Cambodia

Cambodia

[kam-boh-dee-uh]
Cambodia, 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.

Economy

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, Hong Kong, China, and France.

Government

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.

History

Early History to Independence

The Funan empire was established in what is now Cambodia in the 1st cent. A.D. 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.

Civil War

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, however did not begin until Feb., 2009. 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 (Khao Pra Vihar) 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. Relations 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.

Bibliography

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).

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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The Kingdom of Cambodia (formerly known as Kampuchea , transliterated: Preăh Réachéanachâkr Kâmpŭchea) is a country in South East Asia with a population of over 14 million people. The kingdom's capital and largest city is Phnom Penh. Cambodia is the successor state of the once powerful Hindu and Buddhist Khmer Empire, which ruled most of the Indochinese Peninsula between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries.

A citizen of Cambodia is usually identified as "Cambodian" or "Khmer," though the latter strictly refers to ethnic Khmers. Most Cambodians are Theravada Buddhists of Khmer extraction, but the country also has a substantial number of predominantly Muslim Cham, as well as ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese and small animist hill tribes.

The country borders Thailand to its west and northwest, Laos to its northeast, and Vietnam to its east and southeast. In the south it faces the Gulf of Thailand. The geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong river (colloquial Khmer: Tonle Thom or "the great river") and the Tonlé Sap ("the fresh water lake"), an important source of fish. Its culture is heavily influenced by Thailand and Laos.

Cambodia's main industries are garments, tourism, and construction. In 2007, foreign visitors to Angkor Wat numbered more than 4 million. In 2005, oil and natural gas deposits were found beneath Cambodia's territorial water, and once commercial extraction begins in 2011, the oil revenues could profoundly affect Cambodia's economy.

History

The first advanced civilizations in present-day Cambodia appeared in the 1st millennium AD. During the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries, the Indianised states of Funan and Chenla coalesced in what is now present-day Cambodia and southwestern Vietnam. These states, which are assumed by most scholars to have been Khmer, had close relations with China and Thailand. Their collapse was followed by the rise of the Khmer Empire, a civilization which flourished in the area from the 9th century to the 13th century.

The Khmer Empire declined yet remained powerful in the region until the 15th century. The empire's center of power was Angkor, where a series of capitals was constructed during the empire's zenith. Angkor Wat, the most famous and best-preserved religious temple at the site, is a reminder of Cambodia's past as a major regional power.

After a long series of wars with neighbouring kingdoms, Angkor was sacked by the Thai and abandoned in 1432. The court moved the capital to Lovek where the kingdom sought to regain its glory through maritime trade. The attempt was short-lived, however, as continued wars with the Thai and Vietnamese resulted in the loss of more territory and the conquering of Lovek in 1594. During the next three centuries, The Khmer kingdom alternated as a vassal state of the Thai and Vietnamese kings, with short-lived periods of relative independence between.

In 1863 King Norodom, who had been installed by Thailand, sought the protection of France from the Thai and Vietnamese, after tensions grew between them. In 1867, the Thai king signed a treaty with France, renouncing suzerainty over Cambodia in exchange for the control of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces which officially became part of Thailand. The provinces were ceded back to Cambodia by a border treaty between France and Thailand in 1906.

Cambodia continued as a protectorate of France from 1863 to 1953, administered as part of the colony of French Indochina. After war-time occupation by the Japanese empire from 1941 to 1945, Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953. It became a constitutional monarchy under King Norodom Sihanouk.

In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father in order to be elected Prime Minister. Upon his father's death in 1960, Sihanouk again became head of state, taking the title of Prince. As the Vietnam War progressed, Sihanouk adopted an official policy of neutrality in the Cold War until Cambodians began to take sides, and ousted in 1970 by a military coup led by Prime Minister General Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, while on a trip abroad. From Beijing, Sihanouk realigned himself with the communist Khmer Rouge rebels who had been slowly gaining territory in the remote mountain regions and urged his followers to help in overthrowing the pro-United States government of Lon Nol, hastening the onset of civil war.

Operation Menu, a series of secret B-52 bombing raids by the United States on alleged Viet Cong bases and supply routes inside Cambodia, was acknowledged after Lon Nol assumed power; U.S. forces briefly invaded Cambodia in a further effort to disrupt the Viet Cong. The bombing continued and, as the Cambodian communists began gaining ground, eventually included strikes on suspected Khmer Rouge sites until halted in 1973.

