Cambodia, officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia and once known as the Khmer Empire, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Its total landmass is 181,035 square kilometres, bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.


Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since French colonisation of Cambodia, and has grown to become the nation's center of economic and industrial activities, as well as the center of security, politics, cultural heritage ,and diplomacy of Cambodia.

Once known as the "Pearl of Asia," it was considered one of the loveliest French-built cities in Indochina in the 1920s. Phnom Penh, is a significant global and domestic tourist destination for Cambodia. Founded in 1434, the city is noted for its beautiful and historical architecture and attractions. There are a number of surviving French colonial buildings scattered along the grand boulevards.The city is the wealthiest and most popular city in Cambodia and is the country's political hub


Cambodia's climate, like that of the rest of Southeast Asia, is dominated by monsoons,which are known as tropical wet and dry because of the distinctly marked seasonal differences.

Cambodia has a temperature range from 21 to 35 °C and experiences tropical monsoons. Southwest monsoons blow inland bringing moisture-laden winds from the elf of Thailand and Indian Ocean from May to October. The northeast monsoon ushers in the dry season, which lasts from November to April. The country experiences the heaviest precipitation from September to October with the driest period occurring from January to February.

Cambodia has two distinct seasons. The rainy season, which runs from May to October, can see temperatures drop to 22 °C. The dry season lasts from November to April when temperatures can rise up to 40 °C around April. Disastrous flooding occurred in 2001 and again in 2002, with some degree of flooding almost every year. To find out a little bit about the 2013 Cambodia floods and how others are helping affected families click here


The Phnom Penh metropolitan area is home to about 2.2 million of Cambodia's population of over 14.8 million, up from about 1.9 million in 2008.


Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of Cambodia, which is practiced by more than 95 percent of the population. The Theravada Buddhist tradition is widespread and strong in all provinces, with an estimated 4,392 monastery temples throughout the country.The vast majority of ethnic Khmers are Buddhist, and there are close associations between Buddhism, cultural traditions, and daily life. Adherence to Buddhism generally is considered intrinsic to the country's ethnic and cultural identity. Religion in Cambodia, including Buddhism, was suppressed by the Khmer Rouge during the late 1970s but has since experienced a revival. Islam is the religion of the majority of the Chams and Malay minorities in Cambodia. The majority of Muslims are Sunnis of the Shafi'i school and are very numerous in Kampong Cham Province. Currently there are more than 300,000 Muslims in the country.

One percent of Cambodians are identified as being Christian, of which Catholics make up the largest group followed by Protestants. There are currently 20,000 Catholics in Cambodia, which represents 0.15% of the total population.

Mahayana Buddism is the religion of the majority of Chinese and Vietnamese in Cambodia.

Customs and Beliefs

In Khmer culture a person's head is believed to contain the person's soul. It is also considered to be extremely disrespectful to use the feet to point out a person, or to sit or sleep with the soles of the feet pointing at a person, as the feet are the lowest part of the body and are considered to be impure.

When greeting people or to show respect in Cambodia people do the "sampan" gesture, identical to the Indian namaste and Thai wai.

Customary Cambodian teachings are laid out in verse form in long works from the 14th to 18th centuries collectively called Chhbap (rules or codes).These were traditionally learned by rote. Works such as the Chhbap Pros (Boy's Code), Chhbap Srey ("Girl's Code") and Chhbap Peak Chas (Code of Ancient Words) gave such advice as; a person that does not wake up before sunrise is lazy, a child must tell parents or elders where they go and what time they will return home, always close doors gently otherwise a bad temper will be assumed, sit in a chair with the legs straight down and not crossed (crossing the legs is a mark of an impolite person) and always let the other person do more talking.

In Cambodia it is not polite to make eye contact with someone who is older or someone who is considered a superior


The Khmer language is a member of the Mon-Kember subfamily of the Austroasiatic group. French, once the language of government in Indochina, is still spoken by many older Cambodians. French is also the language of instruction in some schools and universities that are funded by the government of France.Cambodian French, a reminder of the country's colonial past, is a dialect found in Cambodia and is sometimes used in government, particularly in court

How to Greet Others in Khmer

History Highlights

Cambodia’s history has been a story of rise and fall. The early days of Funan and Chen La were followed by the emergence of the powerful empire of Angkor, and in turn by a long period of decline ending in the loss of independence.

The first civilisation to appear in the region of present-day Cambodia was the Kingdom of Funan (1st–6th centuries AD), almost nothing of which survives today beyond the ruins of the supposed capital, Oc Eo, deep in the Mekong delta in (now Vietnamese territory).

