Cities in CAMBODIA
Cambodia (officially: Preah Réchéanachâkr Kampuchea = the Kingdom of Kampuchea) is a kingdom in Southeast Asia. The total area of Cambodia, including a number of islands, is 181,035 km2. Cambodia is the smallest country in Southeast Asia after Singapore and Brunei.
The maximum distance between the east and the west is 580 km; from north to south 450 km. Cambodia is bordered in the north and west by Thailand (803 km), in the north by Laos (541 km), in the east by Vietnam (1228 km), in the south by the Gulf of Thailand (443 km).
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At the heart of the Cambodian landscape are fertile alluvial lowlands that make up two thirds of the country's surface. These lowlands are surrounded in the north by the last foothills of the Himalayas; in the north the Dangrek mountains (max. 500 meters high), in the east by the Moi hills, in the southwest by the Elephant chain or Phnom Damrei (max. 900 meters high) and in the west by the highest mountain range in Cambodia, the Cardamom Mountains or Chuor Phnom Kravanh. The lowlands and the mountains, especially in northern Cambodia, are separated from each other by a transition zone of savanna and low-lying hills or "phnom". The highest peak in Cambodia is Phnom Aural at 1,813 meters.
Approx. 5% of present-day Cambodia consists of rivers and lakes. The largest rivers are the Mekong, which flows through the country in a north-south direction, and the Tonlé Sap, which forms the lake of the same name in the center of western Cambodia, the area of which varies according to rainfall from 2500 to 6500 km2. The Mekong (Cambodian: Tonlé Thom, the Great River) flows through Tibet, China, Myanmar (formerly: Burma), Thailand and Laos to Cambodia.
At the capital Phnom Penh, the Mekong splits west into Lower Mekong and east into Bassac. Both arms flow into the South China Sea via the south of Vietnam. The Mekong flows about 500 km through Cambodia and in some places is 5 km wide.
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A striking feature of the Cambodian landscape is the 2500 km2 Tonlé Sap Lake (the Big Lake). Located in the western part of the central plain, the lake is connected to the Mekong via the 100 km long Tonlé Sap river. The fish-rich Lake of Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.
The special feature of the lake is that it has two currents, depending on the season. In the dry season, from November to April, the lake's water flows southeast to the Mekong. In the rainy season, the Tonlé Sap river changes its flow direction and the excess water discharges into the Tonlé Sap lake.
During the monsoon season, the Tonlé Sap river is fourteen meters deep and has an area of about 10,000 km2, during the dry season the lake is barely two meters deep and has an area of about 3000 km2.
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Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate with a dry season from November to May and a wet season after that. There are significant differences in temperature and rainfall between the individual Cambodian regions. The average annual temperature is around 27 °C with slight differences between day and night.
Frost is not known, but in the hills it can cool down considerably at night.
In the rainy season, between May and November, the wet southwest monsoon carries very moist air through the Indian Ocean. More than three-quarters of the annual amount of precipitation falls in these months, with September as the wettest month.
The amount of rainfall varies per area, depending on the location and the altitude. On the central plain falls about 1400 mm per year, the hills and the coast receive about 3800 mm annually. The southwestern slopes of the Cardamom Mountains receive an annual rainfall of about 5000 mm.
The dry season from November to May has, under the influence of the northeast monsoon, a cool and a hot period. The "cool" dry period lasts from November to February, when the temperature rises to 28 ° C in the capital Phnom Penh.
From February to May it can be very hot, especially in the low-lying areas. During the hottest month, April, the temperature can rise to about 40 ° C.
Climate table with averages for all of Cambodia
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|rainy days p/m||1||1||3||5||6||10||11||11||12||13||9||3|
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Cambodia has long been one of the most densely forested countries in the world. By 2000, only 30% was covered with forests, part of which consisted of primary rainforest. Extensive tropical rainforests are found on the mountain slopes and plateaus, places with a lot of rainfall.
In the drier lowlands you will find more open deciduous forest and savannas. Mangrove forests grow along the coast. The central plain has some deciduous forests, but consists mainly of agricultural land. The hills in the north have evergreen forest, bamboo and palms. The highlands in the northeast, the southwestern mountain ranges are overgrown with primary rainforest on the lower slopes and with coniferous forests in the higher regions. Teak trees and ironwood trees also grow here, popular because of the hard wood.
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The animal world is particularly rich. Most of the animals can be found in the most remote areas of the country, including the forests of Ratanakiri and Mondulkari provinces and the forested slopes of the Cardamom Mountains. Deer, wild buffalo, leopards, monkeys, squirrels, flying foxes and bears live here, including the Malay bear.
The largest snake is the python, a choke snake. Venomous snakes include cobra, king cobra, banded krait and Russel's pit viper. Rare are the kouprey, a wild buffalo species, the Asiatic wild dog and the "serow", a mountain goat.
The kouprey was declared a national animal by King Sihanouk in 1963. The Cardamom Mountains are home to very large butterflies and also elephants, tigers and the rare Siamese crocodile. A very special monkey species lives in the Ream National Park, the crab-eating macaque.
Cormorants, herons and cranes are quite common, but the Indochinese magpie, great hornbill, spotted pelican, adjutant (a type of marabou) and green peacock are much rarer.
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In some parts of the Mekong, the giant catfish is found, the largest freshwater fish in the world with a length of 3 meters and a weight of up to 250 kilos.
The Irrawaddy dolphin, one of the world's most endangered animals, also inhabits the Mekong. They reach a length of more than two meters, weigh 90 to 150 kilos and look more like a porpoise than a sea dolphin. They can reach speeds of 40 km per hour. The Irrawaddy dolphin is one of the five freshwater dolphin species in the world, and the Mekong is estimated to be home to some 150 more.
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Little is known about Cambodia's earliest history due to the lack of reliable historical material. Written sources have all disappeared, only inscriptions and pictures on temples are used as historical sources.
Archaeological research has shown that present-day Cambodia was already inhabited 6,000 years ago, although the question of the early inhabitants has still not been answered.
