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Cambodia Facts

Presented in this Vacayholics article are some interesting facts about the country of Cambodia, starting from its history, to its potential development today.
Vacayholics Staff
Did You Know?
According to UNICEF, Cambodia is one of the most landmined countries in the world.

Think about Cambodia and what flashes in our minds is the image of a Southeast Asian nation, whose history is one of the darkest episodes of humanity in the past century. The violence that this country faced during World War II or during 1970s-1980s under the Khmer Rouge empire, still reverberates in the memories of those who were a part of it. Nearly 30 years have passed since the end of the treacherous Khmer Rogue empire, but the people of Cambodia have still not recovered from the effects of this horrific reign. Nonetheless, as growth opportunities in tourism have been significant in the 21st century, the government of Cambodia is taking efforts to create more awareness about the historical marvels and the rich cultural heritage of this beautiful nation. Time now, for some quick facts about this country.
  • Cambodia is bordered by Thailand (west and north), Laos (north), and Vietnam (east). In the south, it is faced by the Gulf of Thailand.
  • Earliest kingdoms in Cambodia, that existed from the 1st to 6th century AD, were known as 'Funan'; it is believed that this kingdom was very much influenced by India.
  • After the fall of Funan in 6th century AD, it was ruled by Chenla, an ethnically-Khmer, Chinese kingdom.
  • 790 AD to 1431 AD was a peak period for Cambodia; it had stood as a united nation for nearly 500 years, under the able reign of Prince Jayavarman II, also known as founder of the Khmer empire.
  • After the fall of the Khmer empire, Cambodia remained under the control of Thai, Vietnamese and later, under French rule (from 1863-1953).
  • In the World War II, Japanese took over Cambodia and promoted Asian ideas. Japan however lost to France eventually and Cambodia was under French rule again; however, increasing pressure from Cambodian citizens led to their independence on November 9, 1953.
  • Till 1970, Cambodia was peacefully ruled by King Sihanouk. Then Cambodia saw one of the most gruesome episodes in their history―the Civil War between 1967-1975.
  • In 1975, the communist force―the Khmer Rogue headed by Pol Pot, the man responsible for one of the worst genocides of the 20th century―took control of Cambodia. In just 4 years of its rule, 1.7-2.5 million people were killed by starvation, over work, or torture. Pol Pot wanted to remove all educated or intellectual Cambodians, so that nobody remains alive to oppose his policies.
  • The Khmer Rouge empire ended in 1979 after the Vietnamese attack; however, till 1999, the Khmer Rogue fighters used guerrilla warfare to regain control over Cambodia.
  • In 1998, Pol Pot died (before he could face trial). Many leaders of the Khmer Rogue are still facing trials.
  • In 2005, oil and natural gas were discovered off the coast of Cambodia.
  • King Norodom Sihamoni is the current Head of State; the country follows constitutional monarchy.
  • Hun Sen, elected in 1998, is still the prime minister of Cambodia and heads the government. The executive branch and the bicameral parliament are two wings of legislative power.
  • As per the 2008 census, the population of Cambodia is 14,240,000.
  • Nearly 90% of the population is made up of ethnic people.
  • Only 3.6% of the Cambodian population is above 65 years of age. Cambodia boasts of a very young population with the median age of a citizen being 21.7 years.
  • Literacy in this nation is 73.6%.
  • Khmer is the official language and its script is known as abugida. Besides Khmer, French, Vietnamese, and English are other spoken languages.
  • At 1,810 meters, Phnum Aoral is the highest point in Cambodia.
  • 75% of workers in this country are farmers; agriculture dominates the economy.
  • Although Cambodia has been a relatively poor country (35% people are below poverty line), the 21st century has witnessed a growth rate of GDP between 5% to 9%, promising a better life ahead.
  • The official currency of Cambodia is Riel (KHR) and it is divided into 100 sen. Except U.S. dollars, it is difficult to trade other currencies.
  • Phnom Penh, the capital, houses the Phnom Penh International Airport.
  • The Tonle Sap, a river in Cambodia, reverses it flow annually; it is the only river in the world to do so.
  • Shopping in this country is based on the 'flea market' system.
  • In Cambodia, the greeting gesture is known as Sompeah; people press their palms together, following the gesture with a bow.
  • Tourists in Cambodia are expected to dress modestly.
  • Pointing or touching your feet to something/someone is considered disrespectful.
  • Buddhism has been the main religion in Cambodia since ages.
  • Seek permission, if you want to take photographs of temples, monks, or priests.
  • Angor Wat, which was one of the world's largest religious buildings is situated in Angkor, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by Suryavarman II in the early 12th century.
  • Angkor Wat is dedicated to one of the most worshiped Hindu Gods―Vishnu.
  • The monument also appears on the national flag of Cambodia and it is the only national flag in the world to feature such a symbol.
  • The Killing Fields, a British drama movie based on genocide in Cambodia, is one of the best movies to be made on genocide. Haing S. Ngor, the actor who played the role of Cambodian journalist Dith Prath, got an Oscar for his supporting role. He is the first Asian actor to have won an Oscar.
Owing to the tremendous potential of tourism in this country, let us hope that a new era of peace and prosperity reigns in Cambodia.