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Phnom Penh ( , official Romanization: Phnum Pénh; in Khmer and or in English) is the capital and largest city of Cambodiamarker. It is also the capital of the Phnom Penh municipality. It is an economic, industrial, commercial, cultural, tourist and historical center in the country.

Once known as the "Pearl of Asia" in the 1920s, Phnom Penh, along with Siem Reapmarker, is a significant global and domestic tourist destination for Cambodia. Phnom Penh is known for its traditional Khmer and French influenced architecture.

Phnom Penh is the wealthiest and most populous city in Cambodia. It is also the commercial, political and cultural hub of Cambodia and is home to more than 2 million of Cambodia's population of over 14 million.


Phnom Penh City takes its name from the present Wat Phnommarker or Hill Temple. Legend has it that in 1372, an old nun named Penh went to fetch the water in the Mekong river and found a dead Koki tree floating down the stream. Inside the hole of that dead Koki tree contained four bronze and one stone Buddha statues in it.

Daun (Grandma) Penh brought the statues ashore and ordered people to pile up earth at northeast of her house and used those Koki trunks to build a temple on that hill to house the five Buddha statues, then named the temple after her as Wat Phnommarker Daun Penh, which presently known as Wat Phnom, a small hill of 27 metres (89 ft) in height.

Phnom Penh was also previously known as Krong Chaktomuk ( ) meaning "City of Four Faces". This name refers to the junction where the Mekong, Bassacmarker, and Tonle Sapmarker rivers cross to form an "X" where the capital is situated. Krong Chaktomuk is an abbreviation of its ceremonial name given by King Ponhea Yat which full named Known as "Krong Chaktomuk Mongkol Sakal Kampuchea Thipadei Sereythor Inthabot Borei Roth Reach Seima Maha Nokor" ( ). This ceremonial name is composed into Pali, translates clearly but not official right as " The Place of Four river that give a happiness and success of Kampuja Kingdom, the highest leader as well as impregnable city of God Indra of the enormous Kingdom".)


Phnom Penh first became the capital of Cambodia after Ponhea Yat, king of the Khmer Empire, moved the capital from Angkor Thommarker after it was captured by Siammarker a few years earlier. There are stupa behind Wat Phnom that house the remains of Ponhea Yat and the royal family as well as the remaining Buddhist statues from the Angkorean era. There is a legend that tells how Phnom Penh was created. In the 1600s, Japanese immigrants settled on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.Phnom Penh remained the royal capital for 73 years from 1432 to 1505 when it was abandoned for 360 years from 1505 to 1865 by subsequent kings due to internal fighting between the royal pretenders. Later kings moved the capital several times and established their royal capitals at various locations in Tuol Basan (Srey Santhor), Pursatmarker, Longvekmarker, Lavear Em and Oudongmarker.

It was not until 1866, under the reign of King Norodom I, that Phnom Penh became the permanent seat of government, and the current Royal Palacemarker was built. Beginning in 1870, the French Colonialists had turned a a riverside village into a city when it started to build hotels, schools, prisons, barracks, bank, public works offices, telegraph offices, Law courts, and health services buildings. In 1872, the first glimpse of a modern city took shape when the colonial administration contracted a French contractor, Le Faucheur, to construct the first 300 concrete houses for sales and rentals to the Chinese traders.

By the 1920s, Phnom Penh was known as the Pearl of Asia, and over the next four decades continued to experience growth with the building of a railway to Sihanoukvillemarker and the Pochentong International Airport (now Phnom Penh International Airportmarker).Phnom Penh under the period of Sihanouk’s rule had seen the expansion and the constructions of many modern infrastructures.The city had been expanded and many infrastructures had been built.)

