Cambodian History



First Traces

Ceramic shrads found in a cave in northwest Cambodia are among the oldest datable human remains and are around 4,200 years old; some archeologists claim them considerably older. From the mid 2nd millenium BC there are findings of a neolithic culture of people who immigrated from southeast China. Some historians claim that their language was already similar to contemporary Khmer. That's under dispute, though. It's also supposed that these people were the first in Southeast Asia who cultivated rice and performed bronze tools.

Traditional Stilt Houses

Bamboo Huts on Stilts in Cambodia by Asienreisender

Huts on stilts as built thousands of years ago are still widely in use in Cambodia. The drawing has been made by a girl in Kampong Cham. Image by Asienreisender, 2013.

People of the Mon / Khmer group were among the first people living in Southeast Asia and also among the first who adopted to religious ideas, customs, sciences, social institutions and were influenced by language from India and Sri Lanka due to trade activities. Nevertheless, hard archeological evidence for the presence of Khmer People in Southeast Asia date no longer back than to the 6th century AD to artefacts found in the regions east of the Mekong River in Angkor Borei, situated in Cambodia.

The first people in the region lived along the coastline of the South China Sea and moved the Mekong River from it's mouth on upwards inland. The Mekong and it's tributaries were the first transport routes for the early inhabitants. They built already houses on poles as they are to find here still. Rice cultivation, fishing and keeping livestock were the basics for the development of a civilization. Funan, the first Southeast Asian civilization appeared in the area of the mouth of the Mekong River.

A First Vessel

A Hollow Tree as a Boat in Cambodia by Asienreisender

A logboat, a hollow tree as a boat. That's how the very first boats ever looked - it's the prototype of all vessels until today. Seen on Teuk Chhou (also Prek Thom River) near Kampot, south Cambodia. Image by Asienreisender, 2007


Early Civilizations

The first civilization in Southeast Asia was the empire of Funan at the mouth of the Mekong River and along the coastline. It was strongly influenced by Indian culture and came in direct contact with China, Malaya (Malaysia) and Java. Funan's cultural and political climax was reached in the 2nd century AD, in the 4th century it became a Chinese vassal state. In the 5th century the Indian religion Shivaism became state religion. In the 6th century Funan declined parallel to the emerge of the Chenla empire with it's capital Isanapura.

The Chenla empire then broke apart in a northern and a southern part and later in more, smaller units. The Sailendra dynasty from Java took advantage of the decay and brought the coastline under their influence. In 790 AD Jayavarman II, who a few years later became the first king of the Khmer empire of Angkor, could leave from his exile in Java, came back to Chenla and united the separated principalities.


The Khmer Empire of Angkor

The Faces of Bayon

Angkor Thom, Cambodia by Asienreisender

Angkor Thom (Bayon), built in the reign of king Jayavarman VII. Jayavarman was celebrated as a 'Bodhisattva', an enlightened who remains still as a living person on earth for the sake of other beings. Therefore he was revered as a 'god king', what's originally an old Indian concept. 64 of this faces, presumably Jayavarman's own face, oversee Angkor Thom in all directions. Image by Asienreisender, 2006

The beginning of the Khmer empire (the Khmer themselves called it Kampuchea) of Angkor (Angkor = Khmer, means city) is usually dated to 802 AD. It's the coronation date of Jayavarman II to the 'king of kings'. He united the Khmers under his rule, made the empire independent from the Javanese sea empire and founded Hariharalaya, the first capital of Angkor.

The Khmer empire of Angkor was the most important, powerful, sophisticated, longest-lasting, largest, and in long-term most influential empire in Southeast Asia's history. It lasted from the early 9th century on until the early 15th century.

Due to internal strife, in 1177 CE Angkor's then capital Yasodharapura was for the first time captured by foreign troops, an army from Champa, who came up the Mekong River with a great fleet. The Khmer prince and later king Jayavarman VII gathered troops and fought the Chams back in land battles and in a big sea battle on the Tonle Sap (lake) in about 1180 CE. On the spot of Yasodharapura he ordered to build a new capital, Angkor Thom with a new, centrally placed state temple, the Bayon.

