Cambodia Explained

Native Name:
Preăh Réachéanachâkr Kâmpŭchea
Royaume du Cambodge
Conventional Long Name:Kingdom of Cambodia
Common Name:Cambodia
National Motto:
"Nation, Religion, King"
National Anthem:Nokoreach
Official Languages:Khmer
Usual Languages:Khmer, French
Capital:Phnom Penh
Largest City:capital
Government Type:Constitutional monarchy,
Parliamentary representative democracy
Leader Title1:King
Leader Name1:Norodom Sihamoni
Leader Title2:Prime Minister
Leader Name2:Hun Sen
Sovereignty Type:Formation
Established Event1:Khmer empire
Established Date1:802
Established Event2:French colonization
Established Date2:1863
Established Event3:Independence from France
Established Date3:November 9, 1953
Established Event4:Monarchy restored
Established Date4:May 1993
Area Rank:88th
Area Km2:181,035
Area Sq Mi:69,898
Percent Water:2.5
Population Estimate:14,241,640[1]
Population Estimate Year:2008
Population Estimate Rank:67th
Population Census:13,388,910
Population Census Year:2008
Population Density Km2:74
Population Density Sq Mi:192
Population Density Rank:125th
Gdp Ppp Year:2008
Gdp Ppp:$29.24 billion[2]
Gdp Ppp Rank:89th
Gdp Ppp Per Capita:$2,100
Gdp Ppp Per Capita Rank:133rd
Gdp Nominal:$8.690 billion
Gdp Nominal Year:2007
Gdp Nominal Per Capita:$606
Hdi Year:2007
Hdi: 0.598
Hdi Rank:131st
Hdi Category:medium>
Currency:Riel (៛)1
Currency Code:KHR
Utc Offset:+7
Utc Offset Dst:+7
Drives On:right
Calling Code:855
Footnote1:Local currency, although US dollars are widely used.

The Kingdom of Cambodia (, formerly known as Kampuchea,, transliterated: Preăh Réachéanachâkr Kâmpŭchea) is a country in South East Asia with a population of over 13 million people.[3] 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.

Cambodia's main industries are garments, tourism, and construction. In 2007, foreign visitors to Angkor Wat numbered more than 4 million.[4] In 2005, oil and natural gas deposits were found beneath Cambodia's territorial waters, and once commercial extraction begins in 2011, the oil revenues could profoundly affect Cambodia's economy.[5] Observers fear much of the revenue could end up in the hands of the political elites if not monitored correctly.[6] [7]


See main article: History of Cambodia. The first evidence of an advanced civilization in present-day Cambodia are artificial circular earthworks estimated to be from the 1st millennium BC.[8] 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 are assumed by most scholars to have been Khmer.[9] For more than 2,000 years, Cambodia absorbed influences from China and India, passing them on to other Southeast Asian civilizations that are now Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.[10] The Khmer Empire flourished in the area from the 9th to the 13th century.[11] Around the 13th century, Theravada Buddhism was introduced to the area through monks from Sri Lanka.[12] From then on Theravada Buddhism grew and eventually became the most popular religion. 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 could have supported a population of up to one million people.[13] Angkor, the world's largest pre-industrial civilization, and Angkor Wat, the most famous and best-preserved religious temple at the site, are reminders 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 because of ecological failure and infrastructure breakdown.[14] [15] After Angkor was abandoned, the buildings were swallowed up by jungle creating a myth of a hidden lost civilization. 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 Lovek was conquered 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,[16] 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, though occupied 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. When French Indochina was given independence, Cambodia lost official control over the mekong delta as it was awarded to Vietnam.

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. However, Cambodians began to take sides, and he was 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.[17]

Between 1969 and 1973, U.S. forces bombed and briefly invaded Cambodia in an effort to disrupt the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge.[18] Some two million Cambodians were made refugees by the war and fled to Phnom Penh. Estimates of the number of Cambodians killed during the bombing campaigns vary widely, as do views of the effects of the bombing. 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.[19] However, 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.[20] Cambodia specialist Craig Etcheson argued that the Khmer Rouge "would have won anyway", even without US intervention driving recruitment.[21]

As the war ended, a draft US AID report observed that the country faced famine in 1975, with 75% of its draft animals destroyed, 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.[22]

The Khmer Rouge reached Phnom Penh and took power in 1975. The regime, led by Pol Pot, changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea, and was heavily influenced and backed by China. They 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, discarded Western medicine, and destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered western. Over a million Cambodians, out of a total population of 8 million, died from executions, overwork, starvation and disease.

Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from approximately one to three million.[23] [24] This era gave 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 fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand. The regime disproportionately targeted ethnic minority groups. The Cham Muslims suffered serious purges with as much as half of their population exterminated.[25] The professions, such as doctors, lawyers, and teachers, were also targeted. According to Robert D. Kaplan, "eyeglasses were as deadly as the yellow star" as they were seen as a sign of intellectualism.[26]

In November 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia to stop Khmer Rouge incursions across the border and the genocide in Cambodia.[27] 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.[28]

In recent years, reconstruction efforts have progressed and some political stability has finally returned. However, Cambodia's natural resources, particularly its valuable timber, are still being exploited by interests from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia. Until 1999, the Khmer Rouge were still active in some areas, often supporting illegal timber operations. At that time, travel by land and river was still precarious.[29]

The stability established following the conflict was shaken in 1997 by a coup d'état,[30] but has otherwise remained in place. Cambodia has been aided by a number of more developed nations like Japan, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States and Great Britain. Cambodia is moving past its war torn history and focusing on national reconstruction. In recent years, the country has seen double digit economic growth, and seeks foreign business investment to modernize the nation and eliminate poverty.

