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Member Country: CAMBODIA


The Kingdom of Cambodia (for the various names of the country in Khmer, see naming section below) is a constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia with a population of more than 13 million people. A citizen of Cambodia is usually identified as Cambodian. Most Cambodians are Theravada Buddhists of Khmer extraction, but the country also has a substantial number of Cham and small hill tribes.

Cambodia is the successor state of the mighty Khmer Empire, which ruled most of the Indochinese Peninsula between the 11th and 14th centuries.

The country shares a border with Thailand to its west, with Laos to its north, with Vietnam to its east, and with the Gulf of Thailand to its south. The geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong river (colloquial Khmer: Tonle Thom, i.e. "the great river") and the Tonle Sap (i.e. "the fresh water river"), an important source of fish.

The country has three main political parties: the Cambodian People's Party, FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party. The Cambodian People's Party, which is led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, is the ruling party. In 2004, after a year of negotiations, a coalition between the Cambodian People's Party and the royalists' FUNCINPEC came to power in the National Assembly.

History
From the 9th century to the 15th century, Cambodia was the center of the mighty Khmer Empire, which was during this time based at Angkor. Angkor Wat, the empire's main religious temple, remains a symbol of Cambodia during its time as a world power, and is also the country's top tourist attraction to this day. Cambodia was a protectorate of France from 1863 until the country received independence in 1953. During this period, Cambodia was under Japanese occupation during World War II from 1941 to 1945. During the 1950s and 1960s the country was under the rule of King Norodom Sihanouk, where the country maintained a precarious neutrality in the wake of active aggression against South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese.

In 1969 the USA began B-52 bombing operations in Cambodia to destroy Communist bases in Cambodia. The US administration kept the bombing secret until 1970. In 1970 the Nixon administration briefly invaded Cambodia, and the bombing continued until 1973. About 30,000-500,000 civilians were killed during the bombing raids. During the 1970s and 1980s, the country was plagued with a brutal civil war, a hated military monarchist regime, as well as an even worse genocidal, agro-communist regime led by the Khmer Rouge. During the Khmer Rouge period, autogenocide was committed against millions of people who were perceived intellectuals, detractors of Marxism, and some just innocent civilians. Millions fled across to neighbouring Thailand.

Vietnam invaded in 1978 and the USA instituted an embargo on the new Vietnamese-sponsored government. The Carter administration helped the Khmer Rouge to retain its seat at the UN, giving the impression that Pol Pot's regime was still the legitimate government of Cambodia. After United Nations intervention, however, Cambodia has gained stability and has begun to rebuild the country's infrastructure that was lost during the brutality that reigned in the 1970s and 1980s.

Politics
Cambodia underwent turbulent events from the 1970s until the early 1990s, when elections, administered by the United Nations, were held. Ever since then, Cambodia has enjoyed greater stability and peace. One effect of this was the smooth transition when King Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his son Norodom Sihamoni on October 14, 2004.

Cambodia is now a constitutional monarchy where executive power is held by the prime minister. The head of the state is the king, who reigns but does not govern. Although in the Khmer language there are many words meaning "king", the word officially used in Khmer (as found in the 1993 Cambodian Constitution) is preahmâhaksat, which literally means: preah- ("sacred", cognate of the Indian word Brahmin) -mâha- (from Sanskrit, meaning "great", cognate with "maha-" in maharaja) -ksat ("warrior, ruler", cognate of the Indian word Kshatriya).

On the occasion of HM King Norodom Sihanouk's retirement in October 2004, the Cambodian National Assembly coined a new word for the retired king: preahmâhaviraksat, where vira comes from Sanskrit vi-ra, meaning "brave or eminent man, hero, chief", cognate of Latin vir, viris, English virile. Preahmâhaviraksat is translated into English as "King-Father" (French: Roi-Père), although the word "father" does not appear in the Khmer noun.

As preahmâhaviraksat, Norodom Sihanouk retains many of the prerogatives he formerly held as preahmâhaksat and is a highly respected and listened-to figure. Thus, in effect, Cambodia can be described as a country with two heads of state: an official one, the preahmâhaksat Norodom Sihamoni, and an unofficial one, the preahmâhaviraksat Norodom Sihanouk.

