they sadly neglected the Cambodian educational system, which is still not effective to this day.

In 1953, Cambodia managed to gain their independence in spite of World War II and the First Indochina War.  Their independence was obtained through the political savvy of King Sihanouk.  Wanting to be released from the pressures of the monarchy, Sihanouk abdicated the throne and became a full time politician.

He started a political faction called the People’s Socialist Community (Sangkum Reastr Niyum) which then won by a landslide in the 1955 national elections.  In part the success was due to his popularity, but also from police brutality at the polling stations.

In 1960, when his father died he was named head of state (up until then he’d been the prime minister).  Although he had remained neutral in a struggle between the US and USSR regarding tensions in Vietnam, he changed his position in 1965 and eliminated diplomatic relations with the US.

At the same time he allowed the Communist Vietnamese access to Cambodian soil to set up bases.  With the Cambodian economy becoming unstable, Sihanouk decided to renew his relations with the US, who were secretly planning on bombing Cambodian areas suspected of housing Vietnamese Communists.

While Sihanouk was abroad in 1970, he was ousted from power and fled to China.  General Lon Nol, the prime minister, had hoped for US aid, but the US was occupied with Vietnamese troubles and didn’t help.  In the meantime, since his army was ill-equipped, they couldn’t stop an invasion by the South Vietnamese, searching for North Vietnamese.

To add to Lon Nol’s problems, Sihanouk had been persuaded to set up a government while in exile, called the Khmer Rouge.   The Khmer Rouge became a thorn in Lon Nol’s side along with the Vietnamese until the Khmer regime collapsed.  Another contributing factor to the collapse was the repeated US bombing of the Cambodian countryside.  In 1975, the Khmer Rouge was able to take over Phnom Penh and shortly thereafter, the North Vietnamese were occupying South Vietnam.

The Khmer Rouge felt antipathy toward Cambodians living in urban areas and forced them to the countryside where they were forced to work in various forms of agriculture.  Leading the Khmer Rouge was a man by the name of Saloth  Sar, better known as Pol Pot.  The government, Democratic Kampochea (DK), was run in part by rural Cambodians who were illiterate, but had fought along with the Khmer Rouge in the war.

The derision and ill-treatment felt towards the former city dwellers was slightly better than the treatment of anyone intellectual, religious, and those who were believed to be against the regime – their punishment was death.  During Pol Pot’s (Khmer Rouge’s) regime over twenty percent of Cambodia’s population was murdered.

The Khmer Rouge’s plan to attack Vietnam and other areas backfired when the Vietnamese surprised Cambodia with an attack of over 100,000 troops.  They were accompanied by Cambodian Communist rebels and managed to invade Phnom Penh, which had been vacated by the Khmer Rouge the day before.

The Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot among them, fled to the Thai-Cambodian border, where they were given asylum by the Thai government, which was unfriendly to Vietnam.

The Vietnamese established a regime in Cambodia that included many members of the Khmer Rouge as well as Cambodians who had fled to Vietnam before 1975.  Not to be swayed, the Khmer Rouge and it’s followers created a government that was hostile to Vietnam while in exile, also known as DK.

The UN upheld this government in exile, with the support given to it by the US, China and Thailand.  With more ensuing conflicts between the two governments, many of Cambodia’s finest along with the general population, totaling over half a million people, resettled in other countries.

By the end of 1989, the Cold War had ended which had the Vietnamese exiting Cambodia.  Without financial support from the Soviets, the Vietnamese couldn’t keep their troops in the country.

This withdrawal made things difficult for Cambodians, especially the prime minister, Hun Sen.  The Khmer Rouge had not disappeared, but had made their presence known and were threatening military action.  Since Cambodia was without much needed foreign aid, they discarded socialism and tried to get investors interested in the country.

Another major change was in the country’s name, it was changed to the State of Cambodia (SOC), while the KPRP (who currently ruled Cambodia) changed their name to the Cambodian People’s Party.  An attempt to have a free-market economy just increased the gap between the rich and the poor with many government officials becoming millionaires.

In 1991, the UN, Cambodia, and other interested parties came to an agreement to end the Cambodian conflict.  A United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC) and a Supreme National Council (SNC) were formed and were comprised of members from different factions within Cambodia.   The agreement in Paris and the UN protectorate started competitive politics in Cambodia, something they hadn’t seen for about 40 years.

In May 1993, UNTAC sponsored an election for the national assembly, which ended up ousting the military regime.  The Cambodians wanted a royalist party, FUNCINPEC, but Hun Sen, who won the second largest number of seats, refused to give up his power.  Fortunately a compromise was reached and a government was formed with two prime ministers,  FUNCINPEC had the first prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen became the second prime minister.

A name change for the country was in order, so in 1993 Cambodia became known as the Kingdom of Cambodia and Sihanouk became the king once again after ratifying a new constitution which re-established the monarchy.   After these changes were made, the UN no longer accepted the DK as the ruling party, thus causing them (the DK) to lose their seat and power in the UN.

