officially Kingdom of Cambodia
Country, Southeast Asia. Area: 69,898 sq mi (181,035 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 13,327,000. Capital: Phnom Penh. The vast majority of the population belongs to the Khmer ethnic group. Language: Khmer (official). Religions: Buddhism (official); also traditional beliefs. Currency: riel. The landscape is dominated by large central plains; the Dangrek Mountains rise along the northern border. Cambodia lies largely in the basin of the Mekong River; the large lake Tonle Sap is in its western part. Much of the country is tropical forest. It is one of the world's poorest countries. Agriculture employs about three-fourths of the workforce. Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the king, and its head of government is the prime minister. In the early centuries AD the area was under Hindu and, to a lesser extent, Buddhist influence. The Khmer state gradually spread in the early 8th century and reached its height under Jayavarman II and his successors in the 9th–12th centuries, when it ruled the Mekong valley and neighbouring states and built Angkor. Buddhism was widely adopted in the 13th century. From the 13th century the state was attacked by Annam and Tai (Siamese) city-states and was subject largely to Tai and Vietnamese hegemony. It became a French protectorate in 1863. It was occupied by the Japanese in World War II and became independent in 1954. Its borders were the scene of fighting in the Vietnam War from 1961, and in 1970 its northeastern and eastern areas were occupied by the North Vietnamese and penetrated by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. A bombing campaign in Cambodia by U.S. warplanes alienated much of the population, enabling the communist Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot to seize power in 1975. Their regime of terror resulted in the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians. Vietnam invaded in 1978 and drove the Khmer Rouge into the western hinterlands, but Cambodian infighting continued. A peace accord was reached by most Cambodian factions under UN auspices in 1991. Elections were held in 1993, and Norodom Sihanouk was restored to the monarchy. A civilian government slowly emerged under UN tutelage until 1997, when a coup by Hun Sen consolidated his position as prime minister. Hun Sen's party won legislative elections in 1998; also that year, Cambodia became part of ASEAN.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.