Some two million Cambodians were made refugees by the bombing and fighting and fled to Phnom Penh. Estimates of the number of Cambodians killed during the bombing campaigns vary widely. Views of the effects of the bombing also vary widely. The US Seventh Air Force argued that the bombing prevented the fall of Phnom Penh in 1973 by killing 16,000 of 25,500 Khmer Rouge fighters besieging the city. Journalist William Shawcross and Cambodia specialists Milton Osborne, David P. Chandler and Ben Kiernan argued that the bombing drove peasants to join the Khmer Rouge. Chandler writes that the bombing provided "the psychological ingredients of a violent, vengeful and unrelenting social revolution. Cambodia specialist Craig Etcheson argued that it is "untenable" to assert that the Khmer Rouge would not have won but for US intervention, and that while the bombing did help Khmer Rouge recruitment, they "would have won anyway.

As the war ended, a draft US AID report observed that the country faced famine in 1975, with 75% of its draft animals destroyed by the war, and that rice planting for the next harvest would have to be done "by the hard labor of seriously malnourished people." The report predicted that

without large-scale external food and equipment assistance there will be widespread starvation between now and next February... Slave labor and starvation rations for half the nation's people (probably heaviest among those who supported the republic) will be a cruel necessity for this year, and general deprivation and suffering will stretch over the next two or three years before Cambodia can get back to rice self-sufficiency.
The Khmer Rouge reached Phnom Penh and took power in 1975, changing the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea, led by Pol Pot. The Regime, heavily influenced and backed by China, immediately evacuated the cities and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. They attempted to rebuild the country's agriculture on the model of the 11th century. They discarded Western medicine, destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered western. Any person with trained skills, doctors, lawyers, teachers, were especially targeted. With that result, hundreds of thousands died from starvation and disease there were almost no drugs in the country.

Estimates vary as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime, ranging from approximately one to three million. This era has given rise to the term Killing Fields, and the prison Tuol Sleng became as notorious as Auschwitz in the history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands more fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand.

In November 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia to stop Khmer Rouge incursions across the border and the genocide in Cambodia. Violent occupation and warfare between the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge holdouts continued throughout the 1980s. Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a comprehensive peace settlement. The United Nations was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire, and deal with refugees and disarmament.

After the brutality of the 1970s and the 1980s, and the destruction of the cultural, economic, social and political life of Cambodia, it is only in recent years that reconstruction efforts have begun and some political stability has finally returned to Cambodia. The stability established following the conflict was shaken in 1997 during a coup d'état, but has otherwise remained in place. Cambodia has been aided by a number of more developed nations like Japan, France, West Germany, Canada, and Australia. The United States and Great Britain were reluctant to provide aid due to its relationship with China, one of its greatest trading partners.

Politics and government

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.

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. The 2007 edition of the same list placed Cambodia at 162nd out of 179 countries. 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 with international aid from the U.S. and other countries being illegally transferred into private accounts. Corruption has also added to the wide income disparity within the population.

Military

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.

Geography

Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 sq mi), sharing an 800 kilometer (500 mi) border with Thailand in the north and west, a 541 kilometer (336 mi) border with Laos in the northeast, and a 1,228 kilometer (763 mi) border with Vietnam in the east and southeast. It has 443 kilometers (275 mi) of coastline along the Gulf of Thailand.

The most distinctive geographical feature is the lacustrine plain, formed by the inundations of the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), measuring about 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 sq mi) during the dry season and expanding to about 24,605 square kilometers (9,500 sq mi) during the rainy season. This densely populated plain, which is devoted to wet rice cultivation, is the heartland of Cambodia. Most (about 75%) of the country lies at elevations of less than 100 metres (330 ft) above sea level, the exceptions being the Cardamom Mountains (highest elevation 1,813 m / 5,948 ft) and their southeast extension the Dâmrei Mountains ("Elephant Mountains") (elevation range 500–1,000 m or 1,640–3,280 ft), as well the steep escarpment of the Dângrêk Mountains (average elevation 500 m / 1,640 ft) along the border with Thailand's Isan region. The highest elevation of Cambodia is Phnom Aoral, near Pursat in the centre of the country, at 1,813 metres (5,948 ft).

Climate

Cambodia's temperatures range from 21° to 35°C (69° to 95°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.

