Cambodian Nation

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Introduction to Cambodia April 20, 2009

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. Most Cambodians are Therevada Buddhists of Khmer extraction. A citizen of Cambodia is usually identified as Cambodian. Most Cambodians are ethnically Khmer, but the country also has a substantial number of Cham and small hill tribes.

History

Main article: History of Cambodia

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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.

Related Topics:
9th century15th centuryKhmer EmpireAngkorAngkor WatProtectorateFrance18631953JapaneseWorld War II194119451950s1960sKing Norodom SihanoukSouth VietnamNorth Vietnamese

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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.

Related Topics:
1970s1980sCivil warMonarchistKhmer RougeAutogenocideThailand

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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.

Related Topics:
United NationsInfrastructure

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Ancient states: Funan and Chenla

The first advanced civilizations in present day Cambodia appeared in the 1st millennium AD. During the 300s, 400s, and 500s AD, the Indianized states of Funan and Chenla took hold in what is now present-day Cambodia and southwestern Vietnam. These states had close relations with China and India. After these states collapsed, the Khmer civilization began to flourish in this area from the 9th century to the 13th century.

Related Topics:
1st millenniumFunanChenlaChinaIndiaKhmer9th century13th century

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Angkor and the Khmer Empire

Main article: Early history of Cambodia

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The Angkorian period was in terms of cultural accomplishments and political power, the golden age of Cambodia. The kingdom was founded by Jayavarman II with its capital at Angkor, and the Khmer Empire lasted from the early 9th century to the 15th century. The Khmers had adopted religious and political ideas and institutions from India and began to establish a centralized kingdom which dominated Southeast Asia for much of this period.

Related Topics:
Jayavarman IIAngkor15th century

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The rule of Jayavarman VII (r. 1181-ca. 1218) saw the rapid expansion of the Khmer Empire. Unlike his ancestors, who had concentrated upon the cult of the Hindu god-king, Jayavarman VII was a patron of Mahayana Buddhism.

Related Topics:
Jayavarman VIIHinduGod-kingMahayana Buddhism

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Jayavarman VII began building activity that included the popular Angkor Thom complex and also the Bayon, a temple whose stone towers bear faces which have been identified as Avalokitesvara, which are either the king himself or the guardians of the cardinal points (Kerlogue, p. 109). He also built over 200 rest houses and hospitals throughout the empire and maintained a system of roads between his capital and provincial towns throughout the empire which would make it simpler for magistrates to collect taxes or for building projects. According to historian George Coedes, “No other Cambodian king can claim to have moved so much stone.” Often, quality suffered for the sake of size and rapid construction. An example of this was the beautiful but poorly constructed Bayon.

Related Topics:
Angkor ThomBayonAvalokitesvaraCardinal pointGeorge Coedes

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Foreign occupation

Main article: Colonial Cambodia

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After the Siamese seized Angkor in 1431, Cambodia began to endure years of foreign domination by neighboring Siam to the west and by Vietnam to the east. This period is known as the “dark ages of Cambodia“. This period ended when Cambodia was made a French protectorate in 1863 and became part of French Indochina. Cambodia’s chief colonial official was the Resident Superieur (Resident General) while lesser residents, or regional governors were posted in all of the provincial centers. In 1897, the incumbent Resident General complained to his superiors in Paris that the current king of Cambodia, King Norodom, was no longer capable of ruling, and thus received permission to assume the king’s roles of issuing decrees, collecting taxes, and appointing royal officials, including the next king. Norodom and his successors thus assumed the role of figureheads and heads of the Buddhist religion. Even in the colonial bureaucracy, French nationals held the highest positions, while even in the lowest rungs of the bureaucracy the colonial government preferred to hire Vietnamese.

Related Topics:
SiameseVietnamDark ages of CambodiaFrenchProtectorate1863French Indochina1897ParisKing Norodom

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During World War II Cambodia was occupied by the Japanese. After it ended in 1945, King Norodom Sihanouk demanded independence from France. With the military situation getting worse throughout Indochina, the French agreed to grant independence to the three states of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in 1953. King Sihanouk, a revered hero in the eyes of his people, returned to Phnom Penh in triumph, and independence was celebrated on November 9, 1953. The last French officials left Cambodia in 1954 after control of residual matters affecting sovereignty, such as financial and budgetary affairs, passed to the new Cambodian state.

Related Topics:
World War IIJapanese1945Norodom SihanoukVietnamLaos1953November 91954

 

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