The legislature comprises a 61-member appointed Senate and a 123-member lower house, the National Assembly, elected under proportional representation by popular vote for 5 year terms. The judiciary is very weak, since only a handful of lawyers and judges were left alive, the rest being killed during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Hun Sen of the Cambodian People's Party, or CPP, ousted his former co-prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, son of Prince Sihanouk and brother of current King Sihamoni, in a short but bloody civil war between the two coalition partners in 1997. The CPP won the elections in 1998, and formed a coalition with FUNCINPEC, Ranariddh's royalist party, but with Hun Sen as sole prime minister. In the 2003 National Assembly elections, the CPP won 73 seats with 47% of the vote, the opposition-liberal Sam Rainsy Party won 24 seats (22%), and FUNCINPEC won 26 seats (21%). Eleven women were among those elected. Following a year long deadlock during which FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party united to oppose the CPP, and thus prevented it from forming a government, FUNCINPEC switched sides and joined with the CPP, allowing it to control the two thirds of the seats in the National Assembly needed to form a government.

Provinces
Cambodia is divided into 20 provinces (khett, singular and plural) and 4 municipalities * (krong, singular and plural). It is also divided by District (srok), Communion (khum), Great districts (khett), and also Islands (koh).

  1. Municipalities (Krong):
    • Phnom Penh
    • Sihanoukville (Kampong Som)
    • Pailin
    • Kep
  2. Province (Khett):
    • Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Kampot, Kandal, Koh Kong, Kratié, Mondulkiri, Oddar Meancheay, Pursat, Preah Vihear, Prey Veng, Ratanakiri, Siem Reap, Stung Treng, Svay Rieng and Takéo
  3. Islands (Koh):
    • Koh Sess
    • Koh Polaway
    • Koh Rong
    • Koh Thass
    • Koh Treas
    • Koh Traolach
    • Koh Tral
    • Koh Tan

Geography
Cambodia has an area of about 181,040 square kilometers, sharing an 800-kilometer border with Thailand on the north and west, a 541-kilometer border with Laos on the northeast, and a 1,228-kilometer border with Vietnam on the east and southeast. It has 443 kilometers of coastline along the Gulf of Thailand.

The most distinctive geographical feature is the lacustrine plain formed by the inundations of the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), measuring about 2,590 square kilometers during the dry season and expanding to about 24,605 square kilometers during the rainy season. This densely populated plain, which is devoted to wet rice cultivation, is the heartland of Cambodia. Most (about 75 percent) of the country lies at elevations of less than 100 meters above sea level, the exceptions being the Cardamom Mountains (highest elevation 1,813 meters) and their southeast extension the Dâmrei Mountains ("Elephant Mountains") (elevation range 500-1,000 meters), as well the steep escarpment of the Dângrêk Mountains (average elevation 500 meters) along the border with Thailand's Isan region. The highest elevation of Cambodia is Phnom Aoral, near Pursat in the center of the country, at 1,813 meters (5,948 feet) above sea-level.

Temperatures range from 10°C to 38°C and Cambodia experiences tropical monsoons. Southwest monsoons blowing inland bring moisture-laden winds from the Gulf of Thailand and Indian Ocean from May to October, and the country experiences the heaviest precipitation from September to October. The northeast monsoon ushers in the dry season, which lasts from November to March, with the driest period from January to February.

Economy
Despite the recent progress, the Cambodian economy continues to suffer from the effects of decades of civil war and internal strife. The per capita income, is rapidly increasing, but is low compared with 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, and the United States, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia are its major export partners.

