Kingdom of Cambodia
Area: 181,040 sq. km. (69,900 sq. mi.); about the size of Missouri.
Cities: Capital–-Phnom Penh (pop. 1.3 million), Battambang, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Prey Veng, Kompong Cham.
Terrain: Central plain drained by the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and Mekong and Bassac Rivers. Forests away from the rivers and the lake, mountains in the southwest (Cardamom Mountains) and north (Dangrek Mountains) along the border with Thailand.
Cambodia is located on mainland Southeast Asia between Thailand to the west and north and Vietnam to the east and southeast. It shares a land border with Laos in the northeast. Cambodia has a sea coast on the Gulf of Thailand. The Dangrek mountain range in the north and Cardamom Mountains in the southwest form natural boundaries. Principal physical features include the Tonle Sap lake and the Mekong and Bassac Rivers. Cambodia remains one of the most heavily forested countries in the region, although deforestation continues at an alarming rate.
Climate: Tropical monsoon with rainy season June-Oct. and dry season Nov.-May.
Nationality: Noun and adjective–Cambodian(s), Khmer.
Population (2008 census): 13.4 million.
Avg. annual growth rate (2008 census) 1.54%.
Health: Infant mortality rate–58/1,000. Life expectancy–59 years male; 63 years female.
Ethnic groups: Cambodian 90%; Vietnamese 5%; Chinese 1%; others 4%: small numbers of hill tribes, Chams, and Laotian.
Religions: Theravada Buddhism 95%; Islam; animism; Christian.
Languages: Khmer (official) spoken by more than 95% of the population; some French still spoken in urban areas; English increasingly popular as a second language.
Education: Years compulsory–nine years. Enrollment–primary school, 92.2%; grades 7 to 9, 34%; grades 10 to 12, 13%; and tertiary, 7%. Completion rates–primary school, 48%; lower secondary school, 21%; upper secondary school, 9%; university, 6%. Literacy (total population over 15 that can read and write, 2007)–74% (male 85%; female 64%).
Ninety percent of Cambodia’s population is ethnically Cambodian. Other ethnic groups include Chinese, Vietnamese, hill tribes, Chams, and Laotian. Theravada Buddhism is the religion of 95% of the population; Islam, animism, and Christianity also are practiced. Khmer is the official language and is spoken by more than 95% of the population. Some French is still spoken in urban areas, and English is increasingly popular as a second language.
Although Cambodia had a rich and powerful past under the Hindu state of Funan and the Kingdom of Angkor, by the mid-19th century the country was on the verge of dissolution. After repeated requests for French assistance, a protectorate was established in 1863. By 1884, Cambodia was a virtual colony; soon after it was made part of the Indochina Union with Annam, Tonkin, Cochin-China, and Laos. France continued to control the country even after the start of World War II through its Vichy government. In 1945, the Japanese dissolved the colonial administration, and King Norodom Sihanouk declared an independent, anti-colonial government under Prime Minister Son Ngoc Thanh in March 1945. The Allies deposed this government in October. In January 1953, Sihanouk named his father as regent and went into self-imposed exile, refusing to return until Cambodia gained genuine independence.