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The Kingdom of Cambodia ( ), formerly known as Kampuchea ( , ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា Preăh Réachéa Nachâk Kâmpŭchea, derived from Sanskrit Kambujadesa), is a country in South East Asia with a population of over 14 million people. The kingdom's capital and largest city is Phnom Penhmarker. Cambodia is the successor state of the once powerful Hindu and Buddhist Khmer Empire, which ruled most of the Indochinese Peninsula between the 11th and 14th 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 Thailandmarker to its west and northwest, Laosmarker to its northeast and Vietnammarker to its east and southeast. In the south it faces the Gulf of Thailandmarker. The geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong River (colloquial Khmer: Tonle Thom or "the great river") and the Tonlé Sapmarker ("the fresh water lake"), an important source of fish.

Agriculture has long been the most important sector of the Cambodian economy, with around 59% of the population relying on agriculture for their livelihood (with rice being the principal crop). Garments, tourism, and construction are also important. In 2007, foreign visitors to Angkor Watmarker numbered more than 4 million. 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. Observers fear much of the revenue could end up in the hands of the political elites if not monitored correctly.


Cambodia is the traditional English name, taken from the French Cambodge, while Kâmpŭchea (កម្ពុជា), formerly the name of the country in English, is the direct transliteration, more faithful to the Khmer pronunciation. The Khmer Kampuchea is derived from the ancient Khmer kingdom of Kambuja ( ). Kambuja or Kamboja (Devangari: कम्बोज) is the ancient Sanskrit name of the Kambojas, an early tribe of north Indiamarker, named after their founder Kambu Svayambhuva, believed to be a variant of Cambyses. See Etymology of Kamboja.

Preahreachanachâk Kampuchea means "Kingdom of Cambodia". Etymologically, its components are: Preah- ("sacred"); -reach- ("king, royal, realm", from Sanskrit); -ana- (from Pāli , "authority, command, power", itself from Sanskrit , same meaning) -châk (from Sanskrit chakra, meaning "wheel", a symbol of power and rule).

The name used on formal occasions, such as political speeches and news programs, is Prâteh Kampuchea ( ), literally "the Country of Cambodia". Prâteh is a formal word meaning "country."The colloquial name most used by Khmer people, is Srok Khmae ( ), literally "the Khmer Land". Srok is a Mon-Khmer word roughly equal to prâteh, but less formal. Khmer is spelled with a final "r" in the Khmer alphabet, but the word-final "r" phoneme disappeared from most dialects of Khmer in the 19th century and is not pronounced in the contemporary speech of the standard dialect.

Since independence, the official name of Cambodia has changed several times, following the troubled history of the country. The following names have been used in English and French since 1954.
  • Kingdom of Cambodia/Royaume du Cambodge under the rule of the monarchy from 1953 through 1970;
  • Khmer Republic/République Khmère (a calque of French Republicmarker) under the Lon Nol led government from 1970 to 1975;
  • Democratic Kampuchea/Kampuchea démocratique under the rule of the communist Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979;
  • People's Republic of Kampuchea/République populaire du Kampuchea under the rule of the Vietnamese-sponsored government from 1979 to 1989;
  • State of Cambodia/État du Cambodge (a neutral name, while deciding whether to return to monarchy) under the rule of the United Nations transitional authority from 1989 to 1993;
  • Kingdom of Cambodia/Royaume du Cambodge reused after the restoration of the monarchy in 1993.



The sparse evidence for a Pleistocene human occupation of present day Cambodia are quartz and quartzite pebble tools found in terraces along Mekong River, in Stung Trengmarker and Kratiémarker provinces, and in Kampot Provincemarker, but their dating is not reliable.

Instead it's sound that little communities of hunter-gatherers inhabited Cambodia during Holocene: the most ancient Cambodian archeological site is considered to be the cave of Laang Spean, in Battambang Provincemarker, which belongs to the so-called Hoabinhian period. Excavations in its lower layers produced a series of radiocarbon dates as of 6000 BC.

Upper layers in the same site gave evidence of transition to Neolithic, containing the earliest dated earthenware ceramics in Cambodia

Archeological records for the period between Holocene and Iron Age remain equally limited. Other prehistoric sites of somewhat uncertain date are Samrong Sen (not far from ancient capital of Oudongmarker), where first investigations started just in 1877, and Phum Snay, in the northern province of Banteay Meancheymarker. Prehistoric artifacts are often found during mining activities in Ratanakirimarker.

The most outstanding prehistoric evidence in Cambodia however are probably "circular earthworks", discovered in the red soils near Memotmarker and in adjacent region of Vietnam as of the end of the Fifties. Their function and age are still debated, but some of them possibly date from 2nd millennium BC at least.

A pivotal event in Cambodian prehistory was the slow penetration of the first rice farmers from North, which begun in the late 3rd millennium BC. They probably spoke ancestral Mon-Khmer.