An important archaeological site from this period is the caves of Laang Spean, where hunters and gatherers lived. The pottery method of that time is still used today.
Another important site of archaeological material is Samrong Sen. Approx. 3,500 years ago, the inhabitants of this settlement lived off shifting farming and used animals to work the land. Approx. 2500 years ago, in the Iron Age, agricultural tools were made and lived in wooden and bamboo houses on stilts. Then, as now, people mainly lived on rice cultivation and fishing.
Funan and Chenla Empire
Between the 1st and 8th century AD. the first Cambodian kingdoms emerged, clearly influenced by India and brought to Cambodia through merchants. For example, the script was based on Sanskrit and Hinduism, Buddhism and the caste system were adopted.
Unreliable Chinese sources mention the 3rd century Funan Empire. This empire would have included the southeastern part of present-day Cambodia and the Mekong delta. The strategically located empire is said to have been founded by the South Chinese Mon-Khmer. Cambodia is believed to have been a loose federation of fighting empires at the time, of which Funan was one of the most important. Around the 5th century, the Funan empire reached its peak, but then it fell into decline due to civil wars.
In the late 6th century, Funan was finally wiped from the map by the puppet state of Chenla and started the pre-Angkor period, which lasted until 802. Chenla, founded by Bhavavarman I, also expanded rapidly, but fell apart in two parts due to a family struggle in the early 8th century. From the south of Laos they continued as Chenla Land, from the southeast of Cambodia Chenla Water continued. Not long after, Chenla Water faced the Javanese Sailendra dynasty.
The Empire of Angkor (802-1432)
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In the early 9th century, a Khmer prince raised in Java returned to Chenla Water and broke away from the Sailendra dynasty. The areas inhabited by the Khmer were declared independent by him and he had himself crowned as "devaraja", the divine king Jayavarman II. He would become the founder of one of the most powerful Southeast Asian empires ever, the Empire of Angkor, which would last 600 years. He called this empire Kambujadesa, later corrupted to Cambodia and Kampuchea. Jayavarman eventually moved the capital to Hariharalaya, now known as Roluos. Characteristic of the Angkor empire were the beautiful temples and the sophisticated irrigation system. Under King Indravarman I, the capital was Angkor, also called Jasodharapura. Periods of unity and growth alternated with periods of division and decline. In the early 11th century, the divided empire was reunited by Suryavarman I and expanded to include large parts of Laos and Thailand.
Cambodia experienced a golden period under his successor Suryavarman II. He conquered the empire of Champa in the south of Vietnam and established relations with China. He also had built Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious buildings in the world. However, this cost so much money that little money was left for the army. Champa took advantage of this again and conquered the capital Angkor in 1177; king Suryavarman II was murdered. It was not until Jayavarman VII (1181-1219), the last great king of Angkor, that the Ham were expelled. Inspired by this success, he went ahead and expanded his empire to unprecedented size. The Khmer Empire at the time included present-day Thailand, Laos, and parts of Burma, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Buddhism was introduced as a state philosophy under this king.
After the death of Jayavarman VII, the empire quickly fell prey to powerful states in the neighboring countries. Socio-economic, military and religious factors played an important role in this, but due to the tremendous construction activities there were also too few farmers to work the land. Buddhism also caused more meditation than work, with famine as a result.
In the mid-14th century, Thai kingdoms (Sukhotai) invaded Angkor, and in 1431 the capital was permanently taken. The last king, Ponhea Yat, left Angkor for Phnom Penh, ending six centuries of Cambodian supremacy. At the beginning of the 15th century, the capital, threatened by the Thai, was abandoned: the kings of Cambodia settled in Phnom Penh.
Period up to the French colonial era
The period up to the French colonial era was one of stagnation in many areas. Cambodia did come into contact with the outside world more and more because it was located at an important trade hub of rivers, including the Mekong. However, Cambodians was unable to take advantage of this due to a weak authority and various wars with Thailand.
In the 16th century, Thailand was under constant attack by Burma and King Ang Chan benefited from this. He recaptured western Cambodia from the Thai and moved the capital Phnom Penh to Lovek.
In the second half of the 16th century, under King Satha, Portuguese missionaries entered Cambodia. The Cambodians hoped that they would be helped by the Portuguese against the Thai occupiers, but that was disappointing. In 1594 Lovek was taken back by the Thai, who put a stooge on the throne.
After this began the period of the "dark ages", when Cambodia lay in the line of fire between the two powerful neighbors Thailand and Vietnam. The weak Cambodian kings then sought protection from Thailand and then again from Vietnam. In 1620 the time had come again: King Chey Chettha broke away from Thailand and sought protection from Vietnam. The capital was also moved once again, now to Udong, located northwest of Phnom Penh.
In 1779, King Ang Eng, the founder of the current royal family and one of the ancestors of the current King Norodom Sihanouk, took office. But under his rule the Thai got more and more grip on Cambodia and some Cambodian provinces were occupied. At the same time, the Vietnamese conquered the Mekong Delta, causing Cambodia to lose free passage to the sea.
Cambodia becomes French colony
From the mid-19th century, the influence of the French became very noticeable in Indo-China or Cochin-China. Shortly after Norodom's coronation in 1864, he ceded the provinces of Siem Reap, Sisophon and Battambang to Thailand in a treaty ratified by Napoleon III of France in 1867.
On April 17, 1864, Norodom signed a treaty with the French, making Cambodia a French protectorate. With this, Norodom tried to end the domination of the Thai and the Vietnamese. However, this did not make much for Cambodians, as in 1884 the country became a colony of France and ruled by a French "resident superior". The domestic government tolerated by France amounted to very little and all economic gains disappeared into the pockets of the French. In 1887 Cambodia joined the Union of Indochina, along with Vietnam and Laos.
