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Cambodia

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Cambodia, formally the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a nation in Southeast Asia situated in the southern part of the Indochina Peninsula. It has an area of 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 square miles), and is bounded on the northwest by Thailand, on the northeast by Laos, on the east by Vietnam, and on the southwest by the Gulf of Thailand.

Cambodia is a country with a population of more than 15 million people. The government-sanctioned religion is Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced by about 95% of the population. Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams, and 30 hill tribes comprise the country’s minority communities. Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital and biggest city, serves as the country’s political, economic, and cultural center. Norodom Sihamoni, a monarch elected by the Royal Throne Council, is the kingdom’s head of state. Hun Sen is the head of government and has governed Cambodia for almost 25 years. He is presently the longest-serving non-royal leader in South East Asia.

Jayavarman II proclaimed himself king in 802 AD, unifying the Chenla’s feuding Khmer lords under the name “Kambuja.” This was the start of the Khmer Empire, which lasted over 600 years and enabled succeeding monarchs to govern and exercise influence over a large portion of Southeast Asia, amassing great power and riches. The Indianized empire constructed magnificent temples like as Angkor Wat, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and aided in the spread of Hinduism and later Buddhism across much of Southeast Asia. Following the fall of Angkor to Ayutthaya in the 15th century, a diminished and weaker Cambodia was governed as a vassal state by its neighbors. Cambodia became a protectorate of France in 1863, effectively doubling the country’s size by regaining the country’s north and west from Thailand.

Cambodia achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1953. From 1969 through 1973, the US bombed Cambodia as part of the Vietnam War. Following the 1970 Cambodian coup, the ousted monarch backed his old adversaries, the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge rose to prominence after seizing Phnom Penh in 1975 and committing the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 to 1979, when they were defeated by Vietnam and the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War (1979–91). Cambodia was temporarily controlled by a United Nations mission after the 1991 Paris Peace Accords (1992–1993). The UN resigned after elections in which about 90% of registered people cast votes. After the 1997 coup, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party retained full control of the country in 2016.

The nation is confronted with many difficulties. Among the significant sociopolitical problems are extensive poverty, widespread corruption, a lack of political liberties, poor human development, and a high prevalence of hunger. Cambodia has been characterized as a “vaguely communist free-market state with a rather authoritarian government governing over a cosmetic democracy” by Human Rights Watch’s Southeast Asian Director, David Roberts. While Cambodia’s per capita income remains low in comparison to most of its neighbors, the country has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, increasing at an average of 6% over the past decade. Agriculture continues to be the major economic sector, although significant development in textiles, building, clothing, and tourism has resulted in increasing foreign investment and trade. Cambodia fared poorly in a 2015 annual assessment of 102 nations’ rule of law, ranking 99th overall and lowest in the region.

Cambodia | Introduction

Cambodia has had a particularly poor run of luck during the past half-millennium. The once-mighty Khmer Empire has been pillaged by all of its neighbors since the collapse of Angkor in 1431. It was colonized by the French in the nineteenth century and was heavily carpet bombed by the United States during the 1970s. Following a false dawn of independence in 1953, Cambodia descended into the horrors of civil war in 1970, suffering the Khmer Rouge’s incredibly brutal reign of terror followed by occupation by Vietnamese forces, and it was only after UN-sponsored elections in 1993 that the country began to struggle back to its feet.

Much of the population still lives on less than US$1 a day, and access to even basic services is limited. Political intrigue is as complicated and opaque as it has always been, but security has vastly improved, and an increasing number of visitors are rediscovering Cambodia’s temples and beaches. Siem Reap, the entrance to Angkor, now has luxurious hotels, trendy nightclubs, ATMs, and an airport with flights from all over the area, while Sihanoukville is gaining popularity as a new beach destination. Traveling outside of the most famous tourist sites, on the other hand, is still an experience.

Tourism

After the textile sector, tourism is the country’s second-largest source of hard cash. Between January and December 2007, tourist visits totaled 2.0 million, an 18.5 percent increase over the same period in 2006. The majority of tourists (51%) came in Siem Reap, with the rest (49%) arriving in Phnom Penh and other locations.