Iron was worked by about 500 BC. The most part of evidence come from Khorat Plateaumarker, Thai country nowadays. In Cambodia some Iron Age settlement were found beneath Angkorian temples, like Baksei Chamkrongmarker, others were circular earthworks, like Lovea, a few kilometers north-west of Angkor. Burials, much richer, testify improvement of food availability and trade (even on long distances: in the 4th century BC trade relations with India were already opened) and the existence of a social structure and labor organization.

Pre-angkorian and angkorian polities

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.For more than 2,000 years, Cambodia absorbed influences from Chinamarker and Indiamarker, passing them on to other Southeast Asian civilisations that are now Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. The Khmer Empire flourished in the area from the 9th to the 13th century. Around the 13th century, Theravada Buddhism was introduced to the area through monks from Sri Lankamarker. 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 centre of power was Angkormarker, where a series of capitals was constructed during the empire's zenith. Angkor could have supported a population of up to one million people. Angkor, the world's largest pre-industrial civilization , and Angkor Watmarker, the most famous and best-preserved religious temple at the site, are reminders of Cambodia's past as a major regional power.

Dark ages of Cambodia

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. The court moved the Capital to Lovekmarker where the kingdom sought to regain its glory through maritime trade. The attempt was short-lived, however, as continued wars with the Thai and Vietnamesemarker 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.

Modernity and French Indochina

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 Battambangmarker and Siem Reapmarker provinces which officially became part of Thailandmarker. 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 empiremarker from 1941 to 1945. After King Norodom's death in 1904, France manipulated the choice of king and Sisowath, Norodom's brother, was placed on the throne. The throne became vacant in 1941 with the death of Monivong, Sisowath's son, and France passed over Monivong's son, Monireth, feeling he was too independently minded. Instead, Norodom Sihanouk, who was eighteen years old at the time, was enthroned. The French thought young Sihanouk would be easy to control. They were wrong, however, and under the reign of King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953.

Cambodia 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 Vietnammarker. The area had been controlled by the Vietnamese since 1698 with King Chey Chettha II granting Vietnamese permission to settle in the area decades before.

Independence and Cold War

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 with the back-up support of the United Statesmarker, while on a trip abroad. Settling in the next alternative country, Beijing, Chinamarker, Sihanouk was forced to realign himself with the Chinese communist. Soon the Khmer Rouge rebels would use him for gaining territory in the regions. The King urged his followers to help in overthrowing the pro-United States government of Lon Nol, hastening the onset of civil war.

Between 1969 and 1973, Republic of Vietnam forces and U.S. forces bombed and briefly invaded Cambodia in an effort to disrupt the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge. 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. 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. Cambodia specialist Craig Etcheson argued that the Khmer Rouge "would have won anyway", even without US intervention driving recruitment although the US secretly played a major role behind the leading cause of the Khmer Rouge.

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 labour 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 labour 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. The regime, led by Pol Pot, changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea, and was heavily influenced and backed by Chinamarker. 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. This era gave rise to the term Killing Fieldsmarker, and the prison Tuol Slengmarker became notorious for its history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands fled across the border into neighbouring Thailandmarker. The regime disproportionately targeted ethnic minority groups. The Cham Muslims suffered serious purges with as much as half of their population exterminated. In the late 1960s, an estimated 425,000 ethnic Chinese lived in Cambodia, but by 1984, as a result of Khmer Rouge genocide and emigration, only about 61,400 Chinese remained in the country. 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.

November 1978, Vietnammarker 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 Parismarker 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.

Reconstruction and constitutional monarchy

In recent years, reconstruction efforts have progressed and led to some political stability under the form of a constitutional monarchy, multiparty, and democratic.

The stability established following the conflict was shaken in 1997 by a coup d'état, but has otherwise remained in place. Cambodia has been aided by a number of more developed nations like Japanmarker, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Canadamarker, Australia, the United Statesmarker and the United Kingdommarker.

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

Armed forces

The Royal Cambodian Armed Forces consists of the Royal Cambodian Army, the Royal Cambodian Navy, and the Royal Cambodian Air Force. 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 reorganisation of the RCAF. This saw the ministry of national defence form three subordinate general departments responsible for logistics and finance, materials and technical services, and defence 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 Defence is General Tea Banh. Banh has served as defence minister since 1979. The Secretaries of State for Defence are Chay Saing Yun and Por Bun Sreu. In January 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.


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 Vietnammarker to the east and southeast. It has a 443-kilometer (275 mi) coastline along the Gulf of Thailandmarker.

The most distinctive geographical feature is the lacustrine plain, formed by the inundations of the Tonle Sapmarker (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 Mountainsmarker (highest elevation 1,813 m / 5,948 ft) and their southeast extension the Dâmrei Mountainsmarker ("Elephant Mountains") (elevation range 500–1,000 m or 1,640–3,280 ft), as well the steep escarpment of the Dângrêk Mountainsmarker (average elevation 500 m / 1,640 ft) along the border with Thailand's Isanmarker region. The highest elevation of Cambodia is Phnom Aoral, near Pursatmarker in the centre of the country, at 1,813 metres (5,948 ft).


