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Cambodia history

Cambodia history, government, economy, essential infor for travellers: Little is1 known of the early history of Cambodia, although there is evidence of habitation in parts of the country as far back as 4000BC. It is also known that Chinese and Indian traders exchanged goods with people living on the coasts of present-day Cambodia and Vietnam in the early AD centuries. According to Chinese chroniclers, a kingdom known as ‘Funan’ flourished between AD300–600. A dynasty founded by the prince Jayavarman – possibly descended from the rulers of Funan – ruled from settlements in the eastern part of the country between around AD790 and the 11th century. Cambodian power spread westwards during this period into parts of Thailand.

The succeeding dynasty, which ruled throughout the 12th and early-13th centuries, was based at the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat. Under King Suryavarman, the Cambodians extended their influence still further into southern Vietnam and northern Thailand. However, from 1220 onwards, Angkor came under concerted military pressure from the Chinese to the north and the newly emergent kingdoms of northern Thailand. By the end of the 15th century, Angkor had been abandoned and fell into ruin. It has remained unoccupied ever since, with the exception of a brief period during the early-16th century. From then until the establishment of the French protectorate, Cambodia was in thrall to its more powerful Thai and Vietnamese neighbors.

French involvement in Cambodia came about through its colonial engagement in Vietnam, and was largely intended to forestall possible British or Thai incursions along the Mekong river. The unstable ruling family in Cambodia at the time, headed by King Norodom, needed little persuasion to accept French protection and control over its foreign and security policies. A brief attempt to reassert Cambodia’s independence in the 1880s was put down by the French, who then absorbed Cambodia into what became French Indochina. It became an Associated State of the French Union in 1949, achieving full independence in 1953.

In 1955, King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his father, Norodom Suramarit, to allow himself to enter politics. Using the title Prince Sihanouk, he founded a mass movement, the Popular Socialist Community, which held power between 1955–1966. Prince Sihanouk became Head of State in 1960, following the death of his father. The overspill of the Vietnam war, in particular the massive secret bombing campaign conducted by the Americans against Vietnamese guerrilla bases inside Cambodia, served to destabilize the Sihanouk government. In March 1970, two years after the bombing began, Prince Sihanouk was overthrown by a right-wing coup, which proclaimed a Khmer Republic under the rule of General Lon Nol. Khmer Rouge Communist guerrillas, allied with their Vietnamese counterparts, stepped up their military campaign against the government. In 1975, they took control.

The real power behind the Khmer Rouge was the new Prime Minister Pol Pot, who had manufactured a unique ideology based on elements of Maoist thought and Medieval quasi-mysticism, rooted in the history of the Angkor state. The practical effect was the establishment of ‘Year Zero’ (in 1975), under which Cambodia was to be converted into a pure Communist state centered on basic agricultural production. Currency was abolished, intellectuals purged, churches and temples destroyed and thousands of urban dwellers driven into the countryside for ‘re-education’ and primitive agricultural labor. The outcome was a regime of horrific brutality, which was responsi


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