After Norodom's death in 1904, two banter figures took the throne, first Norodom's half-brother, Sisowath, and then King Monivong (1927-1941). In 1907 France concluded a treaty with Thailand under which Siem Reap, Battambang and Sisophon were declared Khmer territory again. It was remarkable that there was no nationalist activity whatsoever in Cambodia. However, this was completely directed by the French, who gave the population the idea that the king was in charge and that they were completely independent from the French.
However, this changed during the Second World War. The pioneer of the first nationalist movement was Son Ngoc Thanh, a staunch supporter of one of the Buddhist schools. In 1937 he founded the magazine Nagaravatha, in which he stood up for more independence with regard to France and received support from the Japanese.
After the death of King Monivong in 1941, the French put forward his 19-year-old grandson Norodom Sihanouk. Although inexperienced, he immediately claimed Cambodia's independence. This seemed to be successful in March 1945 when the Japanese overthrew the French colonial administration and replaced it with a government led by Sihanouk. However, when the Japanese capitulated, the French wanted to continue their rule, much to the dismay of Sihanouk and the Cambodian elite. Protests against the colonial presence of the French in Cambodia intensified and a nationalist movement, the Khmer Issarak, the "Free Khmer" inevitably arose. The French responded by limiting Sihanouk's power even further. Nevertheless, the Cambodians' wishes were somewhat met by giving the country the status of an autonomous nation within the French Union in 1946.
In 1952 Sihanouk staged a so-called royal coup. He suspended the constitution, appointed himself head of government and dissolved parliament. After that, he sought to gain support for his bold initiative around the world. This "publicity stunt" was very effective, however, because on November 9, 1953, the French government handed over sovereignty to the Cambodian government and Norodom Sihanouk became head of state.
The Sihanouk era
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In March 1955, Sihanouk made an apparently strange decision. He resigned as king in favor of his father Norodom Suramarit. The intention behind this was that he now had his hands free to get involved in politics. He founded a political party, the Socialist People's Movement (Sangkum Reastr Niyum), which took all seats in parliament until 1966. The population took for granted that elections were never fair, and the popularity of Sihanouk made this corruption accepted.
As far as foreign policy was concerned, he kept a neutral course and blew with all winds, but in 1963 a change of course followed. The United States forged friendly ties with South Vietnam and Thailand, long-time enemies of Cambodia. From that time on, Sihanouk refused to accept help from the Americans any longer and even suspended all diplomatic relations. In 1966 Sihanouk pulled his country into the Indo-Chinese war, as it were. He gave the North Vietnamese permission to use the Ho Chi Minh route across Cambodian territory towards South Vietnam. In 1969 all hell broke loose over eastern Cambodia when American bombers dropped more than half a million tons of bombs over the area. This cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and, moreover, a large flow of refugees started. Only in 1973 did the American attacks stop.
Sihanouk also had a hard time in domestic politics. Leftist intellectuals as well as the urban middle class turned against him.
General Lon Nol, who became prime minister in 1969, was partly responsible for the coup d'état of March 18, 1970 in which Sihanouk, who was at that time abroad, was deposed. Cambodia proclaimed a republic on October 5, 1970, and Lon Nol remained prime minister until he became head of state in March 1972.
The rise of the Khmer Rouge
Immediately after Lon Nol took office, resistance started, especially by the Khmer Rouge, who were supported in their guerrilla activities by, among others, North Vietnam. Lon Nol was supported by South Vietnam and the US Air Force, but failed to win the fight against the guerrillas.
In early April 1975, he went into exile a few weeks later the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh. They recognized Sihanouk as head of state, but he resigned a year later. He was succeeded by Khieu Samphan with Prime Minister Pol Pot (actual name Saloth Sar). Three different movements emerged within the Khmer Rouge, of which the radical Pol Pot managed to wipe out the other two groups in 1976.
The radical nature of the Pol Pot group was reflected in the abolition of private property and a forced collectivization in the economic and social spheres. She also wanted to conquer nationalist parts of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
The regime of Pol Pot
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On January 5, 1976, the country was officially named Democratic Kampuchea and until 1978 it was completely isolated. Pol Pot ensured very drastic political and social measures. For example, millions of residents from the capital Phnom Penh were forced to move to the countryside. Of the three million people who inhabited the capital in 1975, only 23,000 were left by January 1979! Most of these people were farmers who had fled to Phnom Penh during the American bombings. Other cities were also depopulated to work in the countryside.
In addition, there was famine, disease outbreak and political and social reforms resulted in mass executions. In 1978 many Cambodians fled to Vietnam and Thailand, but resistance against Pol Pot also arose.
In December 1978 the invasion of Cambodia by FUNSK, supported by Vietnamese troops, began. On Jan 7 1979, Phnom Penh and the important port city of Kompong Som had been conquered, and the People's Republic of Kampuchea was proclaimed on January 11, 1979. A government was formed under the leadership of Heng Samrin, which in September 1979 was recognized by only 31, mostly communist, states. The United Nations continued to stand behind the Pol Pot government-in-exile as the legitimate representative of the Cambodian people.
In August 1979, ex-Prime Minister Pol Pot was sentenced to death in absentia by a revolutionary people's court in Phnom Penh. The Heng Samrin government also continued to encounter resistance domestically. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge troops continued the guerrilla from the northern border provinces.
In addition, guerrilla groups were operating in the early 1980s that turned against the remnants of the Pol Pot regime as well as the government of Heng Samrin. Negotiations between the warring parties were organized at the insistence of the ASEAN member states in particular, as the occupation of Cambodia by Vietnam was perceived as a threat to peace and stability in the region.
Eighties and nineties of the 20th century
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The coalition government (in exile), made up of the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), the Sihanoukists and the Khmer Rouge led by Khieu Samphan, was seen as the legitimate government by China, the United Nations and the West. In April 1989, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that Vietnamese forces would withdraw from Cambodia by September 1989. In May 1989, the official name in Cambodia was changed and the flag was also changed.