Other famous tourist sites in Cambodia include Sihanoukville in the south west, which has many popular beaches, and Battambang in the north west, which has a quiet riverbank town. Both are popular stops for backpackers, who make up a significant percentage of tourists to Cambodia. Visitors are also drawn to the region around Kampot and Kep, especially the Bokor Hill Station. Tourism has grown rapidly each year from the relatively stable time after the 1993 UNTAC elections; there were 118,183 foreign visitors in 1993, and 2,161,577 international tourists in 2009.

According to the study, the majority of the visitors were Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Americans, South Koreans, and French, and the sector generated about 1.4 billion US dollars in 2007, accounting for almost ten percent of the kingdom’s gross national product. According to industry experts cited in the Chinese-language publication Jianhua Daily, Cambodia would have three million international tourist visits in 2010 and five million in 2015. Tourism has long been regarded as one of Cambodia’s three pillar businesses. For international visitors, the major attractions are the Angkor Wat historical site in Siem Reap province, the beaches in Sihanoukville, and the capital city of Phnom Penh.

The tourist souvenir business in Cambodia employs a large number of people around the major tourist attractions. Obviously, the amount of souvenirs produced is insufficient to meet the growing number of visitors, and the bulk of goods offered to tourists in marketplaces are imported from China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Geography

Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 square miles) and is located completely inside the tropics, between latitudes 10° and 15° N and longitudes 102° and 108° E. It is bounded to the north and west by Thailand, to the northeast by Laos, and to the east and southeast by Vietnam. It has a coastline of 443 kilometers (275 miles) along the Gulf of Thailand.

Cambodia’s environment is defined by a low-lying central plain bordered by uplands and low mountains, as well as the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and upper parts of the Mekong River delta. Transitional plains extend outward from this core area, sparsely vegetated and reaching to heights of approximately 650 feet (200 metres) above sea level.

To the north, the Cambodian plain is bounded by a sandstone escarpment that creates a southward-facing cliff that stretches more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) from west to east and rises abruptly above the plain to heights ranging from 600 to 1,800 feet (180–550 metres). The Dângrêk Mountains’ southern border is marked by this cliff.

The Mekong River flows south through the country’s eastern areas. The transitional plains eventually blend with the eastern highlands, an area of wooded mountains and high plateaus that extends into Laos and Vietnam east of the Mekong. Another highland region in southern Cambodia is formed by two separate upland blocks, the Krâvanh Mountains and the Dâmrei Mountains, which cover most of the land area between the Tonle Sap and the Gulf of Thailand.

Phnom Aural, Cambodia’s tallest mountain, rises to a height of 5,949 feet in this isolated and mostly deserted region (1,813 metres). The southern coastal area, which borders the Gulf of Thailand, is a short lowland strip that is densely forested and scarcely inhabited, and is separated from the central plain by the southwestern hills.

The Tonle Sap (Great Lake) inundations are the most notable geographical feature, measuring about 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) during the dry season and increasing to over 24,605 square kilometers (9,500 square miles) during the rainy season. Cambodia’s heartland is this heavily populated region dedicated to wet rice production. A large portion of this region has been declared as a biosphere reserve.

Climate

Cambodia’s climate, like that of the rest of Southeast Asia, is characterized by monsoons, which are referred to as tropical wet and dry due to the pronounced seasonal variations.

Cambodia features tropical monsoons with temperatures ranging from 21 to 35 °C (69.8 to 95.0 °F). From May through October, southwest monsoons sweep inland, bringing moisture-laden winds from the Gulf of Thailand and the Indian Ocean. The dry season, which lasts from November to April, is heralded by the northeast monsoon. The wettest months in the nation are September and October, with the driest months being January and February.

Ecology

Cambodia boasts a diverse range of flora and animals. There are 212 mammals, 536 birds, 240 reptiles, 850 freshwater fish species (Tonle SapLake region), and 435 marine fish species. Much of this biodiversity is concentrated around Tonle Sap Lake and its environs.

Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is a reserve that surrounds Tonle Sap Lake. It includes the lake as well as the following provinces: Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Banteay Meanchey, Pailin, Oddar Meanchey, and Preah Vihear. It was successfully proposed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1997. Other important habitats include the dry forest of Mondolkiri and Ratanakiri provinces, as well as the Cardamom Mountains ecosystem, which includes Bokor National Park, Botum-Sakor National Park, and the wildlife sanctuaries of Phnom Aural and Phnom Samkos.