War Depiction

War Relief in Angkor Thom, Bayon by Asienreisender

A battle scene of the fight of the Khmer against the Cham. Relief in Angkor Thom (Bayon). Image by Asienreisender, 2006

Another, even bigger threat for Angkor became the new kingdoms of the expanding Thai empires of Sukothai and Ayutthaya from the 13th century on. They both were first Angkorean vasall states, but gained soon independence and expanded into Angkorean territory. Troops from Ayutthaya captured Angkor first in 1359 and a second time, most decisive, in 1431. In the aftermath Angkor became mostly abandoned and the Khmer capital shifted to Phnom Penh. Although Angkor wasn't forgotten and played still a certain, though minor role, most of the Angkorean buildings became overgrown by jungle. The capture of the last Angkorean Khmer king and his deportation into Siamese prisonship in 1594 sealed the end of the more than 600 years lasting history of medieval Angkor.

In it's greatest extension the Khmer empire comprised or at least controlled the nowadays territory of Cambodia, the mouth of the Mekong River, most of Laos and Thailand down until the Kra Isthmus. Economically it based on a highly developed agriculture in the very furtile plains around the Tonle Sap (Lake). Large, sophisticated irrigation systems allowed three rice harvests per year instead of one. Trade with surrounding empires like China bloomed. The religions of the old Khmer changed repeatedly between Hinduism and Buddhism.

See also the main article on the 'Empire of Angkor'.

Painting of Angkor Wat

Painting of Angkor Wat - Asienreisender

The Angkorean culture unfolded an unprecedented building activity. What is called collectively 'Angkor' was a huge city with up to a million inhabitants and a thousand different temples. Several capitals were placed on it's grounds over the time. The central piece of Angkorean architecture is Angkor Wat, the state temple of the medieval Khmer empire, built between 1113 - 1150 AD. Painting seen in Ban Lung, Ratanakiri. Image by Asienreisender, 2013


Decay of the Khmer Empire

The reasons for the decline of the powerful empire of Angkor and it's high developed civilization are not fully clear. There is much speculation about an ecological decline. Angkor was in it's best times inhabited by around a million people and for a time the biggest pre-industrial city in the world. London and Paris were comparably small places. All the area around the huge city was deforested. The canal system might have been affected by sediment deposits. Floods played a role. The construction activity in Angkor ceased from 1327 CE on, supposedly because of the religious change to Theravada Buddhism, and later the excellent irrigation system decayed. Probably the water supplies, who allowed three rice harvests per year, failed. Might be the Tonle Sap was overfished at that time. There are also reports of that the 'black death' affected the region, coming from China and spreat out first along the coastlines and from there into the inner land (reaching Europe in 1345 CE).

Decay over Angkor

Fig Tree overgrowing an ancient Angkorean Building by Asienreisender

A fig tree, overgrowing an entrance gate in Angkor. After the capital shift to Phnom Penh, the jungle came back into the abandoned parts of Angkor. Image by Asienreisender, 2006

After the Ayutthayans sacked Angkor in 1431, Cambodia became a vassal of Siam. It's said that the Siamese brought 90,000 prisoners from Angkor to Ayutthaya, among them the best architects, artists, administration functionaries, clergymen, scientists, craftsmen. This loss was certainly one of at least the secondary reasons for the further and unreversable decline of the formerly so meaningful and mighty empire.

In later centuries the new empire of Annam (Vietnam) also demanded tribut. Annam conquered Cochinchina (nowadays south Vietnam) in the 18th century. In the west Cambodia lost territories to Siam. The now weak country could not cope with the two strong neighbours in the west and the east. It got more and more eaten up by both, being in a 'sandwich' position.


French Colonialization

Angkor became known in the west after explorers like Charles-Emile Bouvillevaux and Henri Mouhot visited the kind of mystical place. Mouhot brought illustrated travel reports and artefacts to Europe (1860) and triggered a wider public interest on it. Such explorations prepared the ground for the French occupation of east Indochina and, as a part of it, Cambodia.