After the withdrawal of the troops, elections were promised, at the same time the guerrilla activities in the country increased. After the failure of the international peace conferences in 1990, a laborious negotiation process began between the Cambodian resistance groups and the government still installed by Vietnam. Finally, Prince Norodom Sihanouk returned in November 1991, after the warring parties under the supervision of the UN Security Council signed the peace agreement on October 23, which paved the way for the arrival of international troops, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). These troops were to supervise the ceasefire, partially disarm the four warring factions and thus allow free elections to be held.
The four parties, together with UNTAC, formed a transitional government, the Supreme National Council (ONR). The Khmer Rouge, led by Khieu Sampan, withdrew all its representatives from Phnom Penh in April 1993, where they participated in consultations and government since late 1991. The free elections held in May 1993 were won by the United National Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia (Funcinpec).
It was noteworthy that the Khmer Rouge had not disrupted the elections, but the progress of the peace process was seriously jeopardized by the refusal of Democratic Kampuchea (DK, aka the Khmer Rouge) to hand in arms and register voters in districts under her authority. At the beginning of 1994, fighting broke out between the government army and the Khmer Rouge and Sihanouk's attempts to get the Khmer Rouge to the negotiating table failed.
This problem had repercussions on the development of the economy, while the abuse of power, corruption and terror of the Khmer Rouge caused much misery.
In the fall of 1996, the Khmer Rouge broke up after a dispute between the previously thought dead leader Pol Pot and his brother-in-law Ieng Sary. In June 1997, the second Prime Minister Hun Sen staged a successful coup. First Prime Minister Novodom Ranariddh, who was in Thailand, was relieved of all his duties and sentenced in absentia in March 1998 to five years in prison for arms smuggling and 30 years for collaborating with the Khmer Rouge. Not long after, however, he was pardoned by his father, King Sihanouk. This allowed the parliamentary elections advocated by the international community to proceed. These July 26, 1998 parliamentary elections were won by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party with 41.4% of the vote, and Ranarridh-led Funcinpec with 31.5% of the vote. With the results of the fairly fair elections and the formation of a shaky coalition government in the international community on November 30, Cambodia's strongman Hun Sen hoped to be reintroduced into the international community. Unfortunately for Cambodia, neither ASEAN nor the UN made much sense for this, with the result that foreign investment failed to materialize.
Major Khmer Rouge leaders such as Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea surrendered in December 1999. The remaining Khmer Rouge laid down their arms and recognized the legitimate authority of Hun Sen. There was increasing evidence that Pol Pot had committed suicide on April 15, 1998. In April, Cambodia was officially admitted to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and financial support from the IMF and the World Bank resumed in late 1999.
2000 - Present
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In 2000, after long insistence from the UN, Hun Sen agreed to establish an Extraordinary Tribunal for the Trial of Crimes during Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime in the period 1975-1979. The role of the United States and the entire international community should also be considered, but that was, of course, a bridge too far. A compromise was reached with the later US presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, in which it was agreed that only the former Khmer Rouge leaders would be tried. Ultimately, however, the main Khmer Rouge leaders remained at liberty and even returned to politics.
It became clear how much support Pol Pot's pernicious regime had received from the United States and China, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. At the end of May 2000, the government was rewarded for setting up the tribunal. Cambodia was promised USD 548 million in aid at the annual donors' conference in Paris.
On November 26, 2000 in Phnom Penh a bloody clash came between the right-wing movement, Cambodia Freedom Fighters, better known as the Khmer Serei or Free Khmer Movement, and the army and police; eight people were killed and fourteen people were injured. The Free Khmer blamed Hun Sen for a lax policy on controversial border issues, and the approximately 100,000 Vietnamese living in Cambodia were a thorn in their side.
Cambodia was also hit by severe flooding this year. 173 people were killed and damage to agriculture and infrastructure was estimated at $ 50 million.
Of the six main Khmer Rouge leaders, only Kang Kek Iev, better known as Deuch and head of the torture center Tuol Sleng, and Ta Mok, a notorious Khmer Rouge general, were imprisoned in 2001. The others, Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's second husband, Khieu Sampan, former prime minister, Ieng Sary and Ke Pauk, a regional leader, were still at large. The chance of acquittal by the tribunal was considered small.
China exerted great political and economic pressure behind the scenes to postpone the first court session. President Jiang Zemin, and the second man in the Chinese Communist Party, Li Peng, made it clear that China would not comply with the United States' demand to establish such a tribunal. Beijing also did not want the issue of human rights in Cambodia to be put on the agenda.
At a meeting in Tokyo on June 13, the World Bank-led group of donors pledged to Cambodia US $ 615 million for the coming year
In August 2001, primaries were held for the heads of the administrative village communities. Remarkably, ex-members of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian People's Party had held the most important positions at the local level for more than twenty years. Political violence was commonplace, especially against members of the opposition from Sam Rainsy and the Sihanouk-minded FUNCINPEC.
This year saw too many problems with the tribunal. Hun Sen's government refused to guarantee significant guarantees of the independence, impartiality and objectivity of Cambodian judges.
Notorious criminals of the Khmer Rouge regime have still not been convicted and others such as Ieng Sary and Khieu Sampan are living undisturbed and comfortable lives. On the positive side, in December this year, Sam Bith, responsible for the murder of three foreign tourists in 1994, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Municipal elections on February 3 were won by the ruling CPP. Even now, preparations for the elections were dominated by violence.
The economy performed poorly in 2002. Donor aid fell 25% and external debt rose to more than $ 3 billion. Important economic sectors such as the clothing industry and tourism stopped growing and caused a sharp decline in general growth. Cambodia reached one of the highest places in the ranking of the most corrupt countries.
International tensions arose after members of minority groups from Vietnamese border provinces sought refuge in Cambodia as a result of the political unrest in the Central Highlands of Vietnam since early 2001.
Two locations in Cambodia were designated to receive the other refugees temporarily with the support of the UN refugee organization UNHCR. In June 2002, about 900 refugees left for the United States, where they received political asylum.
