Facts About Cambodia
2. Population & Peoples:
Cambodia holds a population of 14.7 million; 69 are born & 22 die every day. The primary people groups include the Khmer (86.9%), Cham Muslims (2.4%), Chinese (4.1 %), Vietnamese (4.2 %), Tribal Groups (18) (%1.0), and the Lao (0.6%).
Cambodians make $2,100 GDP per capita; that means $40 USD a week / about $1 an hour.
Buddhism is the official religion, but Christians are allowed to worship and evangelize openly, with very few government restrictions.
History of Cambodia
1. Angkor Period (802-1431)
During the Angkor period Cambodia was the greatest empire of South East Asia. King Suryavarman II (c. 1113-1145 AD) built the famous temple Angkor Wat and king Jayavarman VII (c.1181-1215 AD) built the city of Angkor Thom and the temples Bayon and Ta Prohm. Eventually the empire began to decline and was eradicated by the Thai Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1431. The massive stone temples still stand as monuments to the nations’ past glory.
2. Cambodian Independence under Sihanouk (1953-1970)
The French controlled Cambodia for almost a century until 1953 when it gained independence under King Norodom Sihanouk (the King-Father of Cambodia). Cambodia officialy remained neutral during the Vietnam War until 1965 when Sihanouk made a pact with China and North Vietnam allowing the communists to set up bases in Cambodia. The eastern part of the country turned into a war zone, blasted with 2.7 million tons of bombs. Not all Cambodian’s shared Sihanouk’s support of communism, and this political tension mushroomed into the Cambodian Civil War (1970-1975).
3. Cambodian Civil War (1970-1975)
During a visit to China, Sihanouk and his government was overthrown by military coup under the leadership of Lon Nol (a non-communist). The opposing communists formed into the Khmer Rouge party under their leader Pol Pot. They gradually defeated Lon Nol, capturing the capital city of Phnom Penh in 1975.
4. Cambodian Holocaust: Killing Fields (1975-1978)
Unfortunately the end of this war was only the beginning of Cambodia’s worst nightmare. As soon as Pol Pot took control, he set up an agrarian based society, driving all the people out of cities to live in the countryside and work in the fields. He arrested, tortured, and killed all government leaders, professionals, intellectuals, physically weak, ethnic minority groups, and Christians. His reign turned into a brutal genocide, with mass murders in what became know as the Killing Fields. By the end of four years, 2,000,000 people had died from execution, disease, or starvation (1/3 of the population).
5. Vietnam Occupation (1979-1989)
Because of clashes on the border, Vietnam made a full-scale invasion of Cambodia on Christmas day 1978 (called the Cambodian-Vietnamese War). Within two weeks they overthrew the Khmer Rouge and established a new government. 10 years later, they withdrew from Cambodia, leaving it under the leadership of Hun Sen, who remains the current Prime minister today (2011).