Funan is though to have had extensive trade links acoss Southeast Asia, China, India, the Middle East and even as far as the Mediterranean and Rome. It made up part of the flourishing coastal trade network which ­girdled Asia at that time, from the region of Canton to the Red Sea.

By 500 Funan appears to have been in decline, as a new proto-Khmer state was developing in the region of present-day Phnom Penh. The inhabitants of this state, known to the Chinese annals as Chen La, spoke a Mon-Khmer language and were strongly influenced by Indian religious traditions. They may be regarded as the progenitors of the first authentically Cambodian state.

By around 800AD Chen La had developed into a fully-fledged kingdom, with its capital at ­Isanapura (modern-day Sambor Prei Kuk, near Kompong Thom). At the time Isanapura was, according to one contemporary commentator, “the most extensive complex of stone buildings in all Southeast Asia, built a century ahead of similar constructions in Java”.

By the 7th century “Land Chen La” seems to have eclipsed “Water Chen La” in importance as the centre of the kingdom moved northwestwards, towards the region which would eventually become Angkor.

By the 8th century “Land Chen La” was developing into an increasingly wealthy and centralised kingdom. Moreover, as the centre moved inland, away from the sea, it relied less on subsistence agriculture and trade, and more on manpower, irrigation technology and intensive rice production. In this way the foundations were gradually laid for the establishment of the Khmer Empire which would develop in the region of Angkor.

The Angkorean period of Cambodian history is generally considered to have extended from AD 802 to 1431 there were Khmers in the Angkor region before it became the capital, and Angkor was not completely deserted when the capital returned eastwards.

The final move from Angkor seems to have taken place some time after 1432. Successive capitals were established, first at Lovek and then at Udong in the 15th and 17th centuries, both slightly to the north of Phnom Penh, and finally at Phnom Penh itself. Though smaller and less magnificent than Angkor, these new centres prospered, with international trade burgeoning, and distinct trading communities of Chinese, Malays, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and Arabs established in the area.

By the mid-19th century the once-mighty Khmer Empire had been reduced to a weakened rump state, dominated in the east by Vietnam and in the west by Siam. Then, in 1863, King Norodom was persuaded to accept the establishment of a French protectorate over Cambodia. As a consequence the country became a rather sleepy backwater under French protection.

The Indochina wars and the Khmer Rouge

After World War II, Cambodia quickly became caught up in the global power struggle between the USA and communism. Various complex factors played a part but essentially Cambodia was assisted by Vietnam in finally overthrowing the French, before it got mixed up in the Vietnam War.

A Khmer Communist insurgency, dubbed the “Khmer Rouge” (KR), emerged from the jungles of the remote northeast. Phnom Penh fell to the KR on 7 April 1975, fully two weeks before the North Vietnamese Army rolled into Saigon.

The brutal genocide, in which over 2 million Cambodians died, came to a sudden end in December 1978 when Vietnam sent its forces rolling across the Cambodian frontier, seizing Phnom Penh and forcing the discredited DK leadership to take refuge in camps along the Thai border.

In May 1993, following UN-organised elections, Cambodia officially became a constitutional monarchy with King Sihanouk as head of state. The KR opted out of the elections, however, and this led to five more years of intermittent warfare during which the KR was gradually worn down. The KR leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998, while the last KR diehard, military leader Ta Mok, was captured near Anlong Veng in the north of Cambodia and taken to trial in Phnom Penh in early 1999. As a consequence, the power of the once greatly feared KR was broken for ever.

In 2005, a war-crimes tribunal to try surviving KR leaders finally received UN approval.

The foundation of the great city of Angkor is generally attributed to Jayavarman II, who's influence extended over all of present-day Cambodia as well as to neighbouring territories. He is considered the founder of the first unified Cambodian state. He made his capital at Hariharalaya, an area today marked by the Roluos complex of monuments about 13km southeast of Siem Reap, the oldest temple group in the Angkor region.


In 2011 Cambodia's per capita income in PPP is $2,470 and $1,040 in nominal per capita. Cambodia's per capita income is rapidly increasing but is low compared to other countries in the region. Most rural households depend on agriculture and its related sub-sectors. Rice, fish, timber, garments and rubber are Cambodia's major exports. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) reintroduced more than 750 traditional rice varieties to Cambodia from its rice seed bank in the Philippines.