Politics and government

See main article: Politics 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.

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 king's half brother and current chief advisor), both members of the throne council. He was crowned in Phnom Penh on October 29 2004.

In 2006, Transparency International's rating of corrupt countries rated Cambodia as 151st of 163 countries of their Corruption Perceptions Index.[31] The 2007 edition of the same list placed Cambodia at 162nd out of 179 countries.[32] 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[33] with international aid from the U.S. and other countries being illegally transferred into private accounts.[34] Corruption has also added to the wide income disparity within the population.[35]

Huge issues that plague contemporary Cambodia include human trafficking, deforestation and forced evictions.


See main article: 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 General Tea Banh. Banh has served as defense minister since 1979. The Secretaries of State for Defense are Chay Saing Yun and Por Bun Sreu. In Janury 2009, General Ke Kim Yan was removed from his post as Commander-in-Chief of the RCAF and was replaced by his deputy, Gen. Pol Saroeun, the new Commander-in-Chief of the RCAF, who is a long time loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen. There were rumours that Prime Minister Hun Sen had plans to remove Ke Kim Yan from commander of RCAF because of an internal dispute in the CPP. Days later after the news broke out that Yan was being removed, members of the CPP Party said it was a regular reshuffle of the Kingdom's military leadership and that there are no internal problems within the CPP party. It is expected that Ke Kim Yan will be promoted to Deputy Prime Minister by Hun Sen and will be in charge of anti-drugs trafficking. The Army Commander is General Meas Sophea and the Army Chief of Staff is Chea Saran.


See main article: Geography of Cambodia. Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 sq mi) and lies entirely within the tropics. It borders Thailand to the north and west, Laos to the northeast, and Vietnam to the east and southeast. It has a 443-kilometer (275 mi) 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. Much of this area has been designated as a biosphere reserve.

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).


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.

Administrative divisions

See main article: Administrative divisions of Cambodia. Provinces (khaet) and municipalities (krong) are Cambodia's first-level administrative divisions. Rural areas are divided among Cambodia's twenty provinces, and urban areas are divided among Cambodia's four municipalities.

City and province sizes

No.City or provinceArea
sq mi
1City of Phnom Penh2900NaN0
2Kandal Province35680NaN0
3Takeo Province35630NaN0
4Kampong Cham Province97990NaN0
5Kampong Thom Province138140NaN0
6Siem Reap Province102990NaN0
7Preah Vihear Province137880NaN0
8Oddar Meancheay Province61580NaN0
9Banteay Meanchey Province66790NaN0
10Battambang Province110720NaN0
11City of Pailin8030NaN0
12Pursat Province126920NaN0
13Kampong Chhnang Province55210NaN0
14Kampong Speu Province70170NaN0
15Koh Kong Province111600NaN0
16City of Sihanoukville8680NaN0
17Kampot Province4873.21NaN1
18City of Kep335.81NaN1
19Prey Veng Province48830NaN0
20Svay Rieng Province29660NaN0
21Kratie Province110940NaN0
22Stung Treng Province110920NaN0
23Ratanakiri Province107820NaN0
24Mondulkiri Province142880NaN0
25Tonlé Sap30000NaN0

Foreign relations

See main article: Foreign relations of Cambodia. 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[36] 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.[37]

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.[38] 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 their soldiers near the border and around the disputed territory between the two countries.

Wildlife of Cambodia

See main article: Wildlife of Cambodia.

See also: Deforestation in 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. Much of this biodiversity is contained around the Tonle Sap Lake and the surrounding biosphere.[39] The Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is a unique ecological phenomenon surrounding the Tonle Sap. It encompasses the lake and nine provinces: Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Banteay Meanchey, Krong Pailin, Otdar Meanchey and Preah Vihear. In 1997, it was successfully nominated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.[40]

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 25000km2 of forest between 1990 and 2005—33400NaN0 of which was primary forest. As of 2007, less than 32200NaN0 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.[41]


See main article: Economy of Cambodia. 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%.[42] 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.[43] 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. [44] However, few Cambodian farmers grow other crops leaving them vulnerable to crop failure. In recent years, various international aid organisations have begun crop diversification programs to encourage farmers to grow other crops.

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.[45] 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,[46] while the Asian Development Bank alone has provided $850 million in loans, grants, and technical assistance.[47]

The tourism industry is the country's second-greatest source of hard currency after the textile industry.[28] Between January and December 2007, visitor arrivals were 2.0 million, an increase of 18.5% over the same period in 2006. Most visitors (51%) arrived through Siem Reap with the remainder (49%) through Phnom Penh and other destinations.[48] Other tourist destinations include Sihanoukville in the south east which has several popular beaches, and the area around Kampot and Kep including the Bokor Hill Station.