City and province sizes

No. City or province Area
km²
sq mi
1 City of Phnom Penh
2 Kandal Province
3 Takeo Province
4 Kampong Cham Province
5 Kampong Thom Province
6 Siem Reap Province
7 Preah Vihear Province
8 Oddar Meancheay Province
9 Banteay Meanchey Province
10 Battambang Province
11 City of Pailin
12 Pursat Province
13 Kampong Chhnang Province
14 Kampong Speu Province
15 Koh Kong Province
16 City of Sihanoukville
17 Kampot Province
18 City of Kep
19 Prey Veng Province
20 Svay Rieng Province
21 Kratie Province
22 Stung Treng Province
23 Ratanakiri Province
24 Mondulkiri Province
25 Tonlé Sap
TOTAL AREA

Foreign relations

Cambodia is a member of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is an Asian Development Bank (ADB) member, a member of ASEAN, and joined the WTO on October 13, 2004. In 2005 Cambodia attended the inaugural East Asia Summit.

Cambodia has established diplomatic relations with numerous countries; the government reports twenty embassies in the country including many of its Asian neighbours and those of important players during the Paris peace negotiations, including the US, Australia, Canada, China, the European Union (EU), Japan, and Russia.

While the violent ruptures of the 1970s and 80s have passed, several border disputes between Cambodia and its neighbours persist. There are disagreements over some offshore islands and sections of the boundary with Vietnam, and undefined maritime boundaries and border areas with Thailand.

In January 2003, there were anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh prompted by rumoured comments about Angkor Wat allegedly made by a Thai actress and printed in Reaksmei Angkor, a Cambodian newspaper, and later quoted by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Thai government sent military aircraft to evacuate Thai nationals and closed its border with Cambodia to Thais and Cambodians (at no time was the border ever closed to foreigners or Western tourists) while Thais demonstrated outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. The border was re-opened on March 21, after the Cambodian government paid $6 million USD in compensation for the destruction of the Thai embassy and agreed to compensate individual Thai businesses for their losses. The "comments" that had sparked the riots turned out to be false. More problems came between Cambodia and Thailand in mid 2008 when Cambodia wanted to list Prasat Preah Vihear as a UNESCO World heritage site, which later resulted in a stand-off in which both countries deployed its soldiers near the border, and around the disputed territory between the two countries.

Wildlife of Cambodia

Cambodia has a wide variety of plants and animals. There are 212 mammal species, 536 bird species, 240 reptile species, 850 freshwater fish species (Tonle Sap Lake area), and 435 marine fish species.

The country has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Since 1970, Cambodia's primary rainforest cover fell dramatically from over 70 percent in 1970 to just 3.1 percent in 2007. In total, Cambodia lost of forest between 1990 and 2005— of which was primary forest. As of 2007, less than of primary forest remain with the result that the future sustainability of the forest reserves of Cambodia is under severe threat, with illegal loggers looking to generate revenue.

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%.

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).

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 USD. As of 2005, GDP per capita in PPP terms was $2,200, which ranked 178th (out of 233) countries.

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 million to the country in 2004, while the Asian Development Bank alone has provided $850 million in loans, grants, and technical assistance.

The tourism industry is the country's second-greatest source of hard currency after the textile industry. 50% of visitor arrivals are to Angkor, and most of the remainder to Phnom Penh. Other tourist destinations include Sihanoukville in the southeast which has several popular beaches, and the nearby area around Kampot including the Bokor Hill Station.

Demographics

More than 90% of its population is of Khmer origin and speaks the Khmer language, the country's official language. The remainder include Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham, Khmer Loeu and Indians.

The Khmer language is a member of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austroasiatic language group. French, once the lingua franca of Indochina and still spoken by some, mostly older Cambodians as a second language, remains the language of instruction in various schools and universities that are often funded by the government of France. Cambodian French, a remnant of the country's colonial past, is a dialect found in Cambodia and is frequently used in government. However, in recent decades, many younger Cambodians and those in the business-class have favoured learning English. In the major cities and tourist centers, English is widely spoken and taught at a large number of schools due to the overwhelming number of tourists from English-speaking countries. Even in the most rural outposts, however, most young people speak at least some English, as it is often taught by monks at the local pagodas where many children are educated.

The dominant religion, a form of Theravada Buddhism (95%), was suppressed by the Khmer Rouge but has since experienced a revival. Islam (3%) and Christianity (2%) are also practiced.

