About Cambodia

Geographic setting


Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia in the tropical region with the latitude and longitude of 12.4317° N, 104.5291° E. It total landmass is 181,035 (U.N recorded) having the international border to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand. Cambodia has the population a1pproximately 14.5 million (UN, 2012). With this number of population, Cambodia has the population density of 83 people per SQ km. In the sake of ASEAN (Association of South East Asia Nation) Cambodia do not have any military threat from the neighboring countries. Cambodia is rich in natural resources such as forest, high price accessories (gem, diamond, ruby), and of course with the newly discovered resource, oil. Productive land and fully running rivers across the country make this the best place for doing agriculture and fishing. The Khmer (Mon-Khmer) people have the ancestor who lived in this country for thousand of years on this land before the Thai (Siamese) or Vietnamese (Dai Viet) then today known as Cambodian. The population of Khmer people is 90% of the overall population; the remaining populations are the ethnic group of Cham descendant, a Chinese descendant, Vietnamese descendant, and hill tribes that lived in Cambodia for around the first century of the Common Era. Of the minority groups, the largest is Vietnamese. There are also a significant number of Chinese descendants who dominate the business community and indigenous minority groups of Hmong, Pong, and Tai amongst others who are collectively known as Khmer Leu.


The majority of the Cambodian are the Theravada Buddhism and followed by the Islam and the Christianity. More from this religion there is also an ethnic group in northern part of Cambodia that they still believe in the Animism (belief that everything having the spirit.) One main effect is that the government permits Buddhist religious instruction in public schools and other forms of religion taught are prohibited in public schools; however, the non-Buddhist religious education may be provided by private schools. The government also observes Buddhist holidays as national holidays.



Critical Juncture



Cambodia history full of joy, happiness, prosperity, and sadness, there is many civil wars, invasion from the outside, colonized, regime changing over time. To under the complex history of Cambodia, we have to flash back to the first century since the start of Khmer Civilization.



The Funan to Angkor Empire 1AD century to 1863AD



From the first century and throughout the history most of the time within Cambodia is under the system of Absolute Monarchy where the king is inherited and by the bloodline. This regime is connected since 2000 years BCE where the ancestor of the Khmer people first came here. From the 1 CE to 1863CE known as the most prosperous time in the Khmer Society, where there is the development of the entire sector. Many temples had been built during this time. For a certain period, the Khmer Empire have the vast border to the south of China Burma and Champa. This empire survived because of the good irrigation system and under the lead of the great kings. Cambodia did have the diplomatic connection since the 1st century when the Funan empire has the port in Oc Keo, and many of the Chinese trade they used to come there for the exchange and as the parking lots for ships that want to continues the trip to India. Agriculture and the fishery are the main economic sector that developed most of the Khmer Empire. Later on to the vast Khmer empire that relies on to the same economic system to the former regime, which known as the great prosperous time of the Khmer history and also having the widespread territory to the east, west and north. However, this wonderful time did not last for more than hundred years because of the passed away of the Jayavaraman the seventh and his successor not powerful enough for the enemy. The, later on, kings mostly assigned by the Siamese king and many of the Cambodian provinces were under the control of the Siam Empire. However, this period considered as the dark age of Cambodia and many people had suffered from this period as well as kill and died from the disease. Drought and Famine were the main killers that killed many of the Khmer citizens.


The two enemies on the west and the east of this small kingdom had tried to grab each of the sites in both natural recourses and the heritage. There was one possible solution to save this country; King Norodom signed the treaty of protectorate with the French Empire to ask for the security warrant. It will lead to the over-relied on the French empire and them finally successfully colonized Cambodia.



French and Japanese Protectorate and Colonization



Following entreaties that had been made a decade earlier by Cambodian King Ang Duong to Napoleon III for protection from the Vietnamese, his "traditional enemies,"; a delegation of French naval officers in 1863 proceeded to Phnom Penh from Saigon to conclude a treaty with Duong's son, now King Norodom (1859-1904), that created a French protectorate (Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook). Historians accept that only the intervention of the French prevented the extinction of Cambodia. During this period, the power of the Siamese kings over Cambodia dropped dramatically because the stronger influences from French. Later on, less than 20 years that the French empire successfully colonized Cambodia. According to David Chandler who wrote the book known as the History of Cambodia said that there were many coups formed by the Cambodian nationalist to fight against the power of the French. One of the French governors were killed during those time because of the anger from the locals. There was three main heroic figure known as Kola Houm Kong, Ahja Sva, Pout Komborl, the French emperor murdered all of them because of their nationalist act. During the 1st and 2nd World War, France had conscripted Cambodian people to serve as the army to fight against the Nazi Germany. After the loss of the First World War French withdrew their troops and Cambodia territory was under the Japanese occupation during the Second World War. Then later on, in 1946 French re-protectorate the countries and formed a new constitution of having the political party an appointed the late king father to be the heir to the throne. During his reign his big vision is to claim independently to Cambodian, and he is the one and the only man that led Cambodia to the route of independent.