The Cardamom Mountains rain forests, Central Indochina dry forest, Southeast Indochina dry evergreen forest, Southern Annamite Range rain forest, Tonle Sap freshwater swamp forest, and Tonle Sap-Mekong peat swamp forest are all recognized by the World Wildlife Fund as distinct terrestrial ecoregions in Cambodia.

Demographics

Cambodia’s population was projected to be 15,205,539 people in 2013. Cambodia has a birth rate of 25.4 per 1,000 people. Its population is growing at a pace of 1.7 percent each year.

50 percent of Cambodia’s population is under the age of 22. Cambodia has the highest female-biased sex ratio in the Greater Mekong Subregion, with a 1.04 female to male ratio. The female to male ratio among Cambodians over the age of 65 is 1.6:1.

In 2010, Cambodia’s total fertility rate was 3.0 children per woman. In 2000, the fertility rate was 4.0 children. Women in cities have 2.2 children on average, whereas women in rural regions have 3.3 children per woman. Fertility is greatest in the provinces of Mondol Kiri and Rattanak Kiri, where women have an average of 4.5 children, and lowest in Phnom Penh, where women have an average of 2.0 children.

Ethnic groups

Ninety percent of Cambodians are of Khmer ancestry and speak Khmer, the country’s official language. Cambodia has a largely homogenous population. Its minority groups include Vietnamese (5% of the population) and Chinese (1 percent ).

The Khmers are Cambodia’s biggest ethnic group, accounting for about 90 percent of the overall population and being indigenous to the lowland Mekong subregion in which they live. The Khmers have traditionally resided in a continuous diagonal arc along the lower Mekong River, from where modern-day Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia meet in the northwest all the way to the Mekong River’s mouth in southern Vietnam.

With an estimated 400,000 – 700,000 people residing in provinces centered in the southeast of the nation close to the Mekong Delta, the Vietnamese are Cambodia’s biggest (or second largest) ethnic minority. Despite the fact that the Vietnamese language is a Mon–Khmer language, there are minimal cultural links between the two peoples since the early Khmers were affected by the Indian cultural sphere, while the Vietnamese are influenced by the Chinese cultural sphere. Ethnic conflicts between Khmer and Vietnamese may be traced back to Cambodia’s Dark Ages (from the 16th to the 19th century), when a fledgling Vietnam and Thailand tried to vassalise a weaker post-Angkor Cambodia and essentially control all of Indochina.

Chinese Cambodians make up around 1% of the population. The majority of Chinese are derived from 19th–20th century immigrants who came to seek trade and business opportunities under the French rule. The majority are city residents who work mainly in business.

Montagnards or Khmer Loeu, a name that means “Highland Khmer,” are the indigenous ethnic tribes of the mountains. They are descended from neolithic migrations of Mon–Khmer speakers via southern China and Austronesian speakers from southeastern Asia. Because they were secluded in the highlands, the different Khmer Loeu tribes were not Indianized like their Khmer relatives, and as a result, they remain culturally distinct from contemporary Khmers and often from one other, retaining many pre-Indian-contact traditions and beliefs.

The Cham are derived from the Austronesian people of Champa, an ancient kingdom on the coast of central and southern Vietnam that was a competitor to the Khmer Empire. The Cham in Cambodia number less than a million people and typically live in distinct communities in the country’s southeast. In Cambodia, almost all Cham are Muslims.

Religion

Cambodia’s official religion is Theravada Buddhism, which is practiced by more than 95 percent of the population and has an estimated 4,392 monastery temples across the nation. Cambodian Buddhism is heavily influenced by Hinduism, Tantrism, and indigenous animism. Reincarnation is a key idea in Cambodian Buddhism, and religious activities are centered on gaining bonn (Pali punna, merit) and erasing kamm (Pali kamma, karma), which, for Khmers, refers to the negative consequences of previous deeds.

The tight connection between spirits and the society, the effectiveness of apotropaic and luck-attracting acts and charms, and the potential of influencing one’s life via contact with spiritual beings such as “baromey” spirits are all key ideas derived from animism. Beyond the mystical rituals of Tantricism and a slew of Hindu gods now absorbed into the spirit realm, Hinduism has left little trace (for example, the important neak ta spirit called Yeay Mao is the modern avatar of the Hindu goddess Kali).

The majority of Chinese and Vietnamese in Cambodia practice Mahayana Buddhism. Other religious traditions, such as the worship of folk heroes and ancestors, Confucianism, and Taoism, coexist alongside Chinese Buddhism.