The recovery of Cambodia's economy slowed dramatically in 1997-1998 due to the regional economic crisis, civil violence, and political infighting. Foreign investment and tourism also fell off drastically. Since then however, growth has been steady. In 1999, the first full year of peace in 30 years, progress was made on economic reforms and growth resumed at 5.0%. Despite severe flooding, GDP grew at 5.0% in 2000, 6.3% in 2001, and 5.2% in 2002. Tourism was Cambodia's fastest growing industry, with arrivals increasing from 219,000 in 1997 to 1,055,000 in 2004. During 2003 and 2004 the growth rate remained steady at 5.0%, while in 2004 inflation was at 1.7% and exports at $1.6 billion US dollars. As of 2004 GDP per Capita was $1900 USD, which ranked it 175th (out of 232) countries.

The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure. Fear of renewed political instability and corruption within the government discourage foreign investment and delay foreign aid. The government is addressing these issues with assistance from bilateral and multilateral donors.

Demographics
Cambodia is ethnically homogeneous, as more than 90% of its population is of Khmer origin and speaks the Khmer language, the country's official language. The remainder include Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham and Khmer Loeu.

The Khmer language is a member of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austroasiatic language group. French is spoken by many Cambodians as a second-language and is often the language of instruction in various schools and universities. Cambodian French is a dialect found in Cambodia. It is also frequently used in government. However, in recent decades, many younger Cambodians, as well as members of the business-classes, have favored learning English and it is gradually becoming the more widely-known.

Theravada Buddhism, suppressed by Khmer Rouge but now revived, is the main religion, but Christianity is spreading in the country.

Culture
Khmer culture, as developed and spread by the Khmer empire, has distinctive styles of dance, architecture and sculpture which have strongly influenced neighbouring Laos and Thailand. Notable recent artistic figures include the singers Sinn Sisamouth, who introduced new musical styles to the country, and later Meng Keo Pichenda.

Bonn Om Teuk (Water Festival), the annual boat rowing contest, is the biggest Cambodian holiday. The festival is held at the end of the rainy season when the Mekong river begins to sink back to its normal levels. Approximately 10% of Cambodia's population attends this event each year. Popular games include kicking a sey, which is similar to a hacky sack, cockfighting and soccer.

Rice, as in other South East Asian countries, is the staple grain, while fish from the Mekong and Tonle Sap also form an important part of the diet. The Cambodian per capita supply of fish and fish products for food and trade in 2000 was 20 kg of fish per year or 2 oz. per day per person.. Some of the fish can be made into prahok (a Khmer delicacy) for longer storage. Overall, the cuisine of Cambodia is similar to that of its Southeast Asian neighbours. The cuisine is relatively unknown to the world compared to that of its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, but has been described not as spicy as Thai cuisine and similar to other Southeast Asia cuisines.

Customary Cambodian teachings include: that if a person does not wake up before sunrise he is lazy; you have to tell your parents or elders where you are going and what time you are coming back home; close doors gently, otherwise you have a bad temper; sit with your legs straight down and not crossed (crossing your legs shows that you are an impolite person); and always let other people talk more than you. Khmer culture is very hierarchical, in that the greater a person's age, the greater the level of respect that must be granted to them.


 
Image:Cambodia5.png
(Preah-reach-anachk Kampuchea)
Flag of Cambodia Coat of Arms of Cambodia
Flag Coat of Arms
Motto:
(Khmer: Nation, Religion, King)
Anthem: Nokoreach
Location of Cambodia
Capital Phnom Penh
11°31' N 104°49' E
Largest city Phnom Penh
Official language(s) Khmer; French and English often understood by educated classes
Government
King
Prime Minister
Democratic const. monarchy
Norodom Sihamoni
Hun Sen
Independence
- Declared
- Recognized
From France
1949
1953
Area
- Total
- Water (%)
 
181,040 km (87th)
2.5%
Population
- July 2004 est.
- 1998 census
- Density

13,363,421 (65th)
11,437,656
74/km (121st)
GDP (PPP)
- Total
- Per capita
2003 estimate
$29,344 million (86th)
$2,189 (122nd)
HDI (2003) 0.571 (130th) medium
Currency Riel 1 (KHR)
Time zone
- Summer (DST)
(UTC+7)
(UTC+7)
Internet TLD .kh
Calling code +855
1 Local currency, although US Dollars are widely used.
 
 

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