Bokor Hotel & Casino

Bokor Hill Station, Cambodia by Asienreisender

Bokor Hill Station in the Elephant Mountains, south Cambodia. The place was a recreation ressort for the French in colonial Cambodia. The image shows the former Bokor Palace Hotel & Casino, which was surrounded by a recreation infrastructure. The altitude of 1,080m provides a much cooler climate than the tropical lowlands. In the nine month construction time of the place at least 900 workers died. Image by Asienreisender, 2007

In 1863 France declared Cambodia a French 'protectorate'. The French supported the Cambodian king with arms to help him oppressing a rebellion. In reverse they demanded mining rights and made also a contract with Siam concerning a common border east of Siem Reap. The Angkor region was not part of French Indochina until 1909.

In the following years France more and more penetrated east Indochina and firmly established it's colonial rule until 1893. The heart of 'French Indochina' was Vietnam, while Laos and Cambodia weren't that important and rather neglected. In the Cambodian administration the French preferedly put Vietnamese officials, which lead to an enhancement of the old tensions and resentments between Cambodians and Vietnamese.

In 1907 France expanded it's colonies and forced the Siamese out of Siem Reap and Battambang, shaping the nowadays border between Thailand and Cambodia.

In the second World War Cambodia was under Japanese occupation. Thailand, allied with Japan, regained for three years Battambang and Seam Reap, which came back to Cambodia after the war. The French came also back after the war. There was a strong resistance against the French rule as it was in Vietnam and Laos as well. Finally the French had to agree to the independence of all three countries.


Post-Colonial Independence

Phsar Thmei

Phnom Penh's Central Market - Asienreisender

Phnom Penh's central market Phsar Thmei in 1965, before it got electricity and plumbing. Photo seen in a restaurant. Image by Asienreisender, Kampong Cham, 2013

Cambodia became formally independent in 1953. In the following years king Norodom Sihanouk (reigning from 1942 - 2004 with interruptions), aware of the weakness of the country, tried to follow a politics of strict neutrality. Though, Cambodia was again in a sandwich position, this time between south Vietnam and Thailand, both very much under American hegemony now. They set pressure on Cambodia and tried to cut if off from all contacts to communist countries like China, north Vietnam and the Soviet Union (following the then American politics of 'containment').

Sihanouks new post-war politics included a kind of moderate socialism as it happened in many formerly colonized countries after their independence. That seemed to be a way to successfully develop and industrialize the country. Dependence from other countries was to avoid and the local culture should be preserved. That didn't find much acceptance in the USA establishment. In 1959 the USA tried with the help of their allies (dependend states) south Vietnam and Thailand a coup d'etat in Cambodia against the government of king Sihanouk, but failed.

After the beginning of the American Vietnam War the situation in Indochina became instable. Thai troops, but more Vietnamese troops both from the south and the north crossed over the border into Cambodia. Also the US army penetrated Cambodian territory and got involved in combats with Cambodian troops.


Pulled into the Vietnam War

Due to this pressure the politics of neutrality failed. Cambodia now broke off diplomatic relations to the USA and searched for diplomatic relations with north Vietnam and the Vietcongs. The USA refused to acknowledge the Cambodian borders. Although the diplomatic relations between both countries were reestablished in 1969, the Nixon administration ordered carped bombings of parts of Cambodia.

Also inside Cambodia arose opposition. The right wing elities didn't agree with Sihanouk's socialist implications (nationalization of the banks and the export sector), while the intellectuals criticized the corruption which was widely tolerated by the king and stretched all over the administration and all institutions. The simple peasants therefore adored king Sihanouk as godlike.

In 1970, while being abroad, the parliament ousted Sihanouk surprisingly. General Lon Nol took power over. Since he was in close contact to the USA presumably it was a USA-backed regime change. The military complained since long the missing of military and economic aid throught the USA, as Thailand and south Vietnam enjoyed since years.

