Cambodia is a nation situated in South East Asia between India, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It is, today, one of the world's leading superpowers.
|ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជាធិបតី សិរីធរ បវរឥន្ទបត្តបុរី រដ្ឋរាជសីមា មហានគរ
|Motto: Nation Religion Imperium|
|Anthem: Nokor Reach
|Largest City by Population||Prey Nokor|
|Recognised regional languages||Khmer, English|
|United Nations||UN Security Council|
|Government||Heredity Absolute Monarchy|
|-||Foundation of the Somavung Dynasty||Early 1st Century AD|
|-||Foundation of the Sorvung Dynasty||Late 5th Century AD|
|-||Unification by King Ishanavarman I||628 AD|
|-||Independent from the Srivijaya Empire||802 AD|
|-||Total|| 2,714,270 km2 (9st)
1,047,985.51 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2015 estimate|
|-||Per capita||50,905 USD|
|Water area is not included.|
ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជាធិបតី សិរីធរ បវរឥន្ទបត្តបុរីរដ្ឋរាជសីមា មហានគរ or in English, “Kingdom of Cambodia with peace, glory and prosperity as the land of heaven.” While this name is rarely used beside in official documents, most people around the prefer to call this land Cambodia. The word Cambodia is thought to derive from the ancient name of the nation, Kambujadese (the land of Kampuja). The name Khmer Empire had been widely used in the past until around the 20th century, but it has since been scarcely referred to in modern society. Citizens of the country are Cambodian or Khmer.
The name of the capital city is Yasodharapura (យសោធរបុរៈ) or Glory-bearing City. Due to the difficulty in pronouncing the name, English speakers generally call it the City of Angkor.
According to archaeologists, Khmer people settled on the land since around 3500 BC. Although little evidence remains, experts believe that pre-historic Khmers were living in small tribes consisted of around 50 to 100 families surrounding by a wooden fend and a ditch. They were keen to cluster along rivers' banks and lakes. There are a few remains of decorated musical instruments which are now believed to be remnants of Cambodia's pre-Buddhist faith. Experts still have little or no idea what these people worshiped.
The primeval history of the nation itself is passed down in tales. Like most bygone tales at the time, it is hard to separate truth from myth. There is no record as to how or by whom did Khmer tribes were united. Earliest records on stones dates back to 207 AD telling a story of an Indian prince who was exiled by his father. The prince set sail to the west hoping to arrive in the Roman Empire. For some unknown reason, his ship instead, sailed eastward just to find a civilization mysterious to the world. The ruling queen, Soma, ordered her navy to seize the prince's ship. Unbeknownst to the queen, the exiled prince was gifted with a magic bow from heaven before he left his kingdom which he used to sink all but the main ship of the queen's fleets. Faced with a weapon she couldn't defeat, Queen Soma surrendered. The prince was crowned as a new king. He married Queen Soma and took the name Kaundinya I. Together, they established the Somavung Dynasty and began the history of Cambodia.
The Unification of the Sun and the Moon
The name Somavung meaning the Dynasty of the Moon in old script. Somavung Dynasty controlled a portion of the southern part of the modern-day Cambodia. Kings and Queens of this House had very close relationship with India. The Somavung Dynasty, the Kingdom of Champa and the Kingdom of Pagan were, at the time, the dominant forces in South East Asia.
To the north of the border lies another kingdom ruled by a little-known Sorvung Dynasty (meaning the Dynasty of the Sun). The origin of this dynasty is unknown nor is its early history, but what is clear is that the Sorvung Dynasty was pretty much considered as one of many vassal states of the Somavung Dynasty. Historians estimate that the Sorvung Dynasty was probably founded in the late 5th century AD.
In 514 AD, Prince Rudravarman murdered his brother, the legitimate heir to the throne, and crowned himself king. His action caused uprisings in the Capital. Many viewed the new king as a hungry-for-power coward, and the entire kingdom would be punished by the Gods if he sat on the throne. This resulted in weakening of the King's grip on power. Unfortunately, around the same time severe floods hit the kingdom continuously for years. Archaeologists have found a stone tablet probably written by Hindi monks states that, "[...]The gods of Heaven, who angry toward the act committed by the king, cry. Their tears flooded the land, and people were forced to move to high grounds leaving their houses and animals drowned. Food was scared. They couldn't plant rice on mountain peaks. People ate leaves and roots off trees just to survive.[...]". The kingdom was seriously weakened. Many vassal states broke away and declared independence. King Rudravarman remained in power until his death in 550 AD leaving behind a weak and seriously problematic kingdom.
King Sarvabhauma came to power after the death of his successor in 550 AD. Not much is known about him or his reign. Only one stone tablet dating back to 555 AD has been found which indicated the troubled king trying to protect the badly exhausted kingdom, "[...] Farmers came to the city to beg for food. If his farm is not destroyed by flood, it is burned and plundered by bandits. The army's food reserves are dwindling. They are barely able to stand - let alone fight off intruders. People trade gold and diamonds for rice.[...] To what extent should these poor souls endure? I am their father but powerless to relieve children of hunger.[...]"
Historians think that the floods ended sometime between 518 and 523 AD. King Sarvabhauma clearly described a kingdom in deep issues, but historians found no account to what exactly drowned the country. Theories emerge that civil wars and foreign invasions were to blame for the decline of Somavung Dynasty.
Taken advantage of the crisis, King Bhavavarman I of Sorvung Dynasty announced his kingdom free of the Somavung’s control and declared war with the old dynasty in 551 AD. This war lasted until 628 AD when King Ishanavarman I completely destroyed the army of the Somavung Dynasty. After the war, he declared the official unification of the land which was renamed the Kingdom of Kambujadese (later known as Cambodia). He moved the capital to the new place which he named after himself, Ishanapura (about 156 miles (250 km) east of the modern day capital of Angkor).
The Turmoil of the 8th Century
In 681 AD after king Jayavarman I died without an heir, a new queen was crowned. Named Jayavedi, she was either the wife or daughter of Jayavarman I. Historians believe by the time she came to the throne, the central administration was fragile which in turn encouraged many lords to break away. The kingdom was then engaged in civil war as the Queen's forces fought to maintain unification of the kingdom. For nearly a century, Cambodia was fractured and consumed by wars sapping the kingdom of its strength.
In 774 AD, the Srivijaya Empire from the south invaded the already fragmented nation. They burned and plundered the capital Isanpura. The royal family along with nearly 100,000 Khmer citizens were forced to live in captivity on the island of Java. This was described as the darkest moment in the History of Cambodia.
The Birth of the Empire
Among those begin forced to abandon the country was a young prince whom name has been lost to history. While living in Srivijava Empire, he had spent childhood studying about politics, military, and what made the Srivijava Empire became so powerful. In 800 AD, with a couple of his closest advisers, he secretly left the island of Java with the goal to reunite the kingdom. He moved from place to place, united lords and people of different provinces. One historian described him, "[...] As though has been blessed by the God Vishnu, the light reflected from the prince's eyes showered upon those as golden rays of the sun. They who look upon him put down their swords and kneel before the God king. The prince's voice rains down as though it rains sacred water from heave. They whisper, that is our king [...]". After two years of traveling to every part of the kingdom, in 802 AD on the top of Kulan Mountain just north of the modern-day capital, the prince was crowned the first reign monarch of a reunited kingdom. He took the name Jayavarman II (Protector of Victory). He chose the city of Yasodharapura to be the capital city of the kingdom.
Khmer people always refer to this moment as the morning has begun. The new sun has risen on the ancient land, and once again, the Naga has returned.
Indravarman I (877-889)
Jayavarman II had united many parts of the nation back under one king, except one particular territory, which called themselves the Kingdom of Ou Dora Kam Puchak Roth (Kingdom of Northern Cambodia). Jayavarman II and his successor Jayavarman III had tried to incorporate the territory back into the nation with little success.
In 840 Prince Jaya Thorani Reach was born to the princess Kesorak Bopha Tevi, the daughter of Jayavarman II, and crowned prince Sattaya Vicheara of the Kingdom of Northern Cambodia. With her brother, Jayavarman III leaving no heir, her son became the next successor to the throne.
Diplomatic missions between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Northern Cambodia occurs between 869-874 to negotiate the merging of the two kingdoms under one ruler, which fortunately were now possible. Therefore, when prince Jaya Thorani was crowned in 877, official ceremony was conducted where he was gifted two kingdoms from both of his parents. Western historians named the now Indravarman I as the first Emperor of the now Khmer Empire.