In 2003 major problems arose with Thailand during the election campaign of the July 27, 2003 parliamentary elections. It all revolved around Angkor Wat's alleged Thai origins. The Thai embassy was set on fire and Thailand temporarily cut all ties with Cambodia. The government leaders of both countries managed to prevent worse after mutual consultation.
The elections, which went fairly smoothly, were subsequently won by the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) with 73 of the 123 seats. This allowed Prime Minister Hun Sen to remain in power for another eight years. Still, a coalition government was needed to rule, but that took a lot of effort. Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) initially refused, but under pressure from King Sihanouk, both party leaders agreed to a coalition government led by Hun Sen. Ranariddh was awarded the chairmanship of the parliament and a member of the SRP became deputy chair.
In March 2003, three members of the Southeast Asian Muslim extremist network Jema'ah Islamiyyah were arrested in Cambodia.
On September 11, 2003, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico, decided that Cambodia and Nepal, as the first poor countries, could join as members. The SARS epidemic that affected Vietnam and China in 2003 also had serious consequences for Cambodia. The tourism industry lost millions of dollars in revenue, causing economic growth to lag behind 2002.
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Cambodia will have a new government on 23 July, which, with 171 (sub) ministers, has more members than the current parliament (123). The coalition partners CPP of Hun Sen and FUNCINPEC of Norodom Ranariddh henceforth shared power under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen. King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated on October 6 and is succeeded by his son Norodom Sihamoni Sihamoni is known to be outside of politics.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has sought to further marginalize political opponents in recent years. Sam Rainsy's main opposition party SRP was sidelined. Rainsy himself lost his parliamentary immunity, fled abroad and was sentenced in absentia at the end of 2005. After the opposition had tightened their thumbs, especially in the last quarter of 2005 (a wave of arrests and the conviction of human rights activists for libel), a change of course followed in early 2006. Four arrested activists were released and charges against them for libel dropped. To everyone's surprise, Hun Sen then informed exiled opposition leader San Rainsy that he would settle their feud. Rainsy returned to Cambodia in February 2006 and Cheam Channy, a prominent member of the SRP, was released. The parliamentary immunity of both has been restored. Prince Ranariddh resigned as Speaker of Parliament in March 2006, after which he spent most of the time abroad. On October 18, 2006, FUNCINPEC members voted for his removal as party leader. Ranariddh was succeeded as Speaker of Parliament by Heng Samrin of the CPP. Hun Sen is in the process of tightening its grip on power, while FUNCINPEC is losing its influence. In July 2008 Hun Sen claims victory in the parliamentary elections. EU observers report that the elections have not met international standards. In February 2009, former Khmer Rouge leader Duch is being tried in Phnom Penh. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2010. In the years 2012 and 2013, there are tensions at the border with Thailand. Presidential elections will be held in July 2013. Hun Sen is given a new five-year term. In September 2013 there have been massive protests against the result of the election. The opposition is boycotting the opening of parliament. Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for 30 years in January 2015. In March 2017, Ken Soka is elected as opposition leader and in September 2017 he is charged with treason. In 2018, a law came into effect that criminalizes insulting the king. Hun Sen will be prime minister for 35 years since 2020.
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Cambodia has a fairly homogeneous population, because approximately 95% of the population belongs to the Khmer. Important minority groups are Chinese, ethnic Vietnamese, Cham and various mountain peoples.
The Khmer belong to the Mon-Khmer, who have been around since the 2nd century AD and come from southern China. They are of Austro-Indonesian descent and have unmistakably Melanesian and to a lesser extent Mongolian traits. The Khmer are among others the founders of the empire of Angkor and belong to one of the oldest ethnic groups of the Indies. The Khmer are mainly farmers.
Few Vietnamese live in Cambodia anymore. These farmers and fishermen mainly live around the capital Phnom Penh and along the Mekong. After the Khmer Rouge regime, many Vietnamese fled back to Vietnam.
The relationship between the Vietnamese and the Khmer is bad due to cultural and economic differences. The hard-working Vietnamese, often working in fishing and small businesses, are often slightly better off than the Khmer-Cambodians. As a result, the Vietnamese are hardly integrated and do not have the Cambodian nationality.
There are also Chinese living in Cambodia, about 0.1% of the population. They are much more integrated than the Vietnamese and even marriages between both population groups take place. The first Chinese came to Cambodia from southern China in the 18th and 19th centuries and soon became an important factor in the Cambodian economy.
Most Chinese live in cities and work in commerce, banking or as shopkeepers.
The isolated mountain peoples or "chunchiet" (also called: Khmer Loeu or Overland Khmer) make up less than a percent of the Cambodian population and mainly live in the hills and on the high plains bordering the border with Vietnam and Laos. Most mountain peoples live in the provinces of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri.
Twelve groups are distinguished, the largest of which are Tompoun, Kuy, Jarai, Kreung, Stieng and Phong. Each group has its own language, religion and culture, which is generally very different from the Khmer. Most mountain peoples live from shifting agriculture and migrate. Important religious expressions are animism and ancestor worship.
About 200,000 Cham live in Cambodia, about 1.2% of the population. The Cham descend from the inhabitants of Champa, a Hindu empire that ruled an area in Vietnam from the 2nd century onwards. The Cham, often craftsmen, fishermen and farmers, mainly live along the Mekong, Lake Tonlé Sap and along the coast. Most Cham live in Kampong Cham province.
In the 17th century, they mixed with Muslims from Malaysia, adopted their faith and are therefore also called Khmer Islam. The Cham have suffered greatly from the atheist Khmer Rouge regime.
In western Cambodia, especially around the city of Battambang, there are still a few small numbers of Thai and Lao.
Approx. 75% of the population lives in the fertile area between Tonlé Sap Lake in the northwest and the region south of the capital Phnom Penh. Approx. 10% of Cambodians live in a city.
Largest urban agglomerations
About 16.2 people lived in Cambodia in 2017. The population density is approximately 92 inhabitants per km2. In 1970 Cambodia had six to seven million inhabitants. Due to wars and civil wars, but mainly because of the Khmer Rouge reign of terror from 1975 to 1979, more than one million (some say three million) were killed or killed. Due to the very high birth rate after 1979, the population has risen to the current level.
