Cambodia: what to know?

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Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia, with borders touching Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand. Its capital is Phnom Penh, and it has a population of over 13 million people. Little is known about prehistoric Cambodia, but archaeologists have found evidence of Cambodian life before 1000 BC. Cambodia was colonized by France in 1884, gained independence in 1953, and was bombed by the US in 1969. The country suffered greatly under the Khmer Rouge, but today is a constitutional monarchy with a multi-party democracy. The majority of its citizens are ethnic Khmers, and the official language is Khmer.

The Kingdom of Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia. Formerly called Kampuchea, its borders touch Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand. The territory of the country covers approximately 69,898 square miles (181,035 square kilometers). Its capital is Phnom Penh. As of 2007, Cambodia had a population of over 13 million people.
There is little recorded history available for prehistoric Cambodia. However, archaeologists have found evidence illustrating Cambodian life before 1000 BC. For example, archaeologists have found that during this period, Cambodians consumed a diet consisting of rice and fish. Their dwellings were typically built on stilts, just as they are today.

More is known about Cambodia’s modern history, including the details of its virtual colonization (became a protectorate of France) in 1884. With the onset of French virtual colonization, Cambodians entered a period of peace that was in stark contrast to the rivalries and wars the country had experienced in previous years. However, this peace did not last forever. In 1941, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, then 19, ascended the Cambodian throne, as a result of French wishes. The years following its installation transitioned from relative peace to conflict and strife.

Cambodia gained independence from the French in 1953, but its woes weren’t over. In 1969, the country was carpet bombed by the United States in suspected Communist camps. Numerous civilians were killed in the bombing and Cambodia entered the US/Vietnam conflict as an involuntary participant. In 1970, Sihanouk was overthrown and replaced by General Lon Nol. As the new Nol attempted to move closer to the United States, the deposed Sihanouk joined forces with the communist Khmer Rouge, a ruling Cambodian party.

The Khmer Rouge communists grew in number, raising an army of thousands and fighting with invading American and South Vietnamese troops. The Americans and the South Vietnamese managed to push the Khmer Rouge towards the center of the country. However, Khmer Rouge forces managed to kill an estimated 2 million Cambodians. Finally, in 1978, a Vietnamese invasion forced the Khmer Rouge out of the country, but the group continued to wage guerrilla warfare against the Vietnamese into the 1980s.

In 1993, the UN administered elections which resulted in the reinstatement of Norodom Sihanouk. The Khmer Rouge continued their troublemaking attempts until they were outlawed in 1994. In 1998, Hun Sen was installed as Cambodia’s prime minister, and was said to be a stabilizing force. Today Cambodia is considered a constitutional monarchy combined with a multi-party democracy. The country has both a king and a prime minister.

Most Cambodian citizens are ethnic Khmers, Cambodians whose ancestors date back to the 9th century. They represent about 9 percent of the population. About two percent of its citizens are Chinese, while one percent are Vietnamese. Another 96% are Cham and Malay Muslims. The official language is Khmer, but English and French are also spoken.

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