Emperor Indravarman I rename the country to "the Kingdom of Cambodia with peace, glory and prosperity as the land of heaven.” This name has always remained as the nation’s official title until today.
Suryavarman II (1113-1150)
Emperor Suryavarman II was crowned emperor at the age of just 23 in 1113 AD. He reigned along side Queen Suryavana. Ambitious and with a dream to rule over all of South East Asia, the Emperor immediately started campaigns against the neighbouring kingdom of Champa to the east, and Mon to the west. He was described as a great strategist and successfully conquered and subjugated nations after nations. Back home, the Emperor set out to construct the great temple on Earth dedicated to the God Vishnu, the Great Temple of Angkor Wat, the largest sacred temple known to man.
In 1130 AD, the Emperor Suryavarman II began a military campaign in the kingdom of Pagan, another main player in mainland South East Asia. After three years of fighting, the Emperor took the Capital city Bagan and extended the nation's border all the way to the Irrawaddy River. The Emperor renamed the newly conquered region, Pachempura (land of the west). At around the same time, an area west of Irrawaddy River was under Indian control. This spelled the end of the Kingdom of Pagan. Cambodia had now control over most mainland South East Asia.
The emperor planned to invade Dai Viet in 1150 AD. While he was marching toward the eastern border, he fell ill with malaria and passed on, leaving behind a young heir, Prince Viraka Neakea, to reign the Empire. He was buried inside his temple, Angkor Wat.
Suryavana the Queen (1150-1174)
Suryavarman III was only ten years old when he inherited the throne. However, his mother, Queen Suryavana, acting as the emperor's right hand man took control of the country from her son. She reigned for 24 years until her death in 1174 AD.
Unlike her husband, she went down in history as a figure of a caring mother. She repaired the damages on the nation and her people from years of conquests. She commanded construction of many Barry (Cambodian super aqueducts) and expanded the country's agricultural outputs. Food production surged to a level unseen before. Queen Suryavana also overlooked many highway construction that connected every provinces in the country allowing the military to react fast to trouble. In 1153 AD, she established diplomatic relations with the Byzantine Empire while strengthening those with India, and China. By learning the best parts of other nations, she was the first to introduce the successful combat strategy of the Roman and gunpowder from China to the Khmer army, which she gave an official name, the Imperial Armed Forces.
In the field of education, the Queen opened schools in almost every provinces of the nation and devoted considerable resources to fund five years free education for all children. She also founded the Imperial University of Cambodia for talented people from all across the nation. IUC was Khmer's first innovation center and quickly became the center of education across the world. In 1162 AD, Queen Suryavana introduced a new policy which allowed free medical access to all of those who had less than 5000 Riel per year.
Because of her caring policies, Queen Suryavana was beloved by most of her subjects. One historian at the time put it, "[... ] Like children touch by his mother's solicitude, our people joy and cheerful as she walks near. We think of the Queen not so much as a ruler but a guardian of light and hope. I feel closer to her than I did for antecedent Emperors [...]". When she passed away in 1174 AD, she was laid to rest beside her husband inside the Great Temple of Angkor Wat.
The Emperor Suryavarman III came to power in 1174 AD after the death of his mother. He was very unpopular, undoing many achievements that his parents did before him. The Emperor was characterized as cruel and egocentric. He enjoyed publicly executed prisoners in the most horrendous ways imaginable. He also cut public expenditure and raised taxes to expand the Royal Palace as well as build exotic palaces all over the nation. For those who refused or couldn't pay, the penalty was death. In 1176 AD, the Emperor secretly ordered the Palace's guards to break in to rich families' houses and rob them. One account tells a story of the Emperor killed a subject for refused to kneel. Within the same day, the Emperor suddenly infected with a skin condition, which was interpreted at the time as punishment from Heaven. He earned a nickname of Sdech Kumlung or Leprosy King.
Taking advantage of an unpopular ruler, king Jaya Indravarman IV of the kingdom of Champa declared was on Cambodia. In 1177 AD, using the element of surprise, massive Champa forces of 250,000 traveled up the Mekong River and captured the city of Yasodharapura. The Emperor was killed and the city itself was plundered and burned. The Imperial Armed Forces stunned and scattered. For the first and only time in its history, Yasodharapura was stricken with the blood and dead bodies of its own people. King Jaya Indravarman IV installed his son, named Vichear Tey, on the throne.
Jayavarman VII (1181-1227) and the Beginning of the Golden Age
News of the invasion made its way to the western part of the nation. Surviving soldiers, officers and members of the Royal Council fled to the city of Pachempura. There, the only surviving son of the Emperor, Prince Jayavathon, was commanding the Imperial Army protecting the western border of the country.
The 33-year old prince marched his troops toward the capital. The news of resistance forces stomped King Jaya Indravarman IV to send in hundreds of thousands more troops from Champa. Prince Jayavathon and his army spent four years before he could retake the capital. Pince Vichear Tey fled back to Champa.
In 1181, Prince Jayavathon was enthroned. He took the name Jayavarman VII. While victory over foreign invader was sweet, the most of the central and eastern regions were destroyed in the war of liberation. The new Emperor immediately took on many projects to repair his nation.
First, the Emperor commanded the rebuilding and augmentation of roads. For every one Yoch (ten miles), there was a public shelter. Soon towns rose up around them, and many still survive to this day. Jayavarman VII funded the construction of many hospitals through out the county which allowed people from all classes to receive medical care. The Emperor famously said, "my subjects’ illnesses are mine also". During his reign, the city of Yasodharapura became the largest and most populated city on earth with nearly two million residents living in a 2200 sq km of land.
Another of his legacy was the reformation of the Imperial Armed Forces. Officers and commanders would no longer be appointed by wealth and power but merit. He introduced for the first time the policy in which family of dead or disabled soldiers would be received special care from the government. He also encouraged the innovation and expansion of a military industrial complex. Companies such as the Golden Spear and the Black Tiger, can trace their roots back to this time period.
The most important legacy of Jayavarman VII was the improvement of the rules of succession to insure peaceful transfer of the crown. This rule was so effective that it is still in use today.
In 1190, after nine years of plotting and waiting, King Jaya Indravarman IV once again matched his army into Cambodia to revenge his pride and honor. Better prepared this time, the Imperial Armed Forces not just only repelled the attack, but they inflicted devastating damage on Champa's forces. So much so that Champa would never recovered. Two years later during the first oversea campaign of the new Emperor, the Imperial Armed Forces capturing the Champa’s capital of Vijaya just after three days of siege. The kingdom of Champa was destroyed for good and consolidated into the Empire as one of her provinces. According to Jayavarman VII's personal diary, only a little more than 70,000 Champa's troops stood oppose the Imperial Army compare to a quarter of a million men during the second invasion of Cambodia. His diary also points out that thousands of civilians were killed during this campaign, although the Emperor stated that this was done in self-defend. Archaeologists have found no Champa's towns anywhere dating after 12th century. They have also counted more than half of those towns were completely burned down to the ground. They concluded that as much as 200,000 civilians were killed. Those who survived either fled to Java, compelled into slavery, or forced to relocate to the western part of the country.
Jayavarman VII mounted many military expeditions during his time in power. Dai Viet fell in 1198, and two year later in 1210, he began a campaign in the south against the Srivijava Empire and annexed Makala. The planned-invasion of Sumatra and Java Islands only canceled after the Emperor fell seriously ill and forced to return to Yasodharapura. By the end of his rule, Cambodia spread out over four region, Presh Nokor (the central main land), Oudorpura (land of the North), Pachempura (land of the West), and Malaka.
Another side of his legacy was the unimaginable scale of bloodshed. From the war of liberation to the annexation of Malaka, an estimated 190,000 Cambodian perished while between 900,000 and one million civilian and military men on the other side were killed. Another estimate of 600,000 conquered men, women and children were obliged to relocate. This still remains to be the worst human rights violation in the history of Cambodia.
Jayavarman VII passed away in 1227 after 46 years in power. He had spent his life rebuilding the country and paving the road for Cambodia to become the world superpower. Despite the horror committed by his army, Jayavarman VII is viewed as one of the most respected Emperor, and the one that gave birth to the Empire of Khmer.