Civil war and its aftermath have had a marked effect on the Cambodian population. The median age is 20.6 years, with more than 50% of the population younger than 25. At 0.95 males/female, Cambodia has the most female-biased sex ratio in the Greater Mekong Subregion In the Cambodian population over 65, the female to male ratio is 1.6:1. UNICEF has designated Cambodia the third most mined country in the world, attributing over 60,000 civilian deaths and thousands more maimed or injured since 1970 to the unexploded land mines left behind in rural areas. The majority of the victims are children herding animals or playing in the fields. Adults that survive landmines often require amputation of one or more limbs and have to resort to begging for survival. In 2006, the number of landmines casualties in Cambodia took a sharp decrease of more than 50% compared to 2005, with the number of landmines victims down from 800 in 2005 to less than 400 in 2006. The reduced casualty rate continued in 2007, with 208 casualties (38 killed and 170 injured).

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 Teuk (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. 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. 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.

Football 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. Native sports include traditional boat racing, buffalo racing, Pradal Serey , Khmer traditional wrestling and Bokator.

Transport

The civil war and wildlife severely damaged Cambodia's transport system, but with assistance and equipment from other countries Cambodia has been upgrading the main highways to international standards and most are vastly improved from 2006. Most main roads are now paved. Cambodia has two rail lines, totalling about 612 kilometers (380 mi) of single, one meter gauge track. The lines run from the capital to Sihanoukville on the southern coast, and from Phnom Penh to Sisophon (although trains often run only as far as Battambang). Currently only one passenger train per week operates, between Phnom Penh and Battambang.

Besides the main interprovincial traffic artery connecting the capital Phnom Penh with Sihanoukville, resurfacing a former dirt road with concrete / asphalt and implementation of 5 major river crossings by means of bridges have now permanently connected Phnom Penh with Koh Kong and hence there is now uninterrupted road access to neighboring Thailand and their vast road system.

The nation's extensive inland waterways were important historically in international trade. The Mekong and the Tonle Sap River, their numerous tributaries, and the Tonle Sap provided avenues of considerable length, including 3,700 kilometers (2,300 mi) navigable all year by craft drawing 0.6 meters (2 ft) and another 282 kilometers (175 mi) navigable to craft drawing 1.8 meters (6 ft). Cambodia has two major ports, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, and five minor ones. Phnom Penh, located at the junction of the Bassac, the Mekong, and the Tonle Sap rivers, is the only river port capable of receiving 8,000-ton ships during the wet season and 5,000-ton ships during the dry season.

With increasing economic activity has come an increase in automobile and motorcycle use, though bicycles still predominate; as often in developing countries, an associated rise in traffic deaths and injuries is occurring. Cycle rickshaws ("s") are an additional option often used by visitors.

The country has four commercial airports. Phnom Penh International Airport (Pochentong) in Phnom Penh is the second largest in Cambodia. Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport is the largest and serves the most international flights in and out of Cambodia. The other airports are in Sihanoukville and Battambang.

International rankings

Organization
Heritage Foundation'' Index of Economic Freedom 100 out of 157
Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 85 out of 169
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 162 out of 179
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 131 out of 177
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 110 out of 131
Nation Master Terrorist Acts 2000-2006 Incidences (most recent) by country ,112 being the least reports of Terrorist Acts 42 out of 112

See also

Notes

  • Business in Asia report on airports. Accessed November 13, 2005
  • Cambodian Culture website Accessed December 11, 2004
  • Cambodian Economy Information Accessed January 19, 2005
  • CIA World Factbook U.S. Department of State website
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica's Cambodia Country Page
  • Fredenburg, P. and B. Hill. 2006. Sharing Rice for Peace and Prosperity in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Sid Harta Publishers, Victoria. ISBN 1-921206-08-X. pp271
  • IFES Summary of 2003 legislative election results. Accessed January 27, 2005
  • Jahn GC. 2006. The Dream is not yet over. In: P. Fredenburg P, Hill B, editors. Sharing rice for peace and prosperity in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Victoria, (Australia): Sid Harta Publishers. ISBN 1-921206-08-X. p 237–240
  • Jahn, GC 2007. Rice and life along the Mekong River. Rice Today 6(2):4.
  • Kerlogue, Fiona Arts of Southeast Asia. Thames and Hudson 2004. ISBN 0-500-20381-4
  • Ministry of Tourism statistics on tourism. Accessed January 27, 2005
  • NGO Forum on Cambodia report on 2003 legislative elections. Accessed January 27, 2005
  • Puckridge, D. 2004. The Burning of the Rice. Sid Harta Publishers, Victoria. ISBN 1-877059-73-0. pp326
  • Radio Broadcasting in Cambodia Accessed January 23, 2005

External links

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