Islam is practiced by approximately 2% of the population and comes in three forms, two of which are practiced by the Cham people and a third by descendants of Malays who have lived in the nation for centuries. According to reports, 80 percent of Cambodia’s Muslim population is Cham.

Economy

Cambodia’s PPP per capita income in 2011 was $2,470, while nominal per capita income was $1,040. Cambodia’s per capita income is rising fast, although it remains low in comparison to other nations in the area. Agriculture and its associated sub-sectors support the majority of rural families. Cambodia’s main exports include rice, fish, wood, clothing, and rubber. More than 750 indigenous rice types were restored to Cambodia by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) from its rice seed bank in the Philippines. These varieties were gathered in the 1960s.

According to the Economist and the IMF, yearly average GDP growth from 2001 to 2010 was 7.7 percent, placing it in the world’s top ten nations with the greatest annual average GDP growth. With arrivals rising from 219,000 in 1997 to over 2 million in 2007, tourism was Cambodia’s fastest growing sector. In 2004, inflation was 1.7 percent, while exports were $1.6 billion US dollars.

“Where Have All The Poor Gone?” is the Cambodia country evaluation. The World Bank finds in its “Cambodia Poverty Assessment 2013” that “during the seven years from 2004 to 2011, Cambodian economic development was phenomenal, ranking among the greatest in the world.” Furthermore, household consumption rose by almost 40%. And this increase was pro-poor, not just decreasing inequality but also increasing poor people’s spending proportionately quicker and farther than non-poor people’s. As a consequence, the poverty rate fell from 52.2 percent to 20.5 percent, exceeding all expectations. However, the bulk of these individuals have just narrowly avoided poverty: they remain very vulnerable—even to little shocks—that may rapidly return them to poverty.”

“Two decades of economic development have helped Cambodia become a worldwide pioneer in poverty reduction.” The success story means that the Southeast Asian country that survived a brutal civil war is now classed by the World Bank Group as a lower-middle income economy (WBG).

Cambodia’s largest source of foreign direct investment is China. On the first seven months of 2011, China intended to invest $8 billion in 360 projects. It is also the biggest source of foreign assistance, contributing about $600 million in 2007 and $260 million in 2008.” Poverty fell from 53% in 2004 to 20.5 percent in 2011, exceeding all expectations and significantly exceeding the country’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) poverty goal. From 2004 to 2008, Cambodia placed fourth among 69 nations with relevant statistics in terms of the quickest poverty reduction in the world. More information about Cambodia’s poverty-reduction accomplishments may be found here. Poverty dropped to 10% in 2013, and further reductions in poverty are anticipated for both urban and rural families in 2015–2016. Human development, especially in health and education, is a significant problem and development goal for Cambodia.”

Oil and natural gas reserves discovered under Cambodia’s territorial seas in 2005 have enormous potential but have mostly gone unexplored, owing in part to territorial conflicts with Thailand.

The National Bank of Cambodia is the kingdom’s central bank, and it regulates the nation’s banking industry and is partly responsible for encouraging foreign direct investment in the country. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of licensed banks and micro-credit institutions grew from 31 to over 70, highlighting the development of the Cambodian banking and finance industry.

Credit Bureau Cambodia was formed in 2012, with direct regulatory supervision provided by the National Bank of Cambodia. The Credit Bureau improves openness and stability in the Cambodian banking sector by requiring all banks and microfinance businesses to disclose correct facts and statistics related to loan performance in the nation.

One of the most pressing issues confronting Cambodia is the fact that the elderly population is often illiterate, especially in the rural, which suffers from a lack of basic infrastructure. Fears of recurrent political instability and government corruption deter international investment and postpone foreign assistance, despite substantial contributions from bilateral and multilateral donors. In 2004, donors committed $504 million to the nation, with the Asian Development Bank alone providing $850 million in loans, grants, and technical support. Bribes are often requested of Cambodian businesses while acquiring licenses and permissions, such as building permits.

In the 2015 International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index, Cambodia was rated among the worst places in the world for organized labor, falling into the category of countries with “no assurance of rights.”

