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Introduction: Most Cambodians consider themselves to be Khmers, descendants of the Angkor Empire that extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its zenith between the 10th and 13th centuries. Attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day Vietnam) weakened the empire, ushering in a long period of decline. The king placed the country under French protection in 1863 and it became part of French Indochina in 1887. Following Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia gained full independence from France in 1953. In April 1975, after a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh and evacuated all cities and towns. At least...

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Economic Overview: Cambodia's economic infrastructure was devastated by the civil war of the early 1970s and the rule of the KR between 1975 and 1979. Cambodia's diplomatic isolation also stifled growth in the first half of the 1980s. Growth accelerated in the late 1980s with the government's gradual move towards free market economic policies.

Cambodia remains one of the world's least developed countries, with an estimated GDP per capita in 2010 of US$795. In spite of some recent diversification, the Cambodian economy is predominantly agriculturally-based.

Cambodia has a relatively open trading regime, and acceded to the ...

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People and Culture: Ninety percent of Cambodia's population is ethnically Cambodian. Other ethnic groups include Chinese, Vietnamese, hill tribes, Cham, and Lao. 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 ...

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International Relations: Relations with Neighbours

Since Cambodia joined the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1999, its foreign policy has been largely regionally-focused, and Cambodia generally enjoys cordial bilateral relations with all its regional neighbours.

Relations with Thailand, however, are complicated by a border dispute in the region of the Preah Vihear temple. The International Court of Justice has ruled that the temple is in Cambodian territory, but Thailand continues to contest the line of the border. Tensions increased following Cambodia’s successful bid to have the temple declared a UNESCO ...

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Archaeological evidence indicates that parts of the region now called Cambodia were inhabited during the first and second millennia B.C. by peoples having a Neolithic culture. By the first century A.D., the inhabitants had developed relatively stable, organized societies, which had far surpassed the primitive stage in culture and technical skills. The most advanced groups lived along the coast ...

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Area Handbook Series
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