Kingdom, believed to have started around the first century BC, is the first
known kingdom of Cambodia. The kingdom was strongly influenced by Indian
culture by shaping the culture, art and political system.
alphabetical system, religions and architectural styles were also Indian
contributions to the Funan Kingdom. There is archeological evidence of a
commercial society in the Mekong Delta that prospered from the 1st to 6th
from abroad, a Khmer prince declared himself the
ruler of a new kingdom during the 9th century.
Known as Jayavarman II, he started a cult that
honored Shiva, a Hindu god, as a devaraja
(god-king) which then linked the king to Shiva.
He also began the great achievements in
architecture and sculpture while his successors
built an immense irrigation system around Angkor..
His successors (26 from the early 9th to the early
15th century), built a tremendous number of
temples - of which there are over a thousand sites
and stone inscriptions (on temple walls).
By the 12th century, Cambodia had spread into
other areas, now known as Thailand, Laos, Myanmar
and Malaysia (the peninsula). There is
actually still evidence of Khmer inhabitance in
Thailand and Laos to this day.
13th and 14th centuries were not as successful for
Cambodia, some believe it was due to the increased
power of (and wars with) Thai kingdoms that had at
one time paid homage to Angkor. Others
believe it was due to the induction of Theravada
Buddhism, which was totally contrary to the
Cambodian societal structure at that time.
After this time historical records are rather
sketchy at best regarding Cambodia and it is
considered the "Dark Ages" of Cambodian
was ravaged by Vietnamese and Thai invasions and
wars up until the 19th century, when new dynasties
in these countries fought over control of
Cambodia. The war, that began in the 1830's
almost destroyed Cambodia. King Norodom
signed a treaty that enabled the French to be a
protectorate, thus effectively stopping the
Viet-Thai war within. For the next 90 years,
France in essence ruled over Cambodia.
Although officially they were just advisors, it
was known that the French had final say on all
topics of interest. Although the French
built roadways and made other improvements
regarding trade and transportation, they sadly
neglected the Cambodian educational system, which
is still not effective to this day.
1953, Cambodia managed to gain their independence
in spite of World War II and the First Indochina
War. Their independence was obtained through
the political savvy of King Sihanouk.
Wanting to be released from the pressures of the
monarchy, Sihanouk abdicated the throne and became
a full time politician.
He started a political faction called the People's
Socialist Community (Sangkum Reastr Niyum) which
then won by a landslide in the 1955 national
elections. In part the success was due to
his popularity, but also from police brutality at
the polling stations.
In 1960, when his father died he was named head of
state (up until then he'd been the prime
minister). Although he had remained neutral
in a struggle between the US and USSR regarding
tensions in Vietnam, he changed his position in
1965 and eliminated diplomatic relations with the
At the same time he allowed the Communist
Vietnamese access to Cambodian soil to set up
bases. With the Cambodian economy becoming
unstable, Sihanouk decided to renew his relations
with the US, who were secretly planning on bombing
Cambodian areas suspected of housing Vietnamese
Sihanouk was abroad in 1970, he was ousted from
power and fled to China. General Lon Nol,
the prime minister, had hoped for US aid, but the
US was occupied with Vietnamese troubles and
didn't help. In the meantime, since his army
was ill-equipped, they couldn't stop an invasion
by the South Vietnamese, searching for North
To add to Lon Nol's problems, Sihanouk had been
persuaded to set up a government while in exile,
called the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer
Rouge became a thorn in Lon Nol's side along with
the Vietnamese until the Khmer regime collapsed.
Another contributing factor to the collapse was
the repeated US bombing of the Cambodian
countryside. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge was
able to take over Phnom Penh and shortly
thereafter, the North Vietnamese were occupying
Khmer Rouge felt antipathy toward Cambodians
living in urban areas and forced them to the
countryside where they were forced to work in
various forms of agriculture. Leading the
Khmer Rouge was a man by the name of Saloth
Sar, better known as Pol Pot. The
government, Democratic Kampochea (DK), was run in
part by rural Cambodians who were illiterate, but
had fought along with the Khmer Rouge in the war.
