The history of Cambodia began in the first
century A.D with the establishment of a State called Funan. Funan is still
renowned as being the oldest Indianized State in the whole of Southeast Asia.
Modern day Khmer customs and language evolved from this period in time.
Sanskrit, which is part of the Mon Khmer family dialect, was the written and
spoken language of that time. The officially known religion began with Hinduism,
which over the years evolved into Buddhism. Distinct characteristics of that
period still remain today. These features can be recognized in ancient
buildings, and ancient farming methods, as well as country clothing.
The State of Funan was situated in what is known today as the southern
province of Takeo and lasted for a period of 600 years. This dynasty gave way to
the powerful Angkor Empire that was eventually responsible for establishing the
Khmer Kingdom, as we know it today.
The following generation of powerful kings that belonged to the Angkorian
dynasty are believed to have come from India and Javanese part of today's
Indonesia. The dynasty reigned for a period of 650 years, and their empire
covered much of South East Asia, as we know it today. Their territory stretched
from Burma, which lies east, to the South China Sea and further north, right up
Khmer kings, during this golden period of rule, built the most ornate and
extensive temples or prasats known to mankind. These spectacular constructions
were built throughout the kingdom, Angkor Wat, is of course the most famous.
Amongst the most successful of the Angkorean kings was Preah Bat Jaya Varman II,
Preah Bat Indra Varman I, Preah Bat Surya VarmanII, and Preah Bat Jaya Varman
VII. Besides building the most majestic prasats on earth, they were also
responsible for huge agricultural feats of engineering which included
sophisticated irrigation systems, great water reservoirs, and countless canal
systems that guaranteed food transport. Some of these systems are still in use
Angkor became the capital of a great kingdom and the centre for
government, education, religion, and commerce. However, in the late 13th century
a sudden shift of power took place. Angkor was invaded and eventually,
completely ravaged. Mankind’s most predominant creation on earth was plunged
into total destruction. The entire population and wealth of a once proud
civilization was abandoned and covered by tropical forest.
Following the abandonment of Angkor, Cambodia's capital population
migrated south to Long Vek, then further to Ou Dong, and eventually to Phnom
Penh. The destruction of the mighty Angkorian capital also caused a decline,
adaptation, and eventual replacement of Hinduism. Theravada Buddhism became the
From the 15th century to the 17th century, Cambodia often found itself
encroached by neighboring Thai and Vietnamese forces. They resisted, but
eventually succumbed to a European colonial power. In 1863, Preah Bat Norodom
signed a Protectorate Treaty which France, which consequently placed Cambodia
under French rule for the next 90 years.
After the death of Preah Bat Norodom in 1904, Preah Bat Sisowath, cousin
to King Norodom, was subsequently crowned as the new king of Cambodia.
However, the throne returned to the Norodom family with the following
coronation of Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk, our current monarch, in 1941. At that
time he was only 18 years old.
Shortly after that, during the Second World War in 1945, the Japanese
ousted the French. King Norodom Sihanouk took the opportunity to free Cambodia
from foreign control. For many years following, His majesty campaigned
tirelessly for this objective, and was eventually rewarded. Cambodian was
granted its independence in 1953. The Independence ceremony marked the end of 90
years of French protectorate rule. In 1959, King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated the
throne, turning the position of Kingship over to his father, Preah Bat Norodom
Soramarith. Then, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, became the Head of State and ruled
From 1950 through to 1970, the Kingdom of Cambodia was self-sufficient and
prosperous. It excelled in many areas of development. Cambodia was then known as
the jewel of the Orient. Unfortunately the prosperity was very short lived. As
war started to escalate in Vietnam, Cambodia's borders increasingly became the
targets of American and Vietnamese aggression. On March 18th , 1970, General Lon
Nol, backed by the Americans, overthrew the Head of State Prince Norodom
Sihanouk. Consequently, Cambodia became deeply involved in the war, fighting
mainly against the Communist Khmer fighting faction, the Khmer Rouge. Lon Nol's
control over Cambodia's government lasted for a period of barely five years,
being eventually overthrown by the Khmer Rouge, headed by Pol Pot on the 17th of
History repeated itself once again as soon as Pol Pot invaded. The entire
population evacuated the city leaving a once vibrant capital in ruin and decay.
After the evacuation, The Khmer Rouge tricked Prince Norodom Sihanouk in to
returning to Phnom Penh to be Head of State, but he was not allowed to Phnom
Penh to be Head of State, but he was not allowed to leave the Palace walls-in
effect he was placed under house arrest. The Khmer Rouge then proceeded to
implement a “reign of terror” on Cambodia's entire population. People were
brutally forced to work as slaves in the rice fields. These people had to endure
long periods of hard, painful labor while effectively being starved at the same
time. Pol pot's Kampuchean force labor camps tortured, killed or starved to
death an estimated 2 million people, including women and children who they
savagely put to death indiscriminately.
In 1979, The People's Republic of Kampuchea, supported by Vietnamese,
liberated the capital. This presented the opportunity for the country to become
re-established once again. Throughout the 1980's, Cambodia, with the assistance
of the Vietnamese re-built their economy.
In1989, the Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia and the country was re-named
"State of Cambodia." In 1991, a Paris Peace Accord created the United Nations
Transitional Authority (UNTAC) which was backed by some 22,000 United Nations
troops to prepare the first, free and fair general election. In May 1993 UNTAC
supervised Cambodia's first general election. Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk Was
subsequently re-instated as King. A second general election was held in July
Today, the Kingdom of Cambodia is once again a peaceful place to visit. It
is, at present, in the process of getting rebuilt. Cambodia now in-corporates a
Parliamentary Government system, with His Majesty Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk
Varman, King and Head of State; H.E. Samdech Chea Sim, President of the Senate;
H.R.H. Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh, President of the National Assembly
and H.E. Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister. His Majesty effectively remains the
symbol of national unity for the people of Cambodia who hold him dear to their
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