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Atlas Cambodia

Country (long form)
Kingdom of Cambodia
Capital
Phnom Penh
Total Area
69,899.93 sq mi
181,040.00 sq km
Population
12,212,306 (July 2000 est.) note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS
Estimated Population in 2050
27,420,640
Languages
Khmer (official) 95%, French, English
Literacy
35.0% total, 48.0% male, 22% female (1990 est.)
Religions
Theravada Buddhist 95%, other 5%
Life Expectancy
54.44 male, 58.74 female (2000 est.)
Government Type
multiparty liberal democracy under a constitutional monarchy established in September 1993
Currency
1 new riel (CR) = 100 sen
GDP (per capita)
$710 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
agriculture 80% (1999 est.)
Industry
garments, rice milling, fishing, wood and wood products, rubber, cement, gem mining, textiles
Agriculture
rice, rubber, corn, vegetables
Arable Land
13%
Exports
timber, garments, rubber, rice, fish
Imports
cigarettes, gold, construction materials, petroleum products, machinery, motor vehicles
Natural Resources
timber, gemstones, some iron ore, manganese, phosphates, hydropower potential
Current Environmental Issues
illegal logging activities throughout the country and strip mining for gems in the western region along the border with Thailand have resulted in habitat loss and declining biodiversity (in particular, destruction of mangrove swamps threatens natural fisheries); soil erosion; in rural areas, a majority of the population does not have access to potable water; toxic waste delivery from Taiwan sparked unrest in Kampong Saom (Sihanoukville) in December 1998
Telephones (main lines in use)
21,800 (mid-1998)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
34,880 (1998)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
2 (1999)

History
Very little is known about prehistoric Cambodia, although archeological evidence has established that prior to 1000 BC Cambodians subsisted on a diet of fish and rice and lived in houses on stilts, as they still do today. From the 1st to the 6th centuries, much of Cambodia belonged to the southeast Asian kingdom of Funan, which played a vital role in developing the political institutions, culture and art of later Khmer states. However, it was the Angkorian era, beginning in the 8th century, that really transformed the kingdom into an artistic and religious power.

Forces of the Thai kingdom of Ayudhya sacked Angkor in 1431, leaving the Khmers plagued by dynastic rivalries and continual warfare with the Thais for a century and a half. The Spanish and Portuguese, who had recently become active in the region, also played a part in these wars until resentment of their power led to the massacre of the Spanish garrison at Phnom Penh in 1599. A series of weak kings ruled from 1600 until the French arrived in 1863. After some gunboat diplomacy and the signing of a treaty of protectorate in 1863, the French went on to force King Norodom to sign another treaty, this time turning his country into a virtual colony in 1884.

Following the arrival of the French, a relatively peaceful period followed (even the peasant uprising of 1916 was considered peaceful). In 1941 the French installed 19-year-old Prince Sihanouk on the Cambodian throne, on the assumption that he would prove suitably pliable. This turned out to be a major miscalculation as the years after 1945 were strife-torn, with the waning of French colonial power aided by the proximity of the Franco-Viet Minh War that raged in Vietnam and Laos. Cambodian independence was eventually proclaimed in 1953, the enigmatic King Norodom Sihanouk going on to dominate national politics for the next 15 years before being overthrown by the army.

In 1969 the United States carpet-bombed suspected communist base camps in Cambodia, killing thousands of civilians and dragging the country unwillingly into the US-Vietnam conflict. American and south Vietnamese troops invaded the country in 1970 to eradicate Vietnamese communist forces but were unsuccessful; they did manage, however, to push Cambodia's leftist guerillas (the Khmer Rouge) further into the country's interior. Savage fighting soon engulfed the entire country, with Phnom Penh falling to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975.

Over the next four years the Khmer Rouge, under Pol Pot's leadership, systematically killed an estimated two million Cambodians (targeting the educated in particular) in a brutal bid to turn Cambodia into a Maoist, peasant-dominated agrarian cooperative. Currency was abolished, postal services were halted, the population became a work force of slave labourers and the country was almost entirely cut off from the outside world. Responding to recurring armed incursions into their border provinces, Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978, forcing the Khmer Rouge to flee to the relative sanctuary of the jungles along the Thai border. From there, they conducted a guerilla war against the Vietnamese-backed government throughout the late 1970s and 80s.

In mid-1993, UN-administered elections led to a new constitution and the reinstatement of Norodom Sihanouk as king. The Khmer Rouge boycotted the elections, rejected peace talks and continued to buy large quantities of arms from the Cambodian military leadership. In the months following the election, a government-sponsored amnesty secured the first defections from Khmer ranks, with more defections occurring from 1994 when the Khmer Rouge was finally outlawed by the Cambodian government.

The uneasy coalition of Prince Ranariddh's National United Front and Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party fell violently apart in July 1997, and when the dust settled Hun Sen assumed sole leadership of Cambodia. Elections in mid-98 returned Hun Sen to this position, despite grumbling from opposition candidates about dodgy electoral practices. While his democratic credentials are far from impressive, the one-eyed strong man has proved to be something of a stabilising force for Cambodia.

Pol Pot's death in April 1998 from an apparent heart attack was greeted with anger (that he was never brought to trial) and scepticism (he has been reported dead many times before). The UN has pulled out of trials of other surviving 'top level' Khmer Rouge leaders on war crimes charges because the independence of the tribunals is doubtful. Future stability is also tied to improving the country's notoriously dodgy economy (dealt a body blow by the devastating floods of 2000), eradicating the entrenched culture of corruption, reducing the size of the military and answering the troubled question of who will succeed King Sihanouk, the last in a long line of Angkor's god kings.