Description of Cambodia
Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia and shares borders with Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand. For about the last half millennium the country has had a run of bad luck. Most of the population of the country lives on what is equal to one U.S. $1 per day. Provisions for basic services is still spotty and the political landscape is quite complex. Security in Cambodia has improved drastically over the years and there are many more visitors entering the country to see the wonderful beaches and temples that are offered.
The history of Cambodia did not start with Khmer Rouge, even though Pol Pot’s harsh regime has gained most of the attention when it comes to the history of the area. The Khmer Empire was extremely wealthy, as one can see by viewing the magnificent temples located at Angkor. The peak of the empire came during Jayavaraman VII’s rule which occurred from 1181-ca through 1218. During this time the empire stretched to encompass areas that are currently Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Malaysia, and Thailand.
The time that follows the Khmer Empire fall is often described as the dark ages of Cambodia. The Khmer Empire had difficulty recovering from being beat up by its neighbors who were based in what is today known as Thailand. Cambodia spent many of the next 400 years threatened by rivalries from every border. Until the country was colonized by the French, it seemed likely that the colony would disappear altogether.
During the 1860s, the French began to dominate the country as a protectorate. The bigger goal was for France to take control over a larger area known as Indochina, which included what is modern day Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. France was most concerned with the possessions they had in Vietnam and because of this education for Cambodians was neglected except for those who were a part of the established elite. The “red Khmers” emerged from this group of established elite.
During WWII, Japan’s hold in Southeast Asia undermined the French hold in the area and after the Allied win, Prince Silhanouk declared independence. The transition was relatively peaceful and Prince Sihanouk became the main power figure for the country. He was most noted for making strange movies that he starred in, directed, and wrote.
When the 2nd Indochina War spread to the border of Cambodia, the United States became concerned about what was happening in the country. From 1964 through 1973, the Air Force from the United States bombed the country. This campaign was named Operation Menu and more than 540,000 tons of bombs were dropped in the area during these years and it is estimated that anywhere from 150,000 to 500,000 civilians were killed.
In March of 1970, Sihanouk was overthrown by generals who were more favorable to the United States. Sihaunouk supported Khmer Rouge and there were many who followed his lead. This led to a 5 year struggle for power when in 1975 Phnom Penh was captured by Khmer Rouge forces and all towns and cities were ordered to be evacuated. Over a million people died from the enforced hardships and executions. Essentially, people were killed because of where they were from and who they were. These devastating politics led to the country being destroyed and by the end of the 70s and into the 80s, Cambodia had to be rebuilt basically from scratch. During 1993, the UN sponsored elections in the country and some semblance of normalcy were restored in the area.
Visiting Cambodia is relatively safe today and there are many wonderful things to see and do. Make sure that you get the appropriate Visa/Passport and that you do not overstay your visit.
There are several wonderful temples in the country, but make sure that you keep your knees and shoulders covered when you enter to show respect to the traditions. Some of the things that you may want to see or do while in Cambodia include:
When you are shopping in the country you will want to look for businesses that have the Heritage Business logo. The businesses that have this logo support the development, heritage, culture, and arts of the people of Cambodia. These are the companies that are giving back to the country and should be supported by visitors in the country.
Some facts about Cambodia
Gallery of Cambodia
Cambodia video guide
More information about Cambodia
Climate of Cambodia:
Top cities of Cambodia
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