The derision and ill-treatment felt towards the
former city dwellers was slightly better than the
treatment of anyone intellectual, religious, and
those who were believed to be against the regime -
their punishment was death. During Pol Pot's
(Khmer Rouge's) regime over twenty percent of
Cambodia's population was murdered.
Khmer Rouge's plan to attack Vietnam and other
areas backfired when the Vietnamese surprised
Cambodia with an attack of over 100,000 troops.
They were accompanied by Cambodian Communist
rebels and managed to invade Phnom Penh, which had
been vacated by the Khmer Rouge the day before.
The Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot among them, fled to the
Thai-Cambodian border, where they were given
asylum by the Thai government, which was
unfriendly to Vietnam.
Vietnamese established a regime in Cambodia that
included many members of the Khmer Rouge as well
as Cambodians who had fled to Vietnam before 1975.
Not to be swayed, the Khmer Rouge and it's
followers created a government that was hostile to
Vietnam while in exile, also known as DK.
The UN upheld this government in exile, with the
support given to it by the US, China and Thailand.
With more ensuing conflicts between the two
governments, many of Cambodia's finest along with
the general population, totaling over half a
million people, resettled in other countries.
the end of 1989, the Cold War had ended which had
the Vietnamese exiting Cambodia. Without
financial support from the Soviets, the Vietnamese
couldn't keep their troops in the country.
This withdrawal made things difficult for
Cambodians, especially the prime minister, Hun
Sen. The Khmer Rouge had not disappeared,
but had made their presence known and were
threatening military action. Since Cambodia
was without much needed foreign aid, they
discarded socialism and tried to get investors
interested in the country.
Another major change was in the country's name, it
was changed to the State of Cambodia (SOC), while
the KPRP (who currently ruled Cambodia) changed
their name to the Cambodian People's Party.
An attempt to have a free-market economy just
increased the gap between the rich and the poor
with many government officials becoming
1991, the UN, Cambodia, and other interested
parties came to an agreement to end the Cambodian
conflict. A United Nations Transitional
Authority (UNTAC) and a Supreme National Council (SNC)
were formed and were comprised of members from
different factions within Cambodia.
The agreement in Paris and the UN protectorate
started competitive politics in Cambodia,
something they hadn't seen for about 40 years.
In May 1993, UNTAC sponsored an election for the
national assembly, which ended up ousting the
military regime. The Cambodians wanted a
royalist party, FUNCINPEC, but Hun Sen, who won
the second largest number of seats, refused to
give up his power. Fortunately a compromise
was reached and a government was formed with two
prime ministers, FUNCINPEC had the first
prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun
Sen became the second prime minister.
name change for the country was in order, so in
1993 Cambodia became known as the Kingdom of
Cambodia and Sihanouk became the king once again
after ratifying a new constitution which
re-established the monarchy. After
these changes were made, the UN no longer accepted
the DK as the ruling party, thus causing them (the
DK) to lose their seat and power in the UN.
tentative compromise between the FUNCINPEC and the
CPP fell apart in 1997 when Prince Ranariddh was
overseas. Hun Sen took advantage of the
Prince's absence and organized a violent takeover
to replace him. He replaced Prince Ranariddh
with another member of the FUNCINPEC, but this
time with one who was more easily manipulated and
compliant. In spite of this takeover, the
elections of 1998 were carried out, but not
without foreign observations.
Although it was stated the voting was fair, the
CPP hassled it's opposition and following the
elections many were put in jail while a few others
were killed. Once again, the results were
not accepted, but this time it was Prince
Ranariddh who opposed it. Yet again another
compromise was reached with Hun Sen as the only
prime minister and with Prince Ranariddh as the
president of the national assembly.
are stabilizing in Cambodia, but not without the
help and support of foreign aid. With the
outside world's interest waning, it's help is
steadily decreasing, hich is discouraging any
hopes for economic advancement and democracy.
does not guarantee the complete accuracy of the information provided on
this site or links. Do your own research and get a professional's
opinion before adhering to advice or information contained herein.
Use of the information contained herein provided by AsianInfo.org and
any mistakes contained within are at the individual risk of the user.
do not provide links to, or knowingly promote, any violent or pornographic