Gaining Independence 1953


French rule in Indochina came to an end in the summer of 1945 by the end of the Second World War. The war of revolution in Vietnam and movements in Cambodia to claim in independent put the French emperor into the worse situation. The first Indochina war started on the December 19, 1946 – August 1, 1954, led by Ho Chi Minh then spread to Cambodia and Laos. On the other hand Cambodian kings, Norodom Sihanouk operated the Royal Crusade to gain the international support for gaining the independent to the nation. Back then Cambodia already has the two big political parties known as the Democratic and the freedom party. The Democratic Party was insisted in gaining the independent where the Freedom Party was a pro-French and also funded by the French government to compete with the Cambodian politics. The characteristic of the Democratic Party’s was leftism, and the Freedom party is more or less a conservative. When the late king father Norodom first came to the throne he was a shy guy but then he shown is ambitious of hungering to claim back the independent to the nation.  The one and only concerning obstacle that he faced was the international support; for a state to gain the external sovereignty first, we need to gain the support from the powerful state, especially the five permanent members of the United Nation Security Council. In this case, the king he did it right he went France, United States, Canada, Russia, Thailand and many other big nations. Unfortunately during his visited to Thailand, we were not warmly welcomed; since Thailand not wanted Cambodian to gainfully independent. He bargains and using the constant talk with the French Diplomat. Last but non-least and finally on November 9, 1953, Cambodian officially granted it by the French government and the Cambodian are very proud of the kind masterpiece with the name of “Hero” and the “Father of Independence”. His action is wide-spread and reputation growth; moreover this encouraged him to play the game of politic rather than staying in the throne and be the king of Cambodia.


Sangkum Reastr Niyum


After gaining an absolute independence in 1954, King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated the throne in 1955 to his father the King Norodom Suramarit and passed away on April 3, 1960, to establish the Sangkum Reastr Niyum known as People's Socialist Community (in English). During Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime, he seemed to be a little dictator against his Khmer educated men. However, he was so different from his ancestors, who did not invest much funding to the educating sector for their Khmer children to learn anything, seemed to keep all Khmer children in a dark cave, because they don't know the more educated human resource they have, the stronger their country is.

Under his rule, both local and international media were under an intense atmosphere. He also used his English-French monthly news bulletin, Kambuja Monthly Illustrated Review, as his political weapon and voice against those foreign presses. During his resignation letter, he noted that he would become the normal citizen that has no power in the royal palace. From 1945 until 1970, that one man was Norodom Sihanouk, who ruled Cambodia first as the king and then as its Head of State (Chandler, (1991) Pp.14-178). Cambodian political structure during Sihanouk's rule bestowed “power on a small group of men who...exploit[ed] the majority of the people at every level” (Chandler, (1999) P.39). “Nepotism and corruption” (Chandler, (1999) P.47) were the way of life. Cambodia was an agrarian society whose economy did not develop beyond agriculture and other small, labor-intensive industries.

This right time will not lasts for long sooner this fabulous over because of the affection of the cold war in the region. The Civil war in Vietnam that led to the separation into two; the North Vietnam and the South Vietnam. A small country that has two different ideologies of the Communist and Liberal Capitalist bloc. This occurred not happening alone in Cambodia neighboring country, this friend internal conflict led to the chaotic. Another that caused to the collapsed because of the corruption within the country and people became poorer. March 18, 1970,  Both houses of the Cambodian legislature met in special session, at the govt. Requested, and voted unanimously to withdraw its confidence from Prince Sihanouk as Chief of State.  In the debate, legislators accused Prince Sihanouk, among another thing, of having authorized North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops to occupy illegally and establish sanctuaries on Cambodia territory, which violate the neutrally as provided by the Geneva Accords of 1954. Moreover, the coup against the king had been made by his own trustful Gen. Lon Nol.


Khmer Republic


After the coup Gen. Lon Nol appointed himself as the head of state and as the first president of Cambodia (it is true that he the first and maybe the last) and First Deputy Premier Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak (King Sihanouk Uncle). After ousting Sihanouk and taking control of the government and military, Lon Nol immediately set about to defeat the communists and fully be the pro-US. Between 1970 and 1975, he and his army, the Forces Armees Nationale Khmer (FANK), with U.S. support and military aid, would battle the Khmer Rouge communists and kicked all the Vietnamese for control of Cambodia. The US again fully had the right to drop the bomb over Cambodia to kick the Vietnamese troop out of Cambodia. Within six months half of the country suffered by million tons of bomb approximately half of the bomb that was a drop during the Second World War. After the United States dragged itself from the war, and slowly it cut down the military aid to Cambodia. Without U.S. support, Lon Nol’s forces succumbed to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975 (Khmer Rouge Occupied the nationwide and surrounded the city where the based of Lon Nol arms).


Khmer Rouge


The Geopolitical and ideological conflict and the production of the cold war gave Cambodia a fearful bloody regime. Khmer Rouge from the French word of Khmer+ Rouge known as the Red Khmer, this named was given by the former Later Father King Norodom Sihanouk for the Cambodian Communist Party rebel against the Lon Nol period in 1971. This party originally formed as the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea then later on changed to the Revolutionary Army in January 1968. After Prince Sihanouk ousted from his position in 1970, he stayed in Beijing and called for the loyalty of the throne to fight against this young new regime. The powerful and constant propaganda that Salot Sar known as Pol Pot used to gain his reputation and popularity. Many of the loyal and innocent Cambodian ran to the forest form up as the Guerilla Army to fought against the Democratic Kampuchea. 17th May 1975 this sinister plot succeed, and they captured the whole countries. Sooner on that date the massive nationwide evacuation occurred, all the people must move to the rural area (Injured, old, Pregnant if they cannot walk, they will being kill directly). Between 1975 and 1978, an estimation of two million Cambodians died by execution forced labor, and famine. December 1978, the opposition party called it as the Vietnamese invasion and the government called is glorious revolution assisted by the god-brother Vietnamese. After the fall of Khmer rough, they retreated to the forest and slowly fight against the Phnom Penh government but got no work.