Kingdom of Wonder
Cambodia or Kampuchea in Khmer is officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia and once known as The Khmer Empire is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in South East Asia. Cambodia is bordered by Thailand in the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the East and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.
Cambodia has a population of over 15 million. The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, practiced by approximately 95 percent of the population. The country’s minority groups include Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams and 30 other hill tribes.
The capital Phnom Phen is the largest city and is the political, economic and cultural center of the country. The kingdom is a constitutional Mocharchy with Norodom Sihamoni, a monarch chosen by the Royal Throne Council, as head of state. The head of government is Hun Sen, who is currently the longest serving non-royal leader in South East Asia and has rules Cambodia for over 25 years.
In 802 AD, Jayavarman II declared himself king, uniting the warring Khmer princess of Chenla under the name Kambuja. This marked the beginning of the Khmer Empire which flourished for over 600 years. The indianized kingdom built monumental temples including Angkor Wat that is now a World Heritage Site and facilitated the spread of first Hinduism, then to Buddhism. After the fall of Angkor to Ayutthaya in the 15th century, a reduced and weakened Cambodia was than rules as a vassal state by its neighbors. In 1863 Cambodia became a protectorate of France which doubled the size of the country by reclaiming the north and west from Thailand.
Cambodia gained independence in 1953. Following the Cambodian coup of 1970, the deposed king gave his support to his former enemies, the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge emerged as a major power, taking Phnom Phen in 1975 and later carrying out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 until 1979, when they were ousted by Vietnam and the Vietnamese backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea in the Cambodian-Vietnamese war (1979 – 1991). Following the 1991 Paris Peace Accords Cambodia was governed briefly by a United Nations mission (1992 – 1993). The UN withdrew after holding elections in which around 90 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. The 1997 coup placed power solely in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party was born which remains in power today.
The country faces numerous challenges today including widespread poverty, pervasive corruption, lack of political freedoms, low human development and a high rate of hunger.
Cambodia has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. Agriculture remains the dominant sector with strong growth in textiles, construction, garments and tourism.