During the Vietnam War, Cambodia was used as a base by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, and thousands of refugees from across the country flooded the city to escape the fighting between their own government troops, the NVA/NLF, the South Vietnamese and its allies and the Khmer Rouge. By 1975, the population was 2,000,000, the bulk of them refugees from the fighting. The city fell to the Khmer Rouge on April 17. Many of its residents, those who were wealthy and educated, were forced to do labor on rural farms as "new people". Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot's forces and was turned into the S-21marker prison camp, where Cambodians were detained and tortured. Pol Pot sought a return to an agrarian economy and therefore killed many people perceived as educated, "lazy" or political enemies. Many others starved to death as a result of failure of the agrarian society and the sale of Cambodia's rice to China in exchange for bullets and weaponry. The former high school is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museummarker where Khmer Rouge torture devices and photos of their victims are displayed. Choeung Ek (The Killing Fieldsmarker), away, where the Khmer Rouge marched prisoners from Tuol Sleng to be murdered and buried in shallow pits, is also now a memorial to those who were killed by the regime.

The Khmer Rouge were driven out of Phnom Penh by the Vietnamesemarker in 1979 and people began to return to the city. Vietnam is historically a state with which Cambodia has had many conflicts, therefore this liberation was and is viewed with mixed emotions by the Cambodians. A period of reconstruction began, spurred by continuing stability of government, attracting new foreign investment and aid by countries including Francemarker, Australia, and Japanmarker. Loans were made from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to reinstate a clean water supply, roads and other infrastructure. The 1998 Census put Phnom Penh's population at 862,000; by the next census in 2008 it was 1.3 million.


Satellite view of Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is located in the south-central region of Cambodia, at the confluence of the Tonlé Sapmarker, Mekong, and Bassac rivers. These rivers provide potential freshwater and other resources. The city, located at (11°33' North, 104°55' East, [8261]). Covers an area of which some in the municipality and of roads. The agricultural land in the municipality amounts to with some under irrigation.


Climate Diagram of Phnom Penh
The climate is hot year-round with only minor variations. City temperatures range from 18° to 38 °C (64° to 100 °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 city 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 rise up to around April and is generally accompanied with high humidity. The dry season lasts from November to April when temperatures can drop to . The best months to visit the city are November to January when temperatures and humidity are lower.



Administratively, Phnom Penh is a municipality standing at 375 square kilometers and is governed with a status that is equal to provinces of Cambodiamarker. As such, it has a similar political structure to its provinces. The municipality is subdivided into 7 administrative divisions called Khan (district) and of the 7 Khans, Dangkor, Meanchey and Russei Kaev are considered the outskirts of the city. All Khans are under the governance of the Phnom Penh Municipality. The Khans are further subdivided into 76 Sangkats (communes), and 637 Kroms.

The municipality is governed by the Governor who acts as the top executive of the city and manages the general affairs as well as overlooking the Municipal Military Police, Municipal Police and Bureau of Urban Affairs. Below the Governor is the First Vice Governor and 5 Vice Governors. The Chief of Cabinet who holds the same status as the Vice Governors, heads the Cabinet that consists of 8 Deputy Chiefs of Cabinet which in turn are in charge of the 27 Administrative Departments. Every khan (district) also has a head Chief.[8262]
List of Phnom Penh Administrative Units
Name of district khan (since January 2003) Number of communes sangkat (since September 2006) Number of villages phum (since December 2006)
Chamkarmon 12 sangkats 95 kroms
Daun Penh 11 sangkats 134 kroms
Prampir Makara 8 sangkats 33 kroms
Tuol Kork 10 sangkats 143 kroms
Dangkor 15 sangkats 143 kroms
Meanchey 8 sangkats 30 kroms
Russei Kaew 12 sangkats 59 kroms


As of 2008, according to preliminary census results, Phnom Penh had a population of 1,325,681 people, with a total population density of in a city area. Annual population growth in the city over the period 1998-2008 is 2.82%.