The tentative compromise between the FUNCINPEC and the CPP fell apart in 1997 when Prince Ranariddh was overseas.  Hun Sen took advantage of the Prince’s absence and organized a violent takeover to replace him.  He replaced Prince Ranariddh with another member of the FUNCINPEC, but this time with one who was more easily manipulated and compliant.  In spite of this takeover, the elections of 1998 were carried out, but not without foreign observations.

Although it was stated the voting was fair, the CPP hassled it’s opposition and following the elections many were put in jail while a few others were killed.  Once again, the results were not accepted, but this time it was Prince Ranariddh who opposed it.  Yet again another compromise was reached with Hun Sen as the only prime minister and with Prince Ranariddh as the president of the national assembly.

Things are stabilizing in Cambodia, but not without the help and support of foreign aid.  With the outside world’s interest waning, it’s help is steadily decreasing, hich is discouraging any hopes for economic advancement and democracy.

Location The kingdom of Cambodia (Local Formal Name: Preah Reacheanachak Kampuchea) is situated in the Mekong sub-region, bordered by Thailand to the west and north, Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east and south-east of the Gulf of Thailand to the south-west. Land Area Cambodia has a land area of 181,035 square kilometers, stretching 580 km East-West and 440 km North-West.   Land Division Cambodia comprises 24 provinces, including 3 municipalities, 183 district, 1609 commune, and 13,406 villages.   Geography Consists mostly of low, flat plains, though there are small mountain ranges to the Southwest and North.   Capital Phnom Penh, with a population of 1,3 million.
Politics and government
Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia
The politics of Cambodia formally take place, according to the nation’s constitution of 1993, in the framework of a constitutional monarchy operated as a parliamentary representative democracy. The Prime Minister of Cambodia is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system, while the king is the head of state. The Prime Minister is appointed by the King, on the advice and with the approval of the National Assembly; the Prime Minister and his or her ministerial appointees exercise executive power in government. Legislative power is vested in both the executive and the two chambers of parliament, the National Assembly of Cambodia and the Senate. King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia
On October 14, 2004, King Norodom Sihamoni was selected by a special nine-member throne council, part of a selection process that was quickly put in place after the surprise abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk a week before. Sihamoni’s selection was endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly Speaker Prince Norodom Ranariddh (the new king’s brother), both members of the throne council. He was crowned in Phnom Penh on October 29. Norodom Sihamoni was trained in Cambodian classical dance. Due to his long stay in the Czech Republic (then part of Czechoslovakia) Norodom Sihamoni is fluent in the Czech language.
In 2006, Transparency International’s rating of corrupt countries rated Cambodia as 151st of 163 countries of their Corruption Perceptions Index. [20] . The 2007 edition of the same list placed Cambodia at 162nd out of 179 countries [21]. According to this same list, Cambodia is the 3rd most corrupt nation in the South-East Asia area, behind Laos, at 168th, and Myanmar, at joint 179th. The BBC reports that corruption is rampant in the Cambodian political arena[22] with international aid from the U.S. and other countries being illegally transferred into private accounts.[23] Corruption has also added to the wide income disparity within the population.[24]
Military Royal Cambodian Armed Forces
The king is the Supreme Commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the country’s prime minister effectively holds the position of commander-in-chief. The introduction of a revised command structure early in 2000 was a key prelude to the reorganization of the RCAF. This saw the ministry of national defense form three subordinate general departments responsible for logistics and finance, materials and technical services, and defense services. The High Command Headquarters (HCHQ) was left unchanged, but the general staff was dismantled and the former will assume responsibility over three autonomous infantry divisions. A joint staff was also formed, responsible for inter-service co-ordination and staff management within HCHQ.
The minister of National Defense is Tea Banh. Tea Banh has served as defense minister since 1979. The Secretaries of State for Defense are Chay Saing Yun and Por Bun Sreu.
Ke Kim Yan is the current commander of the RCAF. The Army Commander is Meas Sophea and the Army Chief of Staff is Chea Saran.   Population Approximately 13.124764 Million (2003 est.). Ethnically the population consists of about 90 percent Khmer, 5% Vietnamese, 1% of Chinese and 4% of the population is under 14.
Ethnicity * 87% Khmer     * 4.3% Vietnamese     * 4% Chinese     * 2.3% Cham     * 0.3% Thai     * 0.1% Eurasian     * 2% Other
Culture and society Khmer culture, as developed and spread by the Khmer empire, has distinctive styles of dance, architecture and sculpture, which have been exchanged with neighbouring Laos and Thailand through the history. Angkor Wat (Angkor means “city” and Wat “temple”) is the best preserved example of Khmer architecture from the Angkorian era and hundreds of other temples have been discovered in and around the region. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the infamous prison of the Khmer Rouge, and Choeung Ek, one of the main Killing Fields are other important historic sites.