Jayavarman VIII (1228-1276)
Jayavarman VIII is considered by many to be the most logical leaders of the age. He was a grandson of Jayavarman VII, and became an official heir when his father unexpectedly died before succeeded to the throne. Since he was 16 years old, the prince keened on traveling to learn about new cultures outside of the nation's border. He had been to India, Sri Langka, Srivijava, and China before he was called back in 1227 when the Emperor passed away and was crowned emperor a year later.
During his trip to Srivijava, the young prince noticed that the strategic location of an island of Pumini could help insure the safe trade route between China and India. If Cambodia could control this route, they would be in control the most important route of the Indian Ocean trades (the Monsoon trades) between Africa, Arab, India, and China which in turn would make the nation rich. To achieve this goal, in 1231, the Emperor commanded the building of city port Singhapura (city of lion) as the base of the Imperial Navy to patrol the pass of Malaka. Three years later, Cambodia landed a quarter of a million troops on the Island of Pumini. The war was ended in 1237 when the Srivijava Empire's army on the island surrendered. In 1255, Khmer also took control of Luzon Island, renaming it the Island of Buor (Island of the East). Native people the newly conquered lands were subjected to harsh treatment by their new master. By the end of the conquest, trade route between the Indian and Pacific Ocean was under Cambodian control. The sea between the islands and main land was then renamed the Sea of Suvannapumi (the Sea of the Golden Land).
In the north, Mongolian Army, in the command of Genghis Khan, planned to invade Cambodia after they have just took control of China. To their surprise, the Imperial Armed Forces hold them off twice at the siege of Sokour Tey in 1245 and again at Nokorreach Neyok in 1246. The third invasion was planned in 1247 to take to city of Oudorpura with two prongs assaults. A diversion force of 20,000 men was to attack Sokour Tey while the main force comprised of 300,000 troops would drive directly to Oudorpura. This plan was later abandoned. Genghis Khan himself realized that, no matter how fast they would moved, his army would not have reached the capital city of Yasodharapura before the main elements of the Imperial Army nearly 300,000 men that were still tied down in Pumini and Luzon sailed back and regrouped in the capital. After the war with Champa, Jayavarman VII refortified the city's defenses, which in turn made it impossible for Mongolian army to capture it within days assuming they could have managed to go this far. Genghis Khan could not risked being this deep in the enemy's territory.
With the threat from the north eliminated and the south yielded large amount of taxes, Cambodia became very rich and powerful. Its GDP in 1260 would be around 90 billion USD in today money, based on the study conducted by the Imperial University of Cambodia.
The Empire of the Sea
After the death of the Emperor Jayavarman VIII, Cambodia still enjoyed peace and prosperity unlike elsewhere. While most of Europe still struggled in the medieval ages, Khmer citizens, in contrast, were endowed with the highest standard of living of the planet. Cambodia had become the center for education, innovation, research, and finance. It competed with Arab peninsula in every field from military to world influence to trade. In 1398, with the invention of the printing press, Khmer books could even be found in procession of Middle East’s House of Scholars. By participating in the Indian Ocean Trades, the country ripped many benefits from an exchanging of ideas, technologies, medicines, and cultures.
Indravarman IV (1451-1482) - The Good Father
Indravarman IV succeeded to the throne in 1451 after his father's brief rule as Emperor. Nick name the "Good Father", this new Emperor had a reputation of having such a great caring altitude toward his subjects. Among many of his achievements were the abolishing of classes in Khmer society, overhauling the tax system, reforming the law code of the country, eliminating corruptions in high ranking officials, and introducing new public welfare benefits. But perhaps his most famous accomplishment was the citizenship right of consolidated people act which was passed in 1456. This act granted the same citizenship status to those who had been integrated into the country with mutual benefits from public welfare and military protection as any Khmer citizen. However, one bill passed three years later casts a black shadow on an otherwise-perfect-caring Emperor. The oversea protection act of 1459 proclaims that Khmer citizen is always of advantage to the same benefits from the government regardless of where he is. While this sounds reasonable today, many historians believe that real motive behind this bill was an excuse to declare war as in the case of the Emperor Jayavarman XIV in 1794.
The Emperor Indravarman IV also altered the role of the Imperial Navy. Since its creation in 1155, the Imperial Navy's responsibility was a little more than support units during the Imperial Army oversea campaigns. In 1471, they had only 49 ships, and a third of those were transport vessels. With Cambodia being the center of trades in south Asia and all, merchant ships often be targets for pirates. One in twenty ships were attacked, and sometime entire crews were killed. Facing the issue, the Emperor Indravarman IV ordered an expansion of the Imperial Navy. The annual budget for the Navy rose from 9% before 1471 to 43% by the time the Emperor passed away in 1482. 200 more vessels joint the Imperial Navy, most were battleships. Outposts were established in strings of islands far out in the Indian Ocean to both protect the Monsoon trade route and intimidated other nations, an action of which causes diplomatic issues until today. At the end of the 15th century, the Imperial Navy's battleships could be seen as far as Japan and Northern Europe. The might of the Imperial Navy had spread Cambodian influence and culture far and wise. For a time, this nation had been seen as a golden land. Countless immigrants sneaked through the border to find new futures inside Cambodia. By 1500, more than 70 million people, one fifth of the world's population, were living under the country's influences.
The Emperor Indravarman IV passed away in 1482 at 66 years old after months of fighting what seemed like cancer. History recorded that in the days leading to his death, thousands of people were praying day and night in front of the Royal Palace. When flags in the Palace were brought down half-mass, as one historian put it, the cry were so deafening that no one in the Palace could hear nothing but the weep. The Emperor Indravarman IV were laid to rest in a stupa inside the Royal Palace.
Harshavarman IV (1525-1531)
The Emperor Harshavarman IV was one of a handful monarchs who was not loved by the people. He wasn't a bad ruler because he was ruthless or making bad decisions. He was hated because he made no decision. Seen as incompetent emperor, Harshavarman IV spent most of his time hunting, partying, and going on vacations for months at the time. He prided himself as an artist, often painted of his experiences away from the city. In the six years of his reign, the Emperor often would not attended the daily meeting when monarch and officials gathered and discussed the nation's affairs. He trusted to the Royal's Right Hand man to fill in on his duties. Taking advantage of the situation, the Emperor's right hand man, Sok, and the master of treasury, Sao, had been using the Emperor's name to take control of the court and enriched themselves. They diverted huge amount of cash meant for the nation's public welfare programs to their own pockets while denied any additional funding in the annual budget. These two also intervened when members of the Royal Council voted to dethrone the Emperor, and at the same time persuaded Harshavarman IV not to voluntarily step down. Many in the Imperial Court were furious and often disapproved of the Right Hand Man's proposals calling it against the nation's interests.
Hoping to restore order in the Imperial Court, the Supreme General of the Imperial Armed Forces, Muuk, advocated a plan to arrest Sok and those involved through military coup. The plan was discovered, and Sok spent 84 Neal of gold (111 pound) from the Imperial treasury to bride those close to General Muuk to betray him. In the end, 11 military officials were either dismissed or exiled, three others including Muuk himself were executed, and many others in the Imperial Court were on the run for their lives.
The Emperor Harshavarman IV were killed on his hunting trip in 1525. Although his death were written down as accident, many believed it was not. Rumors circulated that the Royal Council ordered his assassination, but there was no evident to convict them of it. The general public were in joy and demanded that all of those working for Sok and Sao to be tried. The master of the treasury was arrested shortly after the news of the Emperor's death reached the capital on the order of the Royal Council, while the right hand man escaped to China. Sao was executed along with 23 other man convicted of large scale corruption. The Royal Council voted for Harshavarman IV's cousin to succeed him.