Phnom Penh is mostly inhabited by Cambodiansmarker (or Khmers) - they represent 90% of the population of the city . There are also large minorities of ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese people. Other ethnic groups are Thais, Budong, Mnong Preh, Kuy, Chong, and Chams . There is also a local community of ethnic Nigerians living in Phnom Penh. The Nigerians living in the capital city make up the largest African nationality in Cambodia. The state religion is Theravada Buddhism, hence more than 90% of the people in Phnom Penh are Buddhists with the Chams practicing Islam and over the years since 1993, there has been an increase in the practice of Christianity which was practically wiped out after 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over. English and French are widely used in the city, but the official language is Khmer.


Double-digit economic growth rates in recent years have triggered an economic boom, with new hotels, restaurants, bars, and residential buildings springing up around the city. Phnom Penh's wealth of historical and cultural sites makes it a very popular tourist destination.

The $2.6 Billion USD new urban development, Camko City, is meant to bolster the city landscape. The Bureau of Urban Affairs of Phnom Penh Municipality has plans to expand and construct new infrastructure to accommodate the growing population and economy. High rise buildings will be constructed at the entrance of the city and near the lakes and riverbanks. Furthermore, new roads, canals, and a railway system will be used to connect the city.

Opponents have accused that the construction of Camko City would cause more flooding, traffic problems and environmental hazards. Such modernization could lead to higher deforestation rates due to construction. Cambodia already has one of the worst deforestation rate. Other projects include:

With the economic growth seen since the 1990s, new shops have opened as well as western-style malls such as Sorya Shopping Centermarker and the new Sovanna Shopping Center. Two international franchises have also opened up in Phnom Penh. Dairy Queen has already opened up inside Phnom Penh International Airportmarker and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has opened up a restaurant on Monivong Boulevard and plans to open more soon.The same company that opened up KFC in Cambodia has now obtained franchise rights to open Pizza Hut in the country.

Nowadays, the market is a tourist hot spot. The four wings of the yellow coloured Phsar Thom Thmei are teeming with numerous stalls selling gold and silver jewellery, antique coins, clothing, clocks, flowers, food, fabrics and shoes.

Cambodia Angkor Air has its head office in Phnom Penh.


Phnom Penh is notable for "Ka Tieu Phnom Penh", its variation on rice-noodle soup. Phnom Penh also has its own dialect. It is also known for depicting New Khmer Architecture. The city is associated as the most modern of Cambodian cities. The capital is center of Cambodia's politics as well as being a commercial center.

Cityscape and architecture

The oldest structure is the Wat Phnommarker from the founding days of the city, constructed in 1373. The main tourist attractions are the Royal Palacemarker with the Silver Pagodamarker, which dates to the mid 1800s; the National Museum, constructed during the French colonial era in the late 1800s in the classical Khmer style hosts a vast collection of Khmer antiquities; the Independence Monumentmarker (Khmer: Vimean Akareach), although modern from the 1950s, is also constructed in the ancient Khmer style.

Example of French colonial architecture in Phnom Penh

The French, who were the colonial masters from the 1800s to the 1940s, also left their mark, with various colonial villas, French churches, boulevards, and the Art deco market Phsar Thom Thmeimarker. A notable landmark of the colonial era is the Hotel Le Royal.

Starting with independence from the French in the 1950s and lasting until the era of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, Phnom Penh underwent tremendous growth as the capital city of a newly independent country. King Sihanouk was eager to present a new style of architecture and thus invigorate the process of nation building. A new golden era of architecture took off, with various projects and young Khmer architects, often educated in France, given opportunities to design and construct. This new movement was called "New Khmer Architecture" and was often characterised by a fusion of Bauhaus, European post-modern architecture, and traditional elements from Angkormarker. The most prominent architect was Vann Molyvann, who was nominated chief national architect by the king himself in 1956. Molyvann created landmark buildings such as the Preah Suramarit National Theatre and the Council of Ministers building, other architects helped construct the newly founded Royal Khmer Universitymarker, the Institute of Foreign Languages and the National Sports Centre. With the growth of the upper and entrepreneurial middle class, new suburbs were built in the 1950s and 60's.

