Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cambodia, Kingdom of: A Short Summary

Differentiating Facts:

1) Cambodia is best visited between November and January (or March). Rainy monsoon season runs from May to October. Tourism expanded to 4 mil in 2007. There are still border disputes with Thailand.

2) 90% of Cambodians are Khmer in origin. Schools and universities are often funded by France. Cambodian French, a dialect used by the government is being replaced with English as a business language.

3) Wide variety of plants (including rices) and wildlife. Rice self-sufficiency returned in 2000. Rainforest fell from 70% of Cambodia in 1970 to 3.1% in 2007.

Historical and Geographical Facts:

1) Also briefly known as Kampuchea (1975-1979). Largest city is Phnom Penh. It is the successor state of the powerful Khmer and Buddhist Empire of the 11thC to 14th C. centered in Angkor. Angkor Wat, a major tourist draw, is a religious temple, a reminder of Cambodia’s past as a major regional power.

2) Geography is dominated by the Mekong River and (Lake) Tonle Sap. Most of the country is less than 330 ft (100 m) above sea level, although the center has the highest mountain, Phnom Aoral, elev. 5,948 ft (1,813 m).

3) Bombings during the Vietnam War and dislocations (and genocide) during the Civil War of 1975 created widespread famine and need for reconstruction. "As events in the 1980s progressed, the main preoccupations of the new regime were survival, restoring the economy, and combating the Khmer Rouge insurgency by military and by political means."*

Economic Facts:

1) Main industries are tourism (quickly expanding), fish, textiles, timber and construction. Has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. In 2005, oil and natural gas were discovered, and could affect revenues in 2011.

2) Much of the countryside lacks basic infrastructure, because of years of political instability and severe repeat flooding. There are limited rail lines, and highways and bridges are improving. Automobiles, waterways, ports and airports are having increasing use.

3) Stability has been aided by Japan, France, West Germany, Canada and Australia (and others), but not as much by the United States and Great Britain due to Cambodia's relationship with China, one of its greatest trading partners. Some foreign aid is thought to be channeled into personal accounts, and more transparency is required to achieve greater prosperity.

General Facts:

1) Politics are conducted within the framework of a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary representative democracy. King Norodom Sihanouk has been involved with running the country since 1953 (much of the time) as either King or Prime Minister. In 2004, he abdicated the throne and was replaced by King Norodom Sihamoni (selected by a nine-member throne council).

2) UNICEF designates Cambodia as the third most land-mined country in the world. Considered among the world’s most corrupt country on most lists, 2nd most in South East Asia (with Myanmar) after Laos.

3) Median age is 20.6 years, and half of the population of 14 million is less than age 25.

Further travel information is available at Wikitravel.



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