The Naga was Sleeping (1546-1583)
Harshavarman V (1531-1557) and the Indochina-Khmer War
Afflicted by corruptions and severe mismanagement, Cambodia became much weaker than it was a decade before. The military became disorderly as many capable leaders were either dismissed, exiled or on the run. The political infrastructure were in disarray, and to make matters even worse, an estimated 14,300 Neal of gold (18,915 pounds) were lost from the Imperial Treasury.In 1546, probably with inside information from the betray official Sok, the Ming Dynasty of China cut off diplomatic relation with Cambodia. Chinese forces was bursting through the Empire's northern frontier. The once-invincible Imperial Armed Forces were pushed inside their own territory the first time in more than 300 years. To make matter even worst, Mughal Empire declared war on Cambodia just a year later and began an assault from the west. China and Mughal signed a secret agreement to establish zones of influence after they captured the capital city of Yasodharapura. The Imperial Army were not just outnumbered two to one, they also lacked commanders who could handled the tasks at hands. The Navy was so spread out and powerless to help in-land battles. Town after town fell into enemies hands. Entire regions of Oudorpura and Pachempura were overrun. The Imperial Army could do nothing rather than slow down the opposing forces advance. Reports arrived at the capital describing atrocities inflicted on the civilian populations. Crops and livestock were plundered. Women were sexually assaulted while thousands were forced into slavery in foreign countries.Three years of defeats were not enough to bring Cambodia to its knees. The large scale of the country, huge manpower, and the fact that they were fighting on their own soil helped to insure that Cambodia was still able to fight on. Harshavarman V once said he could replace a battalion of 1500 men in three days while his enemies would take three weeks. Even than, the situation was still bleak. By 1549,Indian forces captured Chanapura, just 18.5 Yoch (184.55 miles) West of Yasodharapura, and at the same time Chinese army surround the city of Kaothara trapping and cutting off supply lines for the 15,000 men defending the city. The Imperial Court and the Royal Council urged the Emperor to leave the capital, but he refused. A month after seizing Chanapura, Indian forces were indeed matching toward Yasodharapura, but they were stopped by an element of the Imperial Army under the command of Major Huk. This was literally the first time that the Imperial Army was able to beat the enemy since the war began three years ago. Huk was one of the greatest generals in the history of Cambodia. He was originally a commander of the capital guards. He was famously known for his low key character with his men, and always endured the same risks and difficulties as common soldiers. He was promoted to General of the North immediately after his triumph. Huk abandoned the heavy infantry and rigid formations in favor of hit and run tactic. Using bamboo missiles to deal with war elephants and light artilleries coupled with rapid-fired ballistas, the Imperial Army slowly but surely pushed the enemies back. Huk also cast aside a standard stationary defend and instead created quick reaction troops to deal with counterattacks.
In recognizing of his accomplishments, the Emperor Harshavarman V promoted Huk as the General of the Imperial Army in 1550 and two years later to the Supreme General of the Imperial Armed Forces. The tide of war began to turn, although it would took another four more years before the war ended in 1554. The last major battle took place at the city of Pachempura in 1554. The battle of Pachempura was the last battle fought on Cambodian soil until the second world war. The personal diary of the General Huk gave a detailed account of this battle which lasted for nine days. Huk, himself, described the bravery of the 55,000 Indian forces who were ordered holding the city against the enemy nearly twice their size. The city wall itself wasn't breach until only 4,000 Indian were left. Even then, street-to-street fights were savage. The Emperor Harshavarman V, who personally commended the battle, was struck down in the thick of the fight. He was rushed to the rear seriously wounded. The royal physicians declared the Emperor's situation was hopeless. Harshavarman V managed, however, to cling on to life for hours until later that evening General Huk personally informed him that the city was liberated. The Emperor whispered his final words, "so Khmer wasn't lost in my time". Harshavarman V was the last Emperor to die in battle. His body was brought back to Yasodharapura, and a memorial was built on the site where the Emperor was struck down.
Harshavarman V's strong character was able to unite the country in time of serious threats. He might not a good general, but it is undeniably a great politician. However, he left a country in geographically, demographically, and financially ruins. The Indochina-Khmer war took a large toe on a country which was already weakening. In the aftermath, Cambodia suffered an estimated 2.4 million casualties. Oudorpura and Pachempura were almost completely destroyed. The government's debt soared to 6,000,000 Riel, 900 times larger than in 1546. Cambodian global influence shrank. Her military was triumph but exhausted.
Rajendravarman V (1559-1583), the Reconstruction, and the Band of Brothers
Rajendravarman V was the third son of Emperor Harshavarman V. The new Emperor was just seven years old when father died in battle. He came to the throne at the age of 12 after his two brothers untimely deaths. Rajendravarman V was ruling the Empire with his mother as co-Empress until his mother sudden death from malaria in 1564. Rajendravarman V was handed down the task of rebuilding a wounded nation with social unrests and deep financial crisis. His first task was to navigated a choppy sea of geopolitics with to insure his country continuous existent. Every main players in the region including China, India, Portuguese, and the Spanish wanted to squeeze and take over the Golden Land for themselves. The county, for the time being, lived in fear of another invasion from foreign powers especially the Spanish.
Previous emperors were trying to raise fund to pay interest rate and maintain the country. New taxes were introduced leading to widespread economic failure. Unemployment rate was skyrocketing to nearly 30%, by recent estimate. Previous emperors' attempt to tackle these problems by printing more coins leaded to a very high inflation rate. A new study found that between 1550 and 1560, Khmer currency's value dropped by half. These serious economic issues provoked civil unrests in every corners of the country. The southern regions of Pumini and Bour came close to break away.
At just 17 years old, Rajendravarman V had very little experience in both politics, economy, and military. However, he was surrounded by some of the most skillful men in the history of the country. With their helps, the Emperor devoted his whole life to rebuilding his nation.
For a millennium, laws had been added and changed without any real organized, and some of them were plane nonsense. At this point. Cambodia did not have a unified constitution, just a bunch of bills passed over the years. Rajendravarman V entrusted a task of repairing the broken law code to a respectable monk named Sangkha Bata. Sangkha Bata, in just 16 months, untangled this messy law code and compressed a-thousand-years worth of laws into just a mere 19 books set making the nation's law, for the first time, accessible and comprehensible. He also wrote the famous ''Guideline to proper behaviors'', which is still being taught today.
A great general of this time was Hurm of the Imperial Navy. Hurm enlisted back in 1535 at the age of 16 as a gunner on the deck of White Rabbit battleship. He rose through the rank to become captain of the Imperial Navy's flagship, the 75 guns Royal Spear, and later the general of the whole Imperial Navy. Hurm learned from the Spanish and Dutch about maritime knowledge. As Rajendravarman V once put it, Hurm puts up a wooden wall that protects all of us from the long nose (Cambodian slang for European). His efforts would eventually lead to the rise of Cambodian Imperial Navy on the world stage.
Rajendravarman V cut back federal taxes to encourage economic growth. He opened up more Royal lands taxed freed to poor families who willing to work it. Unemployed individuals were hired to work under the Royal projects such as infrastructure repairing, houses building, sanitation, and even community guards. The Emperor allowed rich families to purchase previously state owned businesses. Trades with the east and far west were encouraged. Rajendravarman V proposed a direct economic challenge with China and India instead of militarily. The government subsidized agricultural products. Grains, spices, and sugar were exported to the Europe and the middle East in greater quantities. Silk, iron work, and art were also booming.
New towns were built connected to the rest of the country by new roads and bridges. 5 millions hectare of woodlands and forests was converted into farms in a decade, a rate that would not be matched until the industrial revolution. Cities were once again growing. Cambodia started to make a come back. An increasingly connected people and their struggle forged a new idea of nationalism and a unified nation. Cambodia was on her way to inherit what was once Roman, the title of the world lone superpower.
All of these new policies had some unexpected consequences. More privately owned enterprises laid the foundation of capitalism. Slavery was favorable in plantations and factories as cost saving measures. This practice could hurt the economy as poor citizens were unemployed. In 1565, the Emperor outlawed slavery, an incredibly unpopular action among noble families. A conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor were plotted by many nobles threaten by this new law. When the plot were discovered, all were put to death while their families were exiled.
A bachelor emperor, Rajendravarman V was a hard working man, often stayed up overnight in his study. His health deteriorated. On September 19th, 1583, the beloved Emperor collapsed in his carriage while on a tour in the city of Okao. He was rushed back to Yasodharapura, but the Emperor drew his last breath on the flagship Royal Spear. Rajendravarman V was forever remembered for his works to unified the people and the country in the face of recession. As one historian put it, "[…] Once there were ashes and charcoals, now there are marbles and gold.[…]"
Khmer the Superpower (1583-1943)
Rajendravarman VII (1592-1618) and the Beginning of the Age of Exploration
Cambodia emerged from the aches of war stronger than ever. By the end of the 16th century, the country's GDP was 300 billion Riel, 50% more than what it was before the war. Total population rose to 100 million. Trades brought new riches, cultures, and knowledge from every parts of the world. People began to move to cities to find new opportunities. Military was also expending. The Imperial Army numbered close to 850,000 personals. The Imperial Navy processed 950 ships and nearly 50,000 men. The Navy processed five coastal outposts in Africa and seven island outposts in the Indian Ocean. From the pass away of the Emperor Rajendravarman V to the invasion of the Japanese Empire in World War II, Cambodia would enjoyed three and half centuries of relative peace. The might of her military insured that no nation would directly challenged her. A new Superpower was born.