The Ministry of Education Youth and Sports is responsible for establishing national policies and guidelines for education in Cambodia. The Cambodian education system is heavily decentralised, with three levels of government, central, provincial and district – responsible for its management. The constitution of Cambodia promulgates free compulsory education for nine years, guaranteeing the universal right to basic quality education.

The 2008 Cambodian census estimated that 77.6% of the population was literate (85.1% of men and 70.9% of women). Male youth age (15–24 years) have a literacy rate of 89% compared to 86% for femalr.

The education system in Cambodia continues to face many challenges, but during the past years there have been significant improvements, especially in terms of primary net enrollment gains, the introduction of program based-budgeting, and the development of a policy framework which helps disadvantaged children to gain access to education. Many of Cambodia's most acclaimed universities are based in Phnom Penh.

Traditionally, education in Cambodia was offered by the wats (Buddhist temples), thus providing education exclusively for the male population. During the Khmer Rouge regime, education suffered significant setbacks.

With respects to academic performance among Cambodian primary school children, research showed that parental attitudes and beliefs played a significant role. Specifically, the study found that poorer academic achievement among children were associated with parents holding stronger fatalistic beliefs (e.g human strength cannot change destiny).Overall, the study pointed out to the role of social capital in educational performance and access in the Cambodian society in which family attitudes and beliefs are central to the findings.


The quality of health in Cambodia is rising. As of 2010, the expected life span is 60 years for males and 65 years for females, a major improvement since 1999 when the average life expectancy was 49.8 females and 46.8 males if looked after respectively. Health care is offered by both public and private practitioners and research has found that trust in health providers is a key factor in improving the uptake of health care services in rural Cambodia.The Royal Cambodian Government plans to increase the quality of healthcare in the country by raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. Government spending on health care corresponded to 5.8% of Cambodia's gross domestic product (GDP). For Tourists, it is advised to take preventive measures like taking anti malarial drugs and using mosquito repellent creams. They are available in the local pharmacy stores. In some cases, kits that include ant-malarial drugs and repellent cream are also available. It should not be much of an issue to tourists if these basic measures can be taken.

Living Conditions

Home for many Cambodians is a small hut on stilts made of wood or bamboo, which often houses multi-generational families. The staple diet is rice and fish, which is often the only source of protein. Most people live in villages of 100 to 400 families. The events of the 1970s continue to have a dramatic impact life. More than one-fifth of households are now headed by women. These families are more likely to suffer economic hardship and, as a consequence, malnutrition and premature death.

Whilst progress has been made to address health issues, the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation means Cambodians face the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria HIV and AIDS is also an issue. The government is seeking to improve this situation by establishing a basic healthcare system. Landmines are a problem in Cambodia, with agricultural land made unproductive in some parts of the country because it is mined.

Natural Resources

  • Iron
  • Hydroelectric Power
  • Petroleum
  • Forestry References

Environmental Issues

Deforestation is the most serious threat to Cambodia’s environment. In the 1960s and 1970s Cambodian forests and wetlands were harmed by bombings and defoliants used in the Vietnam War. In the 1970s and 1980s the damage continued with the disastrous agricultural policies of the Khmer Rouge regime and civil war. In the relatively peaceful 1990s, timber became an important export for Cambodia. More than 800,000 hectares (2 million acres) of Cambodian forest were cut down from 1990 to 1995. In 1995 the government responded by banning log exports, but illegal timber exporting has led to continued deforestation. The annual rate of deforestation in 1990-2000 was 0.58 percent.

Many of the mangrove swamps crucial to the country’s fisheries and wildlife have been destroyed. The loss of wildlife habitat and the negative environmental effects of logging and mining industries have caused a decline in biodiversity. In 2001, 55 species were listed as threatened in Cambodia, including 23 species of mammals. In addition, the pollution and contamination of streams and lakes has made much of the country’s fresh water unsafe. Only 30 percent (2000) of all Cambodian people have access to safe, drinkable water, and only 17 percent (2000) have access to sanitation.

In addition to banning the export of lumber, the Cambodian government has declared a large portion of the country’s total land area protected. The government has also ratified international environmental agreements pertaining to climate change, desertification, endangered species, marine life conservation, ship pollution, and tropical timber.

Comparatively speaking...





14.5 million

21 million

Urban population



Population with an improved water source



Adult literacy rate



Population living on less than US$2 a day



Primary school enrolment



Under-5 mortality rate (deaths per 1000 live births)



Children underweight for age (<5 years)



Life expectancy at birth

61 years

82 year