Although these buildings survived the Khmer Rouge era and the civil war, today they are under threat due to economic development and financial speculation. Villas and gardens from that era are being destroyed and redeveloped to make place for bigger structures. The landmark National Theatre by Molyvann was ripped down in 2008. A movement is rising in Cambodia to preserve this modernist heritage. Old villas are sometimes being converted into boutique hotels, such as the Knai Bang Chatt.

Monuments and memorials to the genocide during the Khmer Rouge era in the 1970s are the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museummarker (a former high school used as a concentration camp) and on the outskirt of the city the Choeung Ek Genocide Centermarker. The Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument was commissioned by the Vietnamese communists as symbol of Khmer-Vietnamese "friendship" during the late 1970s following the liberation of Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge.

Newspapers and Magazines






  • AsiaLIFE Guide Phnom Penh, a monthly English-language lifestyle magazine published in Phnom Penh.
  • Pocket Guide Cambodia publishes four separate guides aimed at English-speaking residents and visitors. Titles include Drinking & Dining, Out & About, After Dark, Door 2 Door as well as one Khmer-language guide called Sabay Sabay targeting the emerging young professional marketplace

French newspapers


Phnom Penh International Airport

Phnom Penh International Airportmarker (Phnom Penh) is the second-largest and second-busiest airport in Cambodia. It is located 7 km (4.3 miles) west of central Phnom Penh. Taxis, pick-ups and minibuses leave Phnom Penh for destinations all over the country, but are fast losing ground to cheaper and more comfortable buses. Phnom Penh also has a rail service.

Cambodian's national flag carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air, launched in 2009, has a hub at Phnom Penh International Airport, although the airline's main hub is at Siem Reap's Angkor International Airportmarker.

There are two bus companies, Phnom Penh Public Transport and GST Express, running services to Sihanoukville, Kompong Chang, Udong & Takeo.

Phnom Penh Sorya Transport Co. offers bus travel to several provincial destinations along the National Routes and to Ho Chi Minh City. Motorcycles are a popular form of quick travel in the city streets.

Although the city is 290 km (180 miles) from the sea, it is a major port on the Mekong River valley, and it is linked to the South China Sea via a channel of the Mekong delta in Vietnam

Local means of public transportation within the city most often include the cycle rickshaw, known in Khmer as "cyclo" and motorcycle taxis. Private forms of transportation include bicycles and automobiles.

Highways in Phnom Penh

As the capital of Cambodia a number of National Highways connect the city with various parts of the country:

National Highway Code Length Origin Terminal
National Highway 1 10001 Phnom Penh Vietnamesemarker Border
National Highway 2 10002 Phnom Penh Vietnamesemarker Border
National Highway 3 10003 Phnom Penh Sihanoukvillemarker
National Highway 4 10004 Phnom Penh Sihanoukvillemarker
National Highway 5 10005 Phnom Penh Thaimarker Border
National Highway 6 10006 Phnom Penh Banteay Meancheymarker


The Royal University of Phnom Penhmarker (RUPP) is the oldest and largest institution of higher education in Cambodiamarker. As of 2008, the university has over 10,000 students across three campuses, and offers a wide range of high-quality courses within the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the Institute of Foreign Languages (IFL). There are about fifty higher institutions in Cambodia, most of which have no small campuses. Several international charities, like A New Day Cambodia, operate independent educational facilities in addition to public schools for students.


The martial arts of Bokator, Pradal Serey (Khmer kick boxing) and Khmer traditional wrestling have venues in Phnom Penh watched by dedicated spectators.

Cambodia has increasingly become involved in modern sports over the last 30 years.

As with the rest of the country, Football and the martial arts are particularly popular.

The most prominent of venues in the city is the Phnom Penh National Olympic Stadiummarker with a capacity of 50,000. Built in 1964 it is home to the Cambodian national football team, although the country never hosted the Olympic Games. Noted clubs include Phnom Penh Empire, Khemara and Military Police.

Notable people

Sister cities



External links


Films and Videos



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