Cambodia's climate, like that of the rest of Southeast Asia is dominated by Monsoons, which are known as tropical wet and dry because of the distinctly marked seasonal differences.

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 Thailandmarker and Indian Oceanmarker 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.

Cambodia 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 rise up to 40 °C around April. The best months to visit Cambodia are November to January when temperatures and humidity are lower. Disastrous flooding, due to extremely heavy rainfall, occurred in 2001 and again in 2002.

Administrative divisions

Capital (Reach Theani) and Provinces (Khaet) are Cambodia’s First-level administrative divisions. Cambodian areas are divided into 23 provinces and the capital. Municipalities, Districts (Srok) and Khan are the second-level administrative divisions of Cambodia. The provinces are divided into 26 municipalities and 159 districts, and the capital is divided into 8 khan. The districts in turn are further divided into communes (khum) and sangkat. The municipalities and khan are divided into sangkat.

City and province sizes

Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh
A fishing boat in Koh Rung Samleom Island

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

On 22 December, 2008, King Norodom Sihamoni signed a Royal Decree that changed the municipalities of Kep, Pailin and Sihanoukville into provinces, as well as adjusting several provincial borders.

Foreign relations

Cambodia is a member of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fundmarker. 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. As a result of its international relations, various charitable organizations have assisted with both social and civil infrastructure needs.

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 Bangkokmarker. 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 have never been made. More problems came between Cambodia and Thailand in mid 2008 when Cambodia wanted to list Prasat Preah Vihearmarker 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. Conflict restarted in April 2009, where 2 Thai soldiers died as a result of a recent clash.

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. Much of this biodiversity is contained around the Tonle Sap Lake and the surrounding biosphere. The Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is a unique ecological phenomenon surrounding the Tonle Sap. It encompasses the lake and nine provinces: Kampong Thommarker, Siem Reapmarker, Battambangmarker, Pursatmarker, Kampong Chhnangmarker, Banteay Meancheymarker, Krong Pailinmarker, Otdar Meancheymarker and Preah Vihearmarker. In 1997, it was successfully nominated as a UNESCOmarker Biosphere Reserve. Other key habitats include the dry forest of Mondolkirimarker and Ratanakirimarker provinces and the Cardamom Mountainsmarker ecosystem, including Bokor National Park, Botum-Sakor National Parkmarker, and the Phnom Aural and Phnom Samkos wildlife sanctuaries.

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.


The OCIC Tower, under construction in Phnom Penh, will be the tallest building in Cambodia when it is completed in 2009

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%.
Rice cropping plays an important role in the economy
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 Philippinesmarker. 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. 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, because of 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. 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 Reapmarker with the remainder (49%) through Phnom Penh and other destinations. Other tourist destinations include Sihanoukvillemarker in the south east which has several popular beaches, and the area around Kampotmarker and Kepmarker including the Bokor Hill Stationmarker.


55% 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 with nearly half of the population being of Vietnamese descent and rising.

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 because of 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.

The civil war and its aftermath have had a marked effect on the Cambodian population. 50% of the population is younger than 22. At 0.96 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 landmined 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 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).


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. In the province with worst health indicators, Ratanakiri, 22.9% of children die before the age of five.

Culture and society

Various factors contribute to Cambodian culture including Theravada Buddhism, French Colonialism, Hinduism, Angkor era culturemarker, 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 Laosmarker and Thailandmarker through the history. Angkor Watmarker (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 information 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 wrapped in cloth as to protect from moisture and the jungle climate.

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. 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.

Phnom Penh Style Noodle Soup (Ka Tieu Phnom Penh)
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. Probably the most popular dine out dish, ka tieu, is a pork broth rice noodle soup with fried garlic, scallions, green onions that may also contain various toppings such as beef balls, shrimp, pork liver or lettuce. 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 because of the economic conditions. Football was brought to Cambodia by the French and became popular with the locals. 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. Cambodia also hosted the GANEFO Games, the alternative to the Olympics, in the 1960s.


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. The lines run from the capital to Sihanoukville on the southern coast, and from Phnom Penh to Sisophonmarker (although trains often run only as far as Battambangmarker). Currently only one passenger train per week operates, between Phnom Penh and Battambang.Besides the main interprovincial traffic artery connecting the capital Phnom Penhmarker with Sihanoukvillemarker, 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 Kongmarker 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 Sapmarker 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).
National Highway 4
Cambodia has two major ports, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, and five minor ones. Phnom Penh, located at the junction of the Bassacmarker, 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 are an additional option often used by visitors.

The country has four commercial airports. Phnom Penh International Airport marker in Phnom Penh is the second largest in Cambodia. Siem Reap-Angkor International Airportmarker is the largest and serves the most international flights in and out of Cambodia. The other airports are in Sihanoukvillemarker and Battambangmarker.

International rankings

(as in 2009)
Organization Index Rank Score
Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom 106 out of 179 56.6
Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 117 out of 175 34.25
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 166 out of 180 1.8
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 137 out of 182 0.593
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 110 out of 133 3.51

See also


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