Population growth for 2017 was 1.52%.
Average life expectancy is 62.4 years for men and 67.5 years for women. (2017)
Cambodia has a very young population; 31% of the population is between 0 and 14 years old; 65% of the population is between 15 and 65 years old; 4% is 65 years or older. (2017)
Cambodia has a birth rate of 23 births per 1000 inhabitants and a death rate of 7.5 per 1000 inhabitants. The infant mortality rate is 47 children per 1,000 live births. (2017)
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, spoken by most Cambodians. Khmer belongs to the Austro-Asian Mon-Khmer group, is one of the oldest languages in Southeast Asia and is also spoken in the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam. Khmer is related to the languages spoken by mountain peoples in Vietnam and Laos, such as Hmong.
Since the 14th century, Khmer has borrowed much of its vocabulary from Pali, a language of southern India. What is special is that it is written from left to right, but without spaces between the words. Khmer has an informal, neutral and formal form. Which form is chosen depends on the gender, age and social status of the speaker and the person being addressed.
Khmer grammar does not seem too difficult. There are no articles and the nouns do not have a plural form. Verbs are also not conjugated.
Unlike Vietnamese and Thai, Khmer is not a tonal language, but an atonal language: it consists of one or two syllable words with an emphasis on the second syllable. The root of many Khmer words corresponds to Vietnamese.
The Mon-Khmer languages are influenced by Sanskrit, the language of Hinduism, and are written in the Old Indian Sanskrit alphabet. The alphabet consists of 23 vowels and 33 consonants, which produce strange sound combinations for Westerners.
Older Cambodians from the colonial period often still speak French, but English is on the rise, especially among the young.
Enkele woorden en uitdrukkingen
one = muy
two = pii
three = bei
one hundred = muy roi
Sunday = th'ngay aatuht
wednesday = th'ngay poht
friday = th'ngay sohk
please = sohm
thank you = aw kohn
bread = num pung
coffee = coffee
sugar = skaw
fish = trei
water = tuhk ch’uhn
village on a river or lake = kompong
motorized three-wheel taxi = tuk tuk
Hinayana Buddhism has been the main religion in Cambodia since the 14th century. Approx. 90% of the Cambodian population adheres to Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism, which has been the state religion since 1989. However, the 1993 constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
There is a small (over 2%) Islamic minority of Shafi Sunnis. Most Muslims belong to the Cham people group from Vietnam.
Hinduism, which determined the religious, political and cultural life of the Khmer until the 14th century, is still adhered to only by the small Indian minority. Christianity is of no importance and the Chinese adhere to a combination of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
Animism and ancestor worship are still very important for the Chunchiet or Khmer Loeu living in the mountains.
Buddhism in Cambodia
Hinduism and Buddhism have coexisted in Cambodia for about two thousand years without many problems. Mahayana Buddhism predominated for the first ten centuries, from the 10th century onwards, hinayana Buddhism came to the fore and is now the state religion. Hinayana Buddhism entered Cambodia through Sri Lanka and is called the Southern School.
During the Khmer Rouge, attempts were made to eradicate everything related to religion; after the expulsion of the Khmer Rouge, Buddhism flourished and is now an important motive in Cambodian society.
The religious life of Cambodians is dominated by the "triratna", the "three gems": Buddha, "dhamma" (the teachings of Buddha) and "sangha" (the monks). Hinayana Buddhism in Cambodia is intertwined with animism and ancestor worship.
Buddhism in general
Buddhism was founded in the 6th century BC. originated in India. The founder was Siddharta Gautama (560-480 BC). In Thailand our era is used, but the Buddhist census is also used. Although it is not known exactly when Buddha was born, the year of birth is 543 BC. The year 2004 is 2546 in the Buddhist era.
The core of Buddha's teachings are the four noble truths:
-Life is suffering.
-The cause of this suffering is desire and attachment to life. As a result, man is trapped in an unwholesome cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
-By letting go of desire and detachment man can abolish suffering.
The Eightfold Path (right insight, life, striving, meditation, thinking, purpose, word and deed) is the only way out of the unwholesome cycle of reincarnation and leads to nirvana, the state of bliss.
By adhering to some basic principles man can influence his fate or "karma". The Five Commandments are not to kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, and use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.
Buddhism is not actually a religion, but a philosophical system and an attitude to life. There are no gods. Buddhism has monks, but again no ecclesiastical organization.
Traditionally, the king is the protector of all religions.
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After the death of Buddha, the religion fell apart in two directions: Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana Buddhism.
Mahayana Buddhism is based on the universal salvation of all living beings and is therefore called the "great vehicle." This school has "bodhisattvas", mortals who have already attained enlightenment, but remain on earth to show people the right way. Mahayana Buddhism has spread across China, Nepal, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, among others.
Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism is also known as "School of the Elders" and is mainly found in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and South India. This direction within Buddhism is limited to the individual salvation of man, without the intervention of others, and is therefore called the "little vehicle". Anyone who independently attains enlightenment becomes "arhat". However, this status is reserved only for the monks. Lay people can at best add something to their karma during their life on earth and be reborn in a higher position. One can increase one's karma by doing good works, such as giving alms to monks and donations to temples. So selfless giving or "dana" is the most important form of virtue that leads to good karma.
Animism and Ancestor Worship
The ancient form of animism is only practiced in Cambodia by the Khmer Loeu, the mountain peoples in the northeast of the country. In Cambodia, animism is called "neak ta" and is a mixture of ancestor worship, belief in good and bad spirits, and fertility rituals. The Khmer Loeu know many spirits that can be appeased with offerings in the form of flowers, incense and fruit. Important is the "kru" or "shaman" who can heal ailments with magic potions.
Animistic elements have also crept into Cambodian Buddhism; for example, during the Pchum Ben festival, the spirits of deceased parents are honored.
