|General background: Following a five-year struggle,
Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in
1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns;
over 1 million displaced people died from execution
or enforced hardships. A 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove
the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and touched off
13 years of fighting. UN-sponsored elections in 1993
helped restore some semblance of normalcy, as did the
rapid diminishment of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1990s.
A coalition government, formed after national elections
in 1998, brought renewed political stability and the
surrender of remaining Khmer Rouge forces.
Area comparative: Slightly smaller than Oklahoma
Climate: Tropical; rainy, monsoon season
(May to November); dry season (December to April); little
seasonal temperature variation.
Mostly low, flat plains; mountains in southwest and
Ethnic groups: Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese
1%, other 4%
Religions: Theravada Buddhist 95%, other 5%
Language: Khmer (official) 95%, French, English
Government type: Multiparty democracy under
a constitutional monarchy established in September
Capital: Phnom Penh
Legal system: Primarily a civil law mixture
of French-influenced codes from the United Nations
Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) period,
royal decrees, and acts of the legislature, with influences
of customary law and remnants of communist legal theory;
increasing influence of common law in recent years.
Economic overview: Cambodia's economy slowed
dramatically in 1997-98 due to the regional economic
crisis, civil violence, and political infighting.
Foreign investment and tourism fell off. In 1999,
the first full year of peace in 30 years, progress
was made on economic reforms and growth resumed at
5%. GDP growth for 2000 had been projected to reach
5.5%, but the worst flooding in 70 years severely
damaged agricultural crops, and high oil prices hurt
industrial production, and growth for the year is
estimated at only 4%. In 2001, severe floods damaged
an estimated 15% of the area devoted to rice. Tourism
now is Cambodia's fastest growing industry, with arrivals
up 34% in 2000 and up another 40% in 2001 before the
September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. The long-term
development of the economy after decades of war remains
a daunting challenge. The population lacks education
and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden
countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack
of basic infrastructure. Fear of renewed political
instability and corruption within the government discourage
foreign investment and delay foreign aid. On the brighter
side, the government is addressing these issues with
assistance from bilateral and multilateral donors.
Communication/Telephone system: Adequate landline
and/or cellular service in Phnom Penh and other provincial
cities; rural areas have little telephone service,
adequate but expensive landline and cellular service
available to all countries from Phnom Penh and major
provincial cities; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik
(Indian Ocean region).
Places of interest: Ancient temples, empty
beaches, mighty rivers, remote forests ... and (outside
Angkor) only a handful of tourists.
Travel tips: Visitors are advised to avoid
demonstrations and political gatherings, and to generally
exercise caution. Cambodia remains one of the world's
most heavily landmined countries, with an estimated
four to six million UXOs dotted around the countryside
waiting to be detonated.