See main article: Demographics of Cambodia and Ethnic groups in Cambodia. More than 90% of its population is of Khmer origin and speaks the Khmer language, the country's official language. The remainder include Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham and Khmer Loeu.

The Khmer language is a member of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austroasiatic language group. French, once the language of government in Indochina, is still spoken by some older Cambodians. French is also the language of instruction in some schools and universities that are funded by the government of France. Cambodian French, a remnant of the country's colonial past, is a dialect found in Cambodia and is sometimes 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.[49]

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 [50] . In the Cambodian population over 65, the female to male ratio is 1.6:1.[46] UNICEF has designated Cambodia the third most mined country in the world,[51] attributing over 60,000 civilian deaths and thousands more maimed or injured since 1970 to the unexploded land mines left behind in rural areas.[52] The majority of the victims are children herding animals or playing in the fields.[51] Adults that survive landmines often require amputation of one or more limbs and have to resort to begging for survival.[52] In 2006, the number of landmine casualties in Cambodia took a sharp decrease of more than 50% compared to 2005, with the number of landmine 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).[53]


See main article: article and Health in Cambodia. Cambodia's infant mortality rate has decreased from 115 in 1993 to 89.4 per 1000 live births in 1998. In the same period, the under-five mortality rate decreased from 181 to 115 per 1000 live births.[54] In the province with worst health indicators, Ratanakiri, 22.9% of children die before the age of five.[55]

Culture and society

See main article: Culture of Cambodia and Sport in Cambodia. Various factors contribute to Cambodian culture including Theravada Buddhism, French Colonialism, Hinduism, Angkor era culture, and modern globalization. The Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts is responsible for promoting and developing Cambodian culture. Cambodian culture not only includes the culture of the lowland ethnic majority, the Khmer, but of also some 20 culturally distinct hill tribes colloquially known as the Khmer Loeu, a term coined by Norodom Sihanouk to generate unity between the highlanders and lowlanders. Rural Cambodians wear a krama scarf which is a unique aspect of Cambodian clothing. 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. Traditionally, the Khmer people have a unique method of recording info on Tra leaf. Tra leaf books record information on legends of the Khmer people, the Ramayana, the origin of Buddhism and other prayer book series. They are greatly taken care of and wrap in cloth as to protect from moisture and the jungle climate. [56]

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.[57] Popular games include cockfighting, soccer, and kicking a sey, which is similar to a footbag. Based on Theravada Buddhism, the Cambodian New Year is a major holiday that takes place in April. 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. The cuisine of Cambodia contains tropical fruits, soups and noodles. Key ingredients in Cambodian cuisine are kaffir lime, lemon grass, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, curry, tamarind, ginger, oyster sauce, coconut milk and black pepper. An example of French influence on Cambodian cuisine, is Cambodian red curry with toasted baguette bread. The toasted baguette pieces are dipped in the curry and eaten. Cambodian red curry is also eaten with rice and rice vermicelli noodles. 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. Football was brought to Cambodia by the French and became popular with the locals. [58] 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. Cambodia first participated in the Olympics during the 1956 Summer Olympic Games sending Equestrian riders.


See main article: Transport in Cambodia.

The civil war and neglect 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.[59] 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).[59] 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.[60] Cycle rickshaws 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

Heritage FoundationIndex of Economic Freedom100 out of 157
Reporters Without BordersWorldwide Press Freedom Index126 out of 173
Transparency InternationalCorruption Perceptions Index162 out of 179
United Nations Development ProgrammeHuman Development Index136 out of 177
World Economic ForumGlobal Competitiveness Report110 out of 131

External links

General information

Notes and References

  1. Web site: [ The World Factbook; Cambodia]. March 7, 2009. Central Intelligence Agency. March 5, 2009. mdy.
  2. Web site: Cambodia. International Monetary Fund. 2008-10-09.
  3. Web site: General Population Census of Cambodia 2008 - Provisional population totals. pdf. National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning. September 3, 2008.
  4. Web site: San Miguel eyes projects in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar. 2009-03-03. Elizabeth Sanchez-Lacson. May 30, 2008. Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  5. Web site: Cambodia hopes to start oil production in 2009. Ek Madra. January 19, 2007. Reuters. 2009-03-06.
  6. Web site: Cambodia's oil and mineral wealth sold to corrupt elites: watchdog. 2009-03-03. AFP through Yahoo! News. February 5, 2009. Claire Truscott.
  7. Web site: Cambodia's oil resources: Blessing or curse?. 2009-03-03. The Economist. February 26, 2009.
  8. [Gerd Albrecht]
  9. Country Studies Handbook; information taken from US Dept of the Army. Accessed July 25, 2006.
  10. History of Cambodia. Accessed July 25, 2006.
  11. Khmer Empire Map
  12. Windows on Asia
  13. Metropolis: Angkor, the world's first mega-city
  14. [David P. Chandler|Chandler, David P.]
  15. Scientists dig and fly over Angkor in search of answers to golden city's fall
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