The Emperor Rajendravarman VII inherited the throne in 1592. Since the news of a discovery of a new continent arrived eight decades ago, Cambodia was in no position to plan colonization of the new world. First thing on a list of the new Emperor was to prepare for expeditions and establishing settlements in America. The Imperial Navy fleets reached the east coast of America in 1602 in what one day be called San Francisco. The Navy called this place Rachana Thevipura after the Queen Rachanathevi. The first wave of volunteers came in 1612. However, the colonization was later abandoned in 1750. An earthquake in 1615 coupled with high cost of project, and with two strong enemies on their border coupled with raising European influences in the region convinced the Emperor that colonization would not worth the expanse and effort.
No other places were colonized except a couple of islands which were used as outposts for the Imperial Navy. Unlike European nations, Cambodian lands were rich in resources to trade and sustain herself. Several expeditions followed, but their main goals were to explore new parts of the globe and find new markets. Cambodia signed separate expedition treaties with Portugal, Spain, Dutch, and Britain for free trades with those countries.
Jayavarman XIII (1757-1780) and the Industrial Revolution
News of the discovery of steam power prompted and forced Cambodia to quickly industrialized in order to survive. The Imperial University of Cambodia (IUC) was the first institute to build a first prototype of steam engine in 1755. Several scholars and engineers from the IUC have tried to convince the aging Indravarman VI the potential of steam powered engine. A conservative Emperor, who has never believed in mechanics engines, did not, however, approve its development.
A new Emperor Jayavarman XIII ascended the throne. At 43 years old, Emperor Jayavarman XIII was an ambassador in Britain and the Netherlands from 1740 until 1757. He understood how vital modern technology was to economic prosperity. After a month in office, the new Emperor granted the chief of IUC an unlimited support to develop prototypes of engines for locomotion. In 1771, the Emperor asked for business enterprises to compete for a government contract for building a railway line connecting the most populated city Prey Nokor to the capital Yasodharapura. The line opened to the public in 1779. Meanwhile, three more railways were being built connecting major cities such as Malapura, Pachempura, and Oudorpura to the capital. The Suvannapumi Station in Yasodharapura, the hub of all railways, was opened by Jayavarman XIII himself in 1779.
Railways wasn't the only thing born as a result of steam power. Factories all over the Empire were also modernized. The new technology allowed owners to cut down cost and produce goods cheaper and much faster in ever larger quantities. Farmlands yielded greater quantities of crops. The country's export tripled in value and growing. Ordinary citizens earned more than they used to be. Cheap produces and transportation created a dynamics society.
The military was also modernized and reformed. Strict regulations and requirements were placed to fight the issue of corruptions in the ranks. With increasingly productive industrial complex, military gears could be easily supplied. Rifles, canons, and gun powder could be issued in larger quantities. Many more railways were being planed to accommodate deployments and mobilizations of the army. On the other hand, the Imperial Navy was also busy upgrading its arsenals. Since 1763, the Navy began testing prototypes of new generation steam power battleships. In 1776, full production began with the Navy's order of 20 ships.
The Emperor Jayavarman XIII is credited with the successful introduction of what could be the biggest change in the history of Cambodia. Unlike China, India, and so many other countries, he made sure that Cambodia would never squeezed and carved up by European nations.
Jayavarman XIV (1780-1798) - The Last Conqueror and the Political Revolution
Jaya Vuthi Rithea was the second son of the Emperor Jayavarman XIII. His older brother was in Buddhism service a full 5 years before their father's death. He refused to leave monkhood and passed the throne on to his younger brother.
Cambodia continued to modernized and growth. By the end of Jayavarman XIV's reign, the country total GDP would be 850 billion Riel, three times what it was a century ago. Private enterprises came to dominate the economy. More railroads were built connecting more and more places within the nation. By 1798, Cambodia would have 10,000 miles of railways. Clocks were forced to synchronize to make train timetables possible. Cities all over were swelling with people. In the country's most populated city Prey Nokor with 4 million inhabitants, land and water pollution were so bad that in 1782 cholera broke out and killed hundreds of people. The sewer and waste managing system became clog. With the less interest with any matter but military, Jayavarman XIV allowed private enterprises to compete for and handle government projects. Slowly, the Emperor had started to loss monopoly on the economy.
The legacy of Jayavarman XIV was that he was the last emperor to personally leaded troops in Cambodia's last major invasion of another country. He obsessed with the idea of invading India and/or China in order to, as he expressed it, intimidate other nations. Historians argue his true intention as to prove himself as masculine since he was viewed as a mama boy. For whatever reason, the Emperor increased military spending by 20%, built up inventories, and infrastructures to accommodate his plan of military aggression. Against advices from the Royal Council, government officials, and even high-ranking military generals, Jayavarman XIV gave the order to begin a campaign against the Mughal Empire in 1790. Three elements of the Imperial Army attacked from Pachempura. Another five elements attacked from Norkorpura while the largest force with nine elements attacked from Pulleav. The Imperial Navy quickly destroyed Indian naval forces, and sailed up to bombard many coastal towns and cities. In all, 600,000 men stomped across the border. With superior technology, the Imperial Armed Forces crushed all of Indian resistance, and nearly eradicated their entire army. In three years, the Imperial Army took the city of Arga which was about 200 km from the capital city Delhi. Left with no choice, the emperor of the Mughal Empire agreed to peace on Cambodian terms, and it was hush. India was to open a tax-free non restricted trade with Cambodia. India must allowed the Imperial Navy to use any port of their own choosing. India paid an equivalent of nearly 5 billion dollar in today money, and also, a large swell of land was thrown in a part of the deal. The Emperor proudly named the new region Jayavarmanpura (Land of Jayavarman) after himself. Jayavarman XIV made a bold statement to the world, with this campaign, who was the master of South Asia.
The campaign was, however, negatively perceived by every Cambodian citizens. The Imperial Armed forces suffered 50,000 casualties or 10% of the total troops involved in the three years of fighting. The war cost roughly 250 million Riel, and, to make matter worse, Cambodian people was burden with an expected 500 million Riel bills for developing the newly annexed territory in the next three years or so.
In 1796, after the news of the Emperor's plan for another military campaign with China, tens of thousands of people gathered in front of the Royal Palace demanding the stop to the new campaign. More and more unrests were reported in the provinces as news spread. They were all demanding the cancellation of the planned military campaign. To prevent the issue from getting out of hand, Jayavarman XIV invited representatives of the crowd for personal audience with him on December 25th, 1796. After six days of negotiation, the campaign against China was canceled. During the discussion, Lord Som of the Royal Council suggested the Emperor to create a new chamber for people's representatives here in the Capital to both made people happy, which would improved the Emperor's reputation, and avoided another civil unrest in the future. Just like that, a new political institute was born. They called it "Sa Phea" which means "Senate".
After the crisis, the Emperor Jayavarman XIV tried to improve his relation with the people. He tried to prove that public welfares was important to him. However, people's opinion changed very little. Even though the deal extracted from India was overwhelmingly in Cambodia's favor, the death of ten of thousands of soldiers could not be justified, said a professor at the Imperial University of Cambodia in 1797. Jayavarman XIV voluntarily stepped down in 1798, but the echo of this crisis followed him until his death in 1832. His brother was asked to leave monkhood and inherited the throne.
Modern Khmer (1943-Present)
Rajendravarman IX (1933-1975) the Greatest
When Emperor Rajendravarman IX came to power, the new age in the history of Cambodia has started. Although Cambodia would lose the title of the world number one superpower in his time, the Emperor Rajendravarman IX was considered as the greatest of all that had come before him. His reign was marked by peace, war on the largest scale, uncertainty, and possibly the greatest come back story of all time.
For more than a century, Cambodia was at absolute peace. An increasingly large networks of trades and the match of technology brought about the period of prosperity never seen before. With the might of her army, the strength of her economy, and the fame of her reputation, 290 million people proudly called her home by the outbreak of World War II. Little did she knew that she would soon be rocked by the biggest storm of her life yet.
