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.