Bonn Om Touk (Festival of Boat Racing), the annual boat rowing contest, is the most attended Cambodian national festival. Held at the end of the rainy season when the Mekong river begins to sink back to its normal levels allowing the Tonle Sap River to reverse flow, approximately 10% of Cambodia’s population attends this event each year to play games, give thanks to the moon, watch fireworks, and attend the boat race in a carnival-type atmosphere.[38] Popular games include cockfighting, soccer, and kicking a sey, which is similar to a footbag. Recent artistic figures include singers Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea (and later Meng Keo Pichenda), who introduced new musical styles to the country.
Rice, as in other Southeast Asian countries, is the staple grain, while fish from the Mekong and Tonle Sap also form an important part of the diet. The Cambodian per capita supply of fish and fish products for food and trade in 2000 was 20 kilograms of fish per year or 2 ounces per day per person.[39] Some of the fish can be made into prahok for longer storage. Overall, the cuisine of Cambodia is similar to that of its Southeast Asian neighbours. The cuisine is relatively unknown to the world compared to that of its neighbours Thailand and Vietnam.
Soccer is one of the more popular sports, although professional organized sports are not as prevalent in Cambodia as in western countries due to the economic conditions. The Cambodia national football team managed fourth in the 1972 Asian Cup but development has slowed since the civil war. Western sports such as volleyball, bodybuilding, field hockey, rugby union, golf, and baseball are gaining popularity while traditional boat racing maintains its appeal as a national sport. Martial arts is practiced in Cambodia, as well the native art of Pradal Serey and Khmer Traditional Wrestling.
Economy Rice cropping plays an important role in the economy.
Final economic indicators for 2007 are not yet available. 2006 GDP was $7.265 billion (per capita GDP $513), with annual growth of 10.8%. Estimates for 2007 are for a GDP of $8.251 billion (per capita $571) and annual growth of 8.5%). Inflation for 2006 was 2.6%, and the current estimate for final 2007 inflation is 6.2%.[29]
Per capita income is rapidly increasing, but is low compared with other countries in the region. Most rural households depend on agriculture and its related sub-sectors. Rice, fish, timber, garments and rubber are Cambodia’s major exports. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) reintroduced more than 750 traditional rice varieties to Cambodia from its rice seed bank in the Philippines (Jahn 2006,2007). These varieties had been collected in the 1960s. In 1987, the Australian government funded IRRI to assist Cambodia to improve its rice production. By 2000, Cambodia was once again self-sufficient in rice (Puckridge 2004, Fredenburg and Hill 1978). Angkor Wat, the biggest tourist draw of Cambodia Angkor Wat, the biggest tourist draw of Cambodia
The recovery of Cambodia’s economy slowed dramatically in 1997-98, due to the regional economic crisis, civil violence, and political infighting. Foreign investment and tourism also fell off drastically. Since then however, growth has been steady. In 1999, the first full year of peace in 30 years, progress was made on economic reforms and growth resumed at 5.0%. Despite severe flooding, GDP grew at 5.0% in 2000, 6.3% in 2001, and 5.2% in 2002. Tourism was Cambodia’s fastest growing industry, with arrivals increasing from 219,000 in 1997 to 1,055,000 in 2004. During 2003 and 2004 the growth rate remained steady at 5.0%, while in 2004 inflation was at 1.7% and exports at $1.6 billion US dollars. As of 2005, GDP per capita in PPP terms was $2,200, which ranked 178th (out of 233) countries.[30]
The older population often lacks education, particularly in the countryside, which suffers from a lack of basic infrastructure. Fear of renewed political instability and corruption within the government discourage foreign investment and delay foreign aid, although there has been significant assistance from bilateral and multilateral donors. Donors pledged $504 m to the country in 2004,[31] while the Asian Development Bank alone has provided $850m in loans, grants, and technical assistance.[32]
The tourism industry is the country’s second-greatest source of hard currency after the textile industry.[18] 50% of visitor arrivals are to Angkor, and most of the remainder to Phnom Penh.[33] Other tourist destinations include Sihanoukville in the southeast which has several popular beaches, and the nearby area around Kampot including the Bokor Hill Station.
Religion The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, 95% of Khmer religion. The country also has minority religions of about half a million Muslims, and 60,000 Christians.
Climate Cambodia’s temperatures range from 10° to 38 °C (50° to 100 °F) and experiences tropical monsoons. Southwest monsoons blow inland bringing moisture-laden winds from the Gulf of Thailand and Indian Ocean from May to October. The northeast monsoon ushers in the dry season, which lasts from November to March. The country experiences the heaviest precipitation from September to October with the driest period occurring from January to February.
It has two distinct seasons. The rainy season, which runs from May to October, can see temperatures drop to 22 °C and is generally accompanied with high humidity. The dry season lasts from November to April when temperatures can raise up to 40 °C around April. The best months to visit Cambodia are November to January when temperatures and humidity are lower.
Temperature The average temperature is 32c in Phnom Penh with a peak in April (35- 40.c) and a bottom in February. Temperature rarely fall below 10.c.
Official Language Khmer.
Country Code 855
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