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Most Muslims are descended from the Cham or "Khmer Islam". This population group fled from Vietnam to Cambodia at the end of the 15th century. A small Malay minority also adheres to Islam. The Ham, too, have suffered greatly from the Khmer Rouge's religious persecution; tens of thousands of Ham did not survive the horrific actions.
The majority of the Cham belong to the Sunni movement that adheres to the Five Pillars of Islam. A minority follow the traditions of the Vietnamese Cham and have also adopted elements of animism.
Cambodians first came into contact with Christianity in the 16th century through Roman Catholic missionaries from Portugal. Despite their efforts, there were only 120,000 Christians in all of Cambodia before the French withdrawal in 1953. At the moment there are only about 20,000 left, and these are mainly Catholic Vietnamese.
There are only a few thousand Protestants. However, there are still more than a hundred Christian aid organizations and mission groups active in Cambodia. Successful conversion activities are hardly ever seen.
Confucianism and Taoism
Most Chinese and Vietnamese in Cambodia profess a mixture of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Taoism and Confucianism are philosophical systems that originated in the 6th century in China.
Cambodia has several thousand followers of the Cao Dai. The belief of the Cao Dai originated in Vietnam in 1926, when Ngo Minh Chieu "came into contact" with Cao Dai, the Supreme Being. This urged him to combine the best of all world religions and thus a new, ideal religion should emerge. Things like spiritualism and ancestor worship were also integrated into Codaism. Mediums are used to get in touch with the supreme god Cao Dai and the spirit world.
According to the Cao Dai, human history is divided into three periods of Divine Revelation. In the first period, God revealed Himself through Lao Tze, in the second through Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed and Jesus. The period of the Cao Dai is the third and final period.
The Cao Dai have a hierarchy derived from the Catholic Church with a pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests. The lower offices are open to men and women, all clergy are celibate and vegetarian.
According to the September 1993 Constitution, Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic multiparty system and an elected parliament. The King is the head of state of Cambodia, symbol of national unity and must therefore act as the highest political arbiter, but is bound by the constitution and therefore has a mainly ceremonial function.
On paper there is a division between the legislative, executive and judiciary, but in practice democracy does not always work well. The king is also Commander in Chief of Cambodia's Royal Armed Forces and Chairman of the National Defense Council. Kingship is not a hereditary office, the King is elected for life by a throne council consisting of 7 members. His deputy is the Speaker of Parliament, who is also a member of the Throne Council and appoints the Prime Minister.
The Throne Council is made up of the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Senate and Assembly, the Prime Minister and the leaders of the two Buddhist orders.
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Since 1999 the parliament has consisted of two chambers. The National Assembly or the House of Commons consists of 122 representatives who are elected once every five years. The Senate or House of Lords consists of 61 delegates who are partly elected and partly appointed; their term of office is six years. All Cambodians aged 18 and over are allowed to vote.
The government consists of the Prime Minister, the Ministers and the Secretaries of State. The king appoints the prime minister and the cabinet after approval by the National Assembly. The government is answerable to parliament and the Assembly can send the government home, provided there is a two-thirds majority. For the current political situation, see chapter history.
Cambodia is administratively divided into five regions and further into 20 provinces and four separate urban administrative areas:
|province||capital||surface||population per 1998|
|Banteay Mean Chey||Sisophon||6.679 km2||577.772|
|Bat Dambâng||Bat Dambâng||11.702 km2||793.129|
|Kâmpóng Cham||Kâmpóng Cham||9.799 km2||1.608.914|
|Kâmpóng Chhnang||Kâmpóng Chhnang||5.521 km2||417.693|
|Kâmpóng Spoe||Kâmpóng Spoe||7.017 km2||598.882|
|Kâmpóng Thum||Kâmpóng Thum||13.814 km2||569.060|
|Kândal||Ta Khmau||3.568 km2||1.075.125|
|Kaôh Kông||Krong Kaôh Kông||11.160 km2||132.106|
|Môndôl Kiri||Sen Monorom||14.288 km2||32.407|
|Otdar Mean Chey||Sâmraông||6.158 km2||68.279|
|Preah Vihéar||Thêng Méancheay||13.788 km2||119.261|
|Prey Vêng||Prey Vêng||4.883 km2||946.042|
|Rôtanak Kiri||Lumphat||10.782 km2||94.243|
|Siem Réab||Siem Réab||10.299 km2||696.164|
|Stoeng Trêng||Stoeng Trêng||11.092 km2||81.074|
|Svav Rieng||Svav Rieng||2.966 km2||478.252|
|province||capital||surface||inhabitants per 1998|
|Krong Kêh||Krong Kêh||336 km2||28.660|
|Krong Pailin||Pailin||803 km2||22.906|
|Krong Preah Sihanouk||Preah Sihanouk||868 km2||155.690|
|Phnom Penh||Phnom Penh||290 km2||999.804|
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Education only got off to a good start after the disappearance of the Khmer Rouge. The French had paid virtually no attention to it in the colonial period and there was no education whatsoever under the Khmer Rouge. Intellectuals and therefore teachers were the first to be tackled by them, with the result that an education system had to be built from 1979 onwards.
Cambodian children are obliged to attend school and primary education starts at the age of six. This primary education lasts six years and is followed by lower and upper years of three years each. After this, students can progress to higher education, including two universities, the University of Cambodia and the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
Most schools in Cambodia are state schools, there are also a number of private schools and Buddhist monastic schools.
Despite the often poor quality of schools, illiteracy has declined sharply since 1994. Illiteracy still occurs mainly in rural areas, among minorities and among women. One of the biggest problems is the teachers, who often do not have the necessary qualifications and are poorly motivated because of the mediocre salaries and poor working conditions.
Photo:Neil Rickards Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made
There are still many minefields on the territory of Cambodia. These minefields date back to the 1980s and were created during the battle between the government army and the Khmer Rouge.
In 1993 the number of mines was estimated at ten million, located everywhere, but especially around Battambang in the west and Pailin on the border with Thailand. The mines have already cost many victims; more than 40,000 Cambodians have been maimed. It is expected that it will take another 25 years before all mines are cleared.