Cambodia’s National Assembly passed a Trade Union Law in April 2016. “The legislation was introduced at a time when employees were conducting continuous demonstrations in workplaces and on the streets, seeking pay increases and better working conditions.” Concerns concerning Cambodia’s new legislation are shared not just by labor and human rights organizations, but also by foreign organizations in general. According to the International Labor Organization Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia, and Lao PDR, the legislation contains “many significant issues and deficiencies.” Employers and independent unions are still as split as they have always been. “How can a business with 25 unions survive?” said Van Sou Ieng, head of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), adding that expecting an employer to settle a disagreement with 25 separate union leaders was nonsensical. According to Van Sou Ieng, a legislation was required to rein in the country’s unions. According to GMAC, there were 3,166 unions representing the more than 500,000 employees working in the country’s 557 garment and textile exporting industries, as well as 58 footwear manufacturers, last year. Despite the fact that garment manufacturing is already Cambodia’s biggest sector, accounting for 26.2 percent of the country’s GDP, Van Sou Ieng said that “without the trade union legislation, international investors would not come to conduct business.”

“Just via trade union legislation can we, as employers, be able to survive…. Not only Cambodia, but every nation has trade union law.” Those who criticize [the legislation] should get into business; then they would understand.”

How To Travel To Cambodia

By plane Direct flights link Phnom Penh International Airport (formerly Pochentong International Airport) with mainland China (Beijing and Guangzhou), France (Paris), Hong Kong, Laos (Vientiane), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, South Korea (Incheon), Taiwan (Taipei), Thailand (Bangkok), and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City). Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport has direct flights to Laos...

How To Travel Around Cambodia

By plane Cambodia's local aviation scene has improved. There are presently three airports serving scheduled passenger flights: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville. Cambodia Angkor Air, a joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, is the primary operator, flying between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville, as well as airports...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Cambodia

FingerprintingCambodian immigration officials are now fingerprinting tourists upon arrival and departure. These fingerprints may end up in the hands of your country's authorities or any other agency willing to pay for them. If you object, you may bribe the official (USD1-2 should be enough if you're brave enough to...

Destinations in Cambodia

Regions in Cambodia Cardamom and Elephant Mountains - The western mountain ranges, gulf coast beaches, and offshore islands include the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains (Battambang, Kampot, Koh Kong, Pailin, Pursat, Sihanoukville, Bokor National Park, and Kep), as well as the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains (Battambang, Kampot, Koh Kong, Pailin, Pursat,...

Things To See in Cambodia

Cambodia's primary attraction is so well-known and magnificent that it is also one of Asia's top tourist attractions. The Angkor Archaeological Park's majestic and awe-inspiring temples attract large and varied audiences who come to appreciate its immense significance and sheer size. It's a must-see on any vacation to the...

Food & Drinks in Cambodia

Food in Cambodia Khmer food is delicious and inexpensive, despite not being the strongest link in Southeast Asia's chain of delectable cuisines. Rice and, on occasion, noodles are the mainstays. Unlike in Thailand or Laos, spicy hot cuisine is not a staple; black pepper is favored over chilli peppers, but...

Money & Shopping in Cambodia

Both the Cambodian riel (KHR) and the US dollar (USD) are official currencies, with the riel being utilized mostly for minor transactions (i.e. less than US$1). US coins are not accepted. Most ATMs only accept US dollars, but some accept both currencies. The Cambodian Central Bank keeps the riel pegged...

Internet & Communications in Cambodia

Telephone Cambodia utilizes the GSM mobile system, and Mobitel is the biggest operator, despite fierce competition. Pre-paid SIM cards (starting at $2) are readily available. As of April 2013, most street sellers and small private shops will offer pre-paid sim cards without requiring a passport. Major phone shops, on the...

Language & Phrasebook in Cambodia

Cambodians mainly speak Khmer, which, unlike other languages in the area, lacks tonality but compensates with a diverse set of consonant and vowel clusters. Young Cambodians choose to study English as a second language, and you may find individuals in large towns and cities who speak anything from basic...

Traditions & Customs in Cambodia

Cambodia is at a fork in the road. While locals in more highly touristed areas like as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are well acclimated to tourist behavior, individuals in less touristed areas such as Stung Treng and Banlung are not. Always seek permission before photographing someone, since many...

Culture Of Cambodia

Cambodian culture is influenced by a variety of influences, including Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism, French colonialism, Angkorian civilization, and contemporary globalization. Cambodian culture is promoted and developed by the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. Cambodian culture encompasses not just the culture of the lowland ethnic majority, but also...

History of Cambodia

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