The Emperor Rajendravarman IX inherited the throne at 29 years old. He earned Doctorate degree in Economy from the Imperial University of Cambodia just two years before he stepped into power. Rajendravarman IX was never in the line of succession since he was not the son of the previous Emperor. In fact, he was a child to the previous Emperor's brother. He was a postdoc at Harvard University when the Royal Council called him back. Ishanavarman V's only son married an American causing him to loss his claim to the throne.
Wars have been going on just outside of Cambodia's border. Between 1932 and 1943, the Japanese Empire had just taken controls of Indonesia, the Philippine Islands, Taiwan, parts of China, and Papa New Genie. Roughly speaking, two third of Cambodian border was to the Japanese Empire.
Before 1939, situation in Cambodia remained relatively calm. Everything began to turn when the news of the Nazi invasion of Poland rocked the nation. The alliance between Japan and Germany coupling with the growing power of the Japanese Empire at her doorstep had started to get on the nerve of everyone around the country. The Senate pushed the Emperor to increase military build up.
Desiring partly by Cambodia's immense natural resources especially oil, Japan declared war with Cambodia on February 9th, 1940. Two imperial powers clashed produced a big bang all around the world. Japanese Army had repeatedly attacked from the North, but they were always pushed back by the Imperial Army.
Story on water wasn't so romantic. With just 2 small aircraft carriers, the Imperial Navy's situation was hopeless. They were crushed in almost every encounters by superior forces. By May of 1941, Japanese navy cut Cambodia in half. Smaller islands were under Japanese control. The islands of Pumini and Bour struggled to stay in the fight. Until August of 1943, three quarter of Pumini and almost all of the entire Bour region were lost. Without total control of the sea, reinforcing and resupplying the two regions were next to impossible. Japanese bombing campaigns ricked havocs on the country, but the Imperial Air Forces denied the Japanese total control over the sky. This was the first time since the Indochina-Khmer war in 1546 that a foreign force caused serious damages inside the nation's border.
Rajendravarman IX order the Imperial Navy to protect the Andaman Sea west of the country at all cost. For three years with the lost of more than 70,000 men and 300 ships, the Imperial Navy kept the Japanese navy from overrun the last sea trading route. Meanwhile, more than 10 million new volunteers and conscripts were drafted into the military. Civil industries was ordered to manufacture military hardware. By the end of the war, Cambodia would have 5 times more ships, 60 times more tanks, and 330 times more aircrafts than Japan able to produce in the entire war.
Nearly two years after the war had broken out, Cambodia breathed a sign of relieve. Cambodia and the United States signed the mutual military agreement in January 1942. Cambodian first aircraft carrier became operational since the lost of the pervious two, while 5 more would followed in the same year. Two new fighters was introduced after 2 years of development, the KF-42 Lighting for the Air Force and the KFC-11 Swordfish for the Navy. Both were more than capable to take on the Japanese Zero. Cambodian spy stole the blueprint of the German abandon project of anti-aircraft missile. In March of 1943, Cambodian wired guided surface-to-air missiles called the Spear were deployed. Beginning in November 1942 at the battle of Singhapura, the Imperial Navy started to gain the upper hand partly due to Japanese disaster at Midway island. Starting in 1943, the Imperial Navy opened a connection between the city of Singhapura and Pichpura allowing supply and men to the island of Pumini for the first time since the second half of 1941. The last of Japanese attempted of making a landing assault near the city of Prey Nokor was unsuccessful. In June 1943, the main base of the Imperial Navy at Koh Kandal was taken back. Two months later and until the end of the year, the Imperial Army dispatched a million troop the Pumini to retake the island.
Starting 1944, Cambodian material superiority began to show. A new long-range bomber, the KB-21 Rain Cloud, with the range of 5,800 mile (9,334 km) was introduced. The Imperial Air Force established a base near the city of Sattaya for the bombing campaigns against the Japanese homeland in April 1944. In June of the same year, the United State also established a forward air force base near Sattaya with the same purpose.
The Japanese Navy was pushed out of Cambodian maritime territory in May of 1944. In September, the Imperial Army began the campaign to liberate the region of Bour. Cut off from supply, the Japanese Army was quickly overwhelm. Except for a few pocketsof resistances, both campaigns in Pumini and Bour were announced a success in March of 1945. Since the start of 1945, the Imperial Navy was also sent to fight in the Pacific theater with the American. The Army, however, was only involved in the Okinawa campaign before the war ended.
The aftermath of the war did not look good for the future of Cambodia. Around 622,000 soldiers were killed, and another 1.7 million civilians lost their lives. Most of the civilian deaths occurred on the Japanese captured regions to the South. 2.1 million other were physically disabled. Pumini and Bour were completely destroyed. On the mainland, major economic cities like Prey Nokor and Chatomuk suffered large scale damages from bombing. Only the region of Jayavarmanpura and Pachempura sustained minor damages. Cambodia suffered huge negative economic growth. The country GDP dropped by 11% in six years. In 1944, the United States overtook Cambodia as the world largest economy.
the Emperor Rajendravarman IX relinquished monarch monopolies on a few remaining market sectors. Industry, agriculture, and infrastructure were subsidized. Several government-paid-privately-build projects were laid down. A discovery of new oil near Chanapura sped up the economic recovery. It took two decades for the country to become her old self. During the Cold War, Rajendravarman IX declared in 1947 that his country would remained politically neutral, but would openly traded with any country regardless of their political ideology. In 1955, Cambodia was invited to be a member of the UN Security Council along side the US, UK, France, and the USSR.
In 1967, the Center of Space Exploration and Aerodynamics Research (CSEAR [si-si-ar]) was established. The first successful mission to the moon in 1979. In 1998, Cambodia joined a project to build the International Space Station (ISS).
In 1953, Cambodia successfully detonated a nuclear bomb following by a first test of thermonuclear bomb in 1956. The country still boosts an impressive military forces. The Imperial Armed Forces has been involved in several UN peacekeeping missions and recently the war against terrorist.
Rajendravarman XII (2016-Present)
Rajendravarman XI is the 61th Emperor of the Naga Dynasty and a current reigning monarch of Cambodia. He came on to the throne in 2016 at the age of 31 years old after his father abdicated. The Empress Botoumkesor Kalyanni reigns by his side.
he Emperor Rajendravarman XI fully supports developments in Science and Technology. He increases funding to the Cambodian National Research Foundation by 45% and the Center for Space Exploration and Aerotech Research (CSEAR) by 36%. He also launches a program designed to encourage more women to work in the field of Science and Engineering. As of now, Cambodia is the only country actively supports for more female scientists and engineer.
Cambodia is located in South-East Asia. The country is 2,714,270 sq km (1,047,985.51 sq mi) by landmass. It borders China to the North, India to the West, and Indonesia and the Philippines to the Southd. Cambodia is divided into seven regions:
The name Presh Nokor roughly translates to "King's Landing". The capital city Yasodharapura is located here. The oldest region of the country, Presh Nokor is the most populated region with 89,255,024 people. It is also the economic and political hearth of the country. It accounts for 27% of the country total GDP.
Oudorpura (Land of the North)
Oudorpura is the poorest region with the least population of only 8,124,507 people. Mountains are the dominate landscapesdd of the region. 90% of the land is forest reserved.
Pachempura (Land of the West)
Pachempura is the second richest region in the country with 19% of the total GDP. It lies between the Salween River and the Irrawaddy River which are main highway for trade and access to the sea. Its economy is heavily depending on service sectors and mining. 66,411,792 people are living here.
Jayavarmanpura (Land of Jayavarman)
The youngest region of the country is home to 53,872,479 people. Jayavarmanpura's main economy is cloth and electronic manufacturing. Its economic output accounts for 15% of the country GDP.
Malaka is the second agriculture region of the nation with the population of 63,973,274 people. The region is important naval bases for the Imperial Navy. The most important city is Singhapura (land of lion) located at the Southern edge of the country. It is vital to the nation's economy as 1/3 of the global trade networks converged at this city. Malaka constitutes 18% of Cambodian GDP.
Pumini is the agriculture-richest region produced more than three quarter of the country total agriculture outputs. It is home to 35,749,423 people with 10% of the country GDP.