However, if one stays on the prescribed paths as a tourist, little can happen.
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The kingdom of Angkor and the accompanying temple complex originated in the turbulent time of the 9th to the 12th century, during which capital was regularly changed.
After all, the Khmer king Surayavarman II (1113-150) was the one who went down in history as the builder of Angkor Wat. Construction took place in the first half of the 12th century. The temple complex is considered one of the largest structures in Asia with an area of 1.5 km by 1.3 km and is surrounded by a moat 200 meters wide.
The destruction of Angkor Wat by the Cham in 1177 gave one of Surayavarman's successors the opportunity not only to restore Angkor, but also to build the area with new temples and a new city of Angkor Thom.
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The Khmer Rouge period was devastating for the Cambodian economy. Everything that had been built up with difficulty before that time was finally demolished at once. It was not until 1979 that reconstruction could start again, but there was a lack of skilled personnel to make a good start. Roads and bridges were also destroyed and the land was littered with mines. After the withdrawal of the Vietnamese and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the economy took further blows.
It wasn't until the mid-1990s that some light came into the economic darkness. After the Khmer Rouge ending the Guerrilla, the investment climate improved and entrepreneurs from Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia turned to Cambodia. The economic crisis in Asia in the late 1990s caused a brief setback, but from that time onwards there has been decent economic growth and unemployment has fallen sharply. As a kind of reward for good policy, Cambodia was allowed to join ASEAN in 1999.
Cambodia is currently still highly dependent on international organizations and governments. Also important will be whether widespread corruption can be reduced and current political stability maintained.
25.3% of the gross national product (GNP) comes from agriculture, 32.8% from industry, and the tertiary sector contributes 41.9% to this. (2017)
The capital Phnom Penh is an important river port and of course the commercial center of Cambodia.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
Photo:Brad Collis Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made
Approximately 50% of the total working population works in agriculture, although only 20% of the land is suitable for agricultural purposes and only 4% is used effectively. In the nineties rice had to be imported, but from 1999 people could feed their own population and even export of rice took place. The state buys the rice at a price below cost, so that much is traded on the private market. In addition to rice, corn, beans, cassava, bananas and tobacco are grown.
The main agricultural areas are located on the Mekong and the Tonlé Sap. Agriculture is completely privatized and most farmers still work the land in a traditional way.
Forest products are largely exported through concessions to Malaysia and Indonesia. Rubber production has a large share in exports.
Fishing plays a major role in the food supply of the population. Due to deforestation, fishing is suffering from the salinization of lakes and rivers. Lake Tonlé Sap is one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. The woodlands along the banks, which are flooded in the rainy season, are particularly nutrient rich and are an ideal spawning area for fish. With a yield of approximately ten tons per km2, the lake accounts for three-quarters of the domestic fishery and provides the Cambodian population with almost half of their animal protein. The fishermen lease the fishing grounds from entrepreneurs who have government concessions. In 1997, Lake Tonlé Sap was designated a protected biosphere because of its unique ecosystem.
Mining and industry
Mining and industry are becoming increasingly important. These sectors have a share of approximately 33% of the national income and 20% of the working population works in them.
The industrial activities are mainly limited to the production of cigarettes, rubber footwear and cement. The government stimulates the food processing and clothing industry. The manufacturing of clothing is the fastest growing industry due to the presence of a very cheap labor force and represented 80% of Cambodia's exports in 2013 and the export value grew from USD 3.4 billion in 2012 to 5 billion in 2017. Most textile products go to Europe and the United States. Most trade is through private channels, especially to Thailand. The main exports are rubber, tobacco, timber and soybeans. Consumer goods often enter the country through smuggling.
Cambodia does not have many minerals; phosphate and gemstones are the most important; copper, tin, iron ore and bauxite are not yet exploitable. Off the coast there are promising oil and gas fields.
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In the period 1970-1978, the infrastructure was largely destroyed by the battle between the government army and the Khmer Rouge. In 2000, the road network was 12,300 km long, of which only 2000 km was paved. Due to sabotage by guerrillas, the road network is in a very bad condition, but they are working hard to improve it. If this succeeds, Cambodia could form an important link between Thailand and Vietnam.
Kompong Som is the international port on the Gulf of Thailand. There is an international airport at Phnom Penh.
There is a railway network of approximately 600 kilometers that connects the main cities. There are no more than two lines; the northwestern line runs from Phnom Penh via Pursat and Battambang to Sisophon. The southern line connects Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville via Takeo, Kampot and Kep. Cambodian trains run slowly and are uncomfortable.
The bamboo train is special, one of the strangest means of transport in the world. They are only two axes with a bamboo floor on top. A diesel engine serves as a power source.
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Tourism is an important source of income, although this sector is still in its infancy. Tourists mainly come from the United States, China, France, Taiwan and Japan. Cambodia has beautiful scenery and a number of national parks.
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The biggest attraction in Cambodia and one of the most spectacular ancient sites on Earth is Angkor. That is a huge temple complex with the remains of various capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century AD. These include the famous temple of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, the Bayon temple (in Angkor Thom) with the large and massive stone faces and Ta Prohm, a Buddhist temple ruin intertwined with towering trees.
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The capital Pnom Penhn is definitely worth a visit. You can admire the silver Pagoda here. The pagoda is located within the royal palace and is home to many national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues. Most notable is a small 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha (the Emerald Buddha of Cambodia) and a life-size gold Maitreya Buddha adorned with 9,584 diamonds. The inner wall of the Silver Pagoda is decorated with a richly colored and detailed mural depicting the Ramayana myth, painted in 1903-1904 by 40 Khmer artists.
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Canesso, C. / Cambodia
Chelsea House Publishers
Colet, J. / Cambodia handbook
Green, R. / Cambodia
Kleinen, J. / Cambodja
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen ; Novib
Peterse, L. / Cambodja
Wulf, A. / Cambodja, Laos
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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