Wonders of Cambodia

Cambodia is a country located at the Southeast of Asia. Its official name is Kingdom of Cambodia or Kampuchea. This country has borders with Vietnam to the southeast and east, the Gulf of Thailand to the south, Laos to the northeast and Thailand to the northwest and west. Its capital is Phnom Penh city which is also the largest city of Cambodia.

The population of the country is around 14 241 640 and it is composed by several ethnic groups such as Kmher, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and Eurasian; being the Khmer the largest group with 87% of the population.

Therefore the main language of the country is the Khmer, a Austroasiatic language, nevertheless as Cambodia was a French colony, the French language is still spoken in the country. The Buddhism is the most important religion with 95% of the population.

Cambodia’s climate is very hot in almost all the country. Average temperatures range from 10 ºC (50ºF) to 38ºC (100ºF). Besides, periodically there are monsoons which are originated in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Thailand. There are only two well differenced seasons, wet season from May to October and the dry season from November to April, this last is the best time to visit the country.

The country has an area of 181 040 square kilometers being 4250 of them water areas. The country orography is composed by flat lowland, mountains and plains; being the main geographical characteristic of the country the lacustrine plain, which has been formed by the inundations caused by the Tonle Sap (Great Lake).

The lacustrine plain is the most fertile area of the country, where there are mainly wet rice cultivations. Cambodia has also many tropical forests; unfortunately the country has also high and worrying rates of deforestation.

The main economical activities of the country are the tourism, the construction and the textile industry. Nevertheless, currently, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries of the World with a per capita income of $ 571. The main cause of this fact was the civil war that destroyed the country during the 1980s and 1990s.

The first vestiges of human activity in Cambodia date from 4000 BC. Nevertheless the first important civilization appeared in the current territory of Cambodia in the first century aD. The Funan and Chenla (two cultures of Indian origin) were the first to colonize the region that today occupies Cambodia and part of the current Vietnam.

When these states disappeared, the region was under the rule of the Khmer Empire between IX and XIII centuries. This period was the golden age of the country. During this time were constructed the most representative monuments of Cambodia such as the famous temple of Angkor Wat, which was the capital of the ancient Cambodia.

Since the XV century the kingdom was involved in several wars with neighbor states like Siam (Thailand). Angkor the ancient capital of Khmer Kingdom was sacked and by 1432 it was abandoned. Therefore the capital of the Khmer reign was moved to Lovek . During three centuries Cambodia was alternately part of Thailand and Vietnam.

From 1863 to 1953 Cambodia became part of the Indochina colony as a French protectorate. But Cambodia got its independence after the World War II on November 9, 1953. The country adopted the constitutional monarchy as its political system.

The first king was Norodom Sihanouk who became also the Prime Minister and the head of the government. He decided to take a neutrality policy about the war in Vietnam in 1970; but a coup d’état leaded by the general Lon Nol took the power of the state whereas Sihanouk was in China.

Sihanouk contacted in China members of the communist Khmer Rouge a rebel organization that occupied the mountain regions of Cambodia and together started a civil war against the new government leaded by Lon Nol, which was supported by United States; since the Khmer Rouge supported openly to Viet Cong the USA army bombarded and invaded several positions in Cambodia; nevertheless the Khmer Rouge gaining territories continuously.

Unfortunately millions of Cambodian (most were peasants) fled from their homes searching refuge in the capital city Phnom Penh and many of them died. This fact only increased hatred against the government and USA causing the victory of the Khmer Rouge.

Finally, the Cambodian communists reached the capital of the country and the control of the government in 1975 leaded by the barbarian dictator Pol Pot, whose regimen moved almost all population of the cities to the fields to do rural projects; trying to revive agriculture model from the XI century.

The government of Pol Pot was one of the bloodiest regimens of the history. It estimates that between 1 and 3 millions people were killed by the communist regimen.

Cambodia fought several conflicts, against Vietnam during 1970s and 1980s, further worsening the situation in the country. By 1997, when the communist government was defeated by a coup d’etat, the country was completely destroyed.

Today several developed nations try to aid economically to Cambodia. The country tries to be reborn with the international aid and with the efforts of the population.

The tourism industry is one of the greatest hopes of the country; since Cambodia is full of wonderful monuments and landscapes. Unfortunately, corruption is the greatest enemy of the development and Cambodia registers one of the highest rates of corruption of the planet according several international studies. Besides, Cambodia is the third most mined territory in the planet; around 60 000 persons died because of the mines since 1970.

But, despite its sad recent history Cambodia is a wonderful country with many tourist attractions, a vibrant culture and charming hospitable people. Cambodians are wonderful people, which only want to an opportunity to develop their country.