Nicknamed the back of a whale due to the frequent of storms and earthquakes in the region, Bour is home to 32,723,446 people. Its economy are mainly service sectors and small scale industries. Bour's economy accounts for 9% of the country total GDP
The country is divided into two territories. The mainland consists of Presh Nokor, Oudorpura, Pachempura, Jayavarmanpura, and Malaka. The island territory consists of two regions, Pumini and Bour.
Despite its political system, Cambodia practices a capitalistic economy. The nation GDP in 2015 is reported at 17.8 trillion USD with a growth rate of 2.5%.
Cambodia is the second largest importer and the third largest exporter. Trade deficit in 2015 was 615 billion USD. India, China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, United Kingdoms, and the United States are Cambodian biggest trade partners. The largest import commodity is oil while agricultural products, electronic, and arm-trade are the main exports. The country produces an average of 7 million barrels of oil a day, but it imports another 25 million barrels daily to keep up with nation consumption.
Private sectors accounts for 93% of the total economic output. The service sectors constitutes a third of the nation GDP. Mining industries also big in Cambodia supplying huge amount of copper, lead, magnesium, zinc, titanium, and uranium. Agriculture is estimated to be just 1.5% of GDP. Cambodia is the largest exporter of rice, fish, and meat. Cambodia produces an outstanding work in art and literature. The province of Pailin is renounced for its expertise in working with precious metals and stones.
Consumer spending comprises 75% of Cambodian economy in 2016. The country labor force consisted of 164.8 million people. Cambodia is ranked as the sixth highest workplace productivity per person in the world. Unemployment rate is 3.5%. Cambodian economy took a large hit during the 2008 global recession, which resulted in 12 million unemployment nationwide. Since late 2009, the situation has started to improve.
Presh Nokor is the richest region with the largest economy of 4.82 trillion USD in 2016, followed by Pachempura with 3.39 trillion USD, Malaka with 3.21 trillion USD, and Jayavarmanpura with 2.68 trillion USD. The rest are Pumini with 1.78 trillion USD, Bour with 1.61 trillion USD, and Oudorpura with 0.36 trillion USD.
The national average GDP per capita is USD 50,905. Presh Nokor is the richest region per person with an average of USD 53,956, followed by Pachempura with USD 51,029, and Malaka with USD 50,186. The other regions GDP per capita are below the national average, Pumini with USD 49,893, Jayavarmanpura with USD 49,663, Bour with USD 49,056, and Oudorpura with USD 43,908.
Cambodian public education is operated by the royal government. Cambodian citizens are entitled to 14 years of free education. Children are required to start schools at the age of three (in kindergarten) until high schools. Child education is mandatory. 15% of children enroll in private schools, while homeschooled are not recognized. The basic literacy rate is approximately 99%. The country spend an average of 11,000 USD per student.
Cambodia has one of the most opened higher education policies in the world. The government provides an exclusive 50% scholarship for women students in public universities. Of Cambodian 25 and older, 97% graduated from high school, 91% earned a bachelor's degree, and 12% earned graduate degrees. The United Nations assigns Cambodia an Education Index of 0.99.
Strange Traditional Education
Cambodian has a strange education policy resulted from its own culture. After high schools, all students are required to join the "tradition education" typically lasts for six months. Women participate in "Chuul Mlub" training, while men have to serve in monk-hood.
In the past, "Chuul Mlub" training (or staying in a shadow) was conducted to prepare young women for wife/mother duties. Girls who had their first period would be confined in her room and barred from interacting or being seen by men including her own fathers. During this time, she would be taught all the rules of being a wife and mother while receiving beauty treatments at the same time. This training could lasted from three to nine months depending on the family wealth. After she "coming out of a shadow", there would be a reception mainly served as an announcement by her family that she was married-ready.
Before public schools were widely spread across the country, Buddhist pagodas were the only places where boys could learn to read and write. Pagodas made and preserved literature works since the 3rd century. Young boys served in monk-hood between four to six years. Those who "graduated" and left monk-hood were called "Ann Tit". Today, Cambodian refers to those with doctorate degree as "Bann did", which derived from "Ann Tit". Men could only married after he had served as monk.
Today, "Chuul Mlub" training is conducted in specialized institutes reserved only for women. These practices are the connection between the past and the present society. It is seen as a must for all Cambodian. Without it, they cannot get into universities or married or, in many cases, get a job.
Cambodia practice a form of hereditary absolute monarchy. The Emperor is the supreme ruler of the country. The Royal family resides in the Imperial Palace of Yasodharapura, in the capital city of Yasodharapura. Many have criticized the country for its political system in the modern time. However, surveys repeatedly show that Cambodians are happy with the system due to peace and prosperity they have known for the last 2000 years. The current emperor is Rajendravarman XI who was crowned in 2003 at the age of 46 years old.
In her 2000 years of history, the form of politic in Cambodia have evolved. As of today there are 6 political institutes.
The Office of Emperor : Executive Branch (The Royal Government)
This political institute is responsible for daily administration of the country, executing and enforcing the laws. The head of this branch is the Emperor who is also the head of state.
Below the Emperor, Uparach is the highest government position reserved only for non-Royal personnel. Uparach is the Emperor's Right Hand man. Uparach is selected by the Emperor himself, but only those with decades of experience in executive agencies can be considered. Uparach can fill in for the Emperor's place if needs arise. Sometime, the official heir to the throne works as Uparach's understudy.
Both the Emperor and Uparach oversee the country's 14 ministries as listed below,
- Ministry of Interior
- Ministry of Defence
- Ministry of Education, Religion, Science, and Technology
- Ministry of Transportation and Communication
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Economy, Finance and Commerce
- Ministry of Tourism, and Culture Reservations
- Ministry of Environment, Energy and Resources Management
- Ministry of Industry
- Ministry of Agriculture
- Ministry of Social Work and Public Corporations
- Ministry of Labor
- Ministry of Intelligence.
The Senate : Legislation Branch
This political institute was created in 1796 as a result to the nationwide civil unrest following a planned military campaign against China by Emperor Jayavarman XIV. The Senate comprises of 353 representative elected by the people every five years. In the past, the head of the most respected family in the province was chosen as representative. The election system was only introduced in 1919 by Emperor Jayavarman XV as a direct result of World War I.
The national wide election for the representatives and the head of the Senate happens independently at the same date every 3 years, 2nd Saturday of December. The head of the Senate is chosen by national alternate vote while the representatives are chosen by single transferable vote.
Each representative is entitled to a special right in which they cannot be arrested or fired for speaking out. Although their action is condemned if they openly dissed the Emperor, they will not loss their position.
Traditionally, the Senate's task was to represent the interest of the people. They evaluated laws and projects both civil and military, and both inside and outside of the country. Every new laws put forward by the Emperor and his office must pass by the Senate before it can be implemented. Since 1811, the Senate has been allowed to draft up and put forward new laws. These laws must be approved by the Emperor before it too can be implemented.
The Royal Council
The Royal Council was officially acknowledge as a political institute by Emperor Indravarman I in 883. Members of the Royal Council are retired monarch, former Empress, the head of Buddhist monks, retired high-ranking government officials, retired high-ranking judges, retired scholars, retired generals, and retired representatives. The head of the Royal Council can be either the retired monarch, former Empress or the head of Buddhist monks.
The Royal Council does not have any true political responsibility. The Royal Council's job is to advise the Emperor, oversees his behavior, and choose the next successor to the throne. They can publicly condemned an action of the Emperor, deem him incompetent, and vote him out of power. The Royal Council also responsible for ruling the country in the brief period between the outgoing and oncoming Emperors, or as Cambodians call it "the time of changing the Earth". In the past, their responsibility also included upkeep the Royal Palace, oversaw tradition ceremonies, arranging the Emperor's marriage, tutoring young princes and princesses, filling in for the Emperor's absent, and writing down history.
Although, with no political power, being in the Royal Council is the most respected position in Cambodia. Only experience and distinguish person can be offered and accepted into this institute.
The Imperial Academy
The Imperial Academy is not a political institute, but it does have some influences through "expert opinions". If a law, bill, or regulation is questioned by the Imperial Academy, Cambodian people will not fully support it.
The Imperial Academy's members are professors from higher education institutes. Their jobs, in the political aspect, are to evaluate the law being passed in their expertise.
The Institute of Buddhist Study
Members of the institute are head monks from various pagodas around the nation. They can questions the religious aspect of any law being passed but have no power to stop it. Like the Imperial Academy, this institute has influence but no political power.
The Office of the Empress
By Cambodian laws and traditions, the Empress is the absolute ruler of the nation. Her word is final and cannot be vetoed. Typically, the Empress works to promote women around the country, as well as maintains the relationship between the people and the imperial family. She usually doesn't involve in the drafting or debating of any law being passed.
Cambodia established contact with European power since 12th century when diplomats had been sent to the Byzantine Empire. Since then, the country continued to see Europe and the Middle East important trade partners.
Today, India is Cambodian biggest market, following by the US, Europe, and China. The United States is Cambodian closest political and military ally. The US has 3 military bases in Cambodia, and both sides frequently conduct joint military exercise. The relationship with the US becomes more important since the escalation of maritime dispute with China in the sea of Suvannapumi (the South China Sea).
Cambodian relation with China is economically mutually beneficial yet politically not-good. The main dispute is in the sea of Suvannapumi (the South China Sea), where China claims belonging to them. Historically, Cambodia has controlled the sea since the reign of Jayavarman VIII in the 13th century. Chinese navy has several time flirt with Cambodian maritime border.
Due to low birth rate and long life expectancy (80.1 years), Cambodia are now has to deal with large elder population. Retirement support from the government proves to be very costly. In the recent year, the Royal Government prolongs the age of retirement from 65 to 70 years old. Companies are now obligated to cover retirement support for their employers which previously had been covered by the government.
Illegal immigration is also a pressing issue. Each year, an estimated 150,000 people from China and India crosses the border without any legal document to find better jobs. Most are caught and sent back, but many continue to evade detection. They are susceptible to danger of hush working environment with no legal protection. A study suggests that nearly 1.5 million illegal immigrants are currently living in Cambodia.
Cambodia has the second largest economy in the world. Therefore, it is also one of the worst carbon emission. In 2007, the Government has started to invest in renewable energy. A total of 20 billion USD has been spent since and yet little is getting in return.
Nuclear weapons is a hot debate in recent time. By the time the cold war had ended in 1991, the nation had produced and stocked pal nearly 2500 nuclear warheads. There are representatives who want to reduce the number to just 500 because nukes are useless in modern society and also are very expensive to maintain.
Cambodia has a large population of 350,109,945 inhabitants. 99% of the citizens identify themselves as Khmer. There is almost no trace of native people thanks to a policy by the Emperor Indravarman IV to incorporate native people into Khmer culture, both peacefully and forcefully. In the 1800s, an average woman had 7.2 children. Today, the overall fertility rate is 1.03 child per women. Life expectancy is 80.1 years from birth. 75% of the population are living in metropolitan areas.
Buddhism is the state religion with 95% of the people identified as Buddhist. Hinduism was Cambodia’s first major religion when it was introduced by the king Kaundinya the First back in the 1st century AD. Buddhism became more popular when the Emperor Jayavarman VII became the first monarch to convert to Buddhist in 1181. Freedom to practice religion is written in the nation's law. Christianity is the second religion with 1.9% followed by Islam 1.8%.
The official language of the nation is Khmer. Originated from the Austroasiatic language family, Khmer language is influence by Sanskrit (Indian ancient language) and Pali (Buddhism language) throughout its 2000 years of evolution. English is the second widely spoken language. Since 1960s, English has been taught since primary schools. Most Cambodian especially the young generation can read and write English skillfully.
As of 2016, 92% of Cambodians age 18 and over were married, 1% were widowed, 3% were divorced, and 5% had never been married. Women hold the majority of service sectors while men dominate in agriculture and manufacture. The average age of married is 27 for men and 25 for women.
Around 500,000 Cambodians identify as not heterosexual. Same-sex marriages and homosexual had never been illegal in Cambodia since the legal battle between 1710-1738.
Religion and Belief
From the 1st century AD until 1181, most of the citizens and their emperors were practicing Hinduism. In 1181, the Emperor Jayavarman VII was the first to adopt Buddhism. As of now, 95% of Khmer are Buddhist. Even though Hinduism is no longer existed in the country, traces of it can be found in everyday life and even inside the practice of some Buddhism’s ceremonies.
In the past, the people of Khmer believe that their nation was being looked after by a Naga’s king living under the sea of Suvannapumi. The tale telling of a story that the Naga’s king dry a huge portion of land which previously being submerge under the sea in which he gave as a present for the people of Khmer on the coronation day of their first king, Kaundinya the First. Archeologists, amazingly, find out that the large portion of land from the city of Chatomok to where the Mekong River meets the sea today used to be covered by sea water.
Cambodia produced numerous temples and majestic monuments to celebrate the divine authority of the Emperors. Khmer architecture is influenced mostly by Indian culture but is so difference that most people mistakenly believe that it is an unique independence architecture.
Khmer architects blend religion and belief into their works. The famous five peaks and moat of the great temple Angkor Wat represents Mount Meru reflecting the Hindu belief of where gods are residing with its and surrounded by seas represented by ponds and moats.
Stone temples are the trade mark of Khmer architecture. The great temple of Angkor Wat, the largest sacred structure in the world, is the pinnacle of Khmer achievement. Constructed in just 37 years, Angkor Wat remains the source of prize for modern Cambodian. Since its completion in 1150, no temples are to be build bigger and taller than Angkor Wat due to the issue of time and labor consuming and costly price in term of finance and human lives. Queen Suryavana passed this policy in the year of 1160.
Since the interaction with European nations, Khmer architecture had since introduced many of Europe's great achievements into their work. Khmer is renounced for its ability to consolidate other culture and blend it into its own existing culture.
Rice is the staple grain in Cambodian daily consumption. Fresh-water fish is also an important part of the diet. Khmer people consume fish more than any country in the world with approximation of 290 kg per person per year. Some of the fish can be made into Prahok or Amok for longer storage. Prahok is a traditional food, not familiar to many foreigners.
Another traditional dish is call Nom Banh Chok (នំបញ្ចុក). It is made from rice and looks a lot like noodles. Tropical fruits are also included in the daily diet. Mangoes and bananas are very popular. Coconut milk is used widely in deserts along with pumpkin and red soy.
French influence on Khmer cuisine includes the Cambodian red curry with toasted baguette bread. The toasted baguette pieces are dipped in the curry and served. Cambodian red curry can also served with rice or with Nom Banh Chok. Rice with pork or chicken is called Cambodian fast-food, usually served for breakfast, along with a dish called Kuy Teav, which is originated in China.
Soccer is the national sport of Cambodia. Soccer was introduced as a result of trades with the British during the 1880s. Soccer was not instantly popular until its appearance in the Summer Olympic Game in 1900. Today, most schools and every province throughout the country have their own soccer teams. Other sports such as volleyball, bodybuilding, field hockey, rugby union, golf, and baseball are gaining popularity. Volleyball is by far the most preferred sport - excluding soccer.
There is a number of native sports still existing today including traditional boat racing, buffalo racing, traditional boxing, traditional wrestling and Bokator (Khmer martial art). Aside from boat racing and Bokator, other sports are widely restricted to local competitions. Traditional boat racing is held in November annually for three days as part of the Water festival.
Metric system has become the country's legal measuring system since 1892. However, before this, Cambodia had its own traditional system being used for nearly 2000 years.
- 1 Thnab (ធ្នាប់) = 021⁄32 in = 5⁄3 cm
- 1 Chom Am (ចំអាម) = 77⁄8 in = 20 cm
- 1 Kukh (គក់) = 153⁄4 in = 40 cm
- 1 Hat (ហត្ថ) = 1911⁄16 in = 50 cm
- 1 Phyeam (ព្យាម) = 2.187227 yd = 2 m
- 1 Sen (សិន) = 43.74453 yd = 40 m
- 1 Kea Vuth (គាវុត) = 2.485485 mi = 4 km
- 1 Yoch (យោជន៍) = 9.941939 mi = 16 km
- 1 Lin (លី) = 0.001322774 oz = 0.0375 g
- 1 Hun (ហ៊ុន) = 0.01322774 oz = 0.375 g
- 1 Chin (ជី) = 0.1322774 oz = 3.75 g
- 1 Dom Leung (ដំឡឹង) = 1.322774 oz = 37.5 g
- 1 Neal (នាឡិ) = 21.16438 oz = 600 g
- 1 Chong (ចុង) = 66.13868 lb = 30 kg
- 1 Hap (ហាប) = 132.2774 lb = 60 kg