A few days after Lon Nol's takeover Cambodia declared war on north Vietnam and the Vietcong. King Sihanouk therefore went into exile in Beijing and associated with the Khmer Rouge, who declared him their official leader. China, north Vietnam and the Vietcongs started to equip the Khmer Rouge with arms and to give them military training. Now Cambodia was fully involved into the Vietnam War.

From then on the north Vietnamese didn't need to care anymore for Cambodian neutrality and penetrated the country deeper than before. The Cambodian army could't cope with them. They failed in carrying out two big attacks. In 1971 80% of the Cambodian territory was under control of the Vietcongs.

The Khmer Rouge searched for and gained the support of the country's peasant population. They controlled the communication system and changed the communities into communist cooperatives. After their training and armament from the Vietcongs was completed, first conflicts arouse with them, which led to a separation between the Vietcongs and the Khmer Rouge.

The situation became more and more chaotic. In 1970 20,000 GI's marched into Cambodia, but were withdrawn soon later due to anti-war opposition in the USA against an extension of the Vietnam War. Therefore the American bombing of Cambodian targets became more intesive. Between 1969 and 1973 more than 539,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Cambodia. That was more than the US Air Force dropped on Japan in the Second World War, and cost around 7 billion (7,000,000,000) dollars. Between 200,000 and 1,100,000 million Cambodian civilians were killed by it. The greatest part of Cambodian farmland was destroyed. Still today a great part of Cambodia is contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO).

The USA bombed the Cambodians into the arms of the Khmer Rouge who seemed to be the last and only hope for the forsaken peasants. The bombing also left a great number of war orphants who were recruited by the Khmer Rouge and trained as children soldiers. Also the governmental army took orphaned kids over and forced them into the army. The fighting between army and communists became extremely brutalized, and there are many reports about cannibalism.

After the ceasing of American bombing and the withdrawal of the Vietcongs the conflict became an innercambodian one. It was fed by arm supplies from the USA to the governmental army and Chinese supplies for the communists. At the end, in 1975, Phnom Penh was captured by the Khmer Rouge. The average age of their soldiers was 13 years. The city still counted 2,000,000 inhabitants, among them many refugees (the pre-war population of Phnom Penh was 2,500,000 inhabitants). The Khmer Rouge evacuated them all under violent force to the countryside within three days. After that Phnom Penh was mostly an abandoned ghost city.


Democratic Kampuchea (1975 - 1979)

A part of the Khmer Rouge ideology included the idea of a resurrection of the medieval Khmer empire. That meaned in practise a domestic politics of establishing a Maoistic peasant state which was as independend as possible from outer influences. In terms of foreign politics it meaned an extension of the state borders deep into Vietnamese, Laotian and Thai territories.

Millions of Victims

Killing Fields, Cambodia by Asienreisender

The Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh, where the most executions happened among the population of the capital and the largest mass graves are left. Piles of skulls and bones are still to see in the local museum.

There was probably no regime in world's history that exclusively destructive as the Khmer Rouge. They paid pratically no constructive contribution at all to the Cambodian society. Image by Asienreisender, 2007

At the very first time of their regime the Communists earned still trust among the Cambodian population from the fact that king Norodom Sihanouk was a name on their side. Although Sihanouk was officially the leader of the exile government formed by the Khmer Rouge, his position was meaningless in what followed. From 1976 on the Khmer Rouge leader was Pol Pot.

The Khmer Rouge took immediately after their empowerment a number of measures. First they isolated the country from the outer world. All the means of communication as radio, telephone and others were destroyed or confiscated. Most of the foreign embassies were shut down and the borders closed.

All the inhabitants of cities had to leave their place and migrate to the countryside. Villages were isolated and visitors from one village to another must have a special permit to go. Families were separated; forced marriages were introduced. Children were taught to monitor their parents. Assemblages were forbidden except for the Khmer Rouge themselves.

All Cambodians had to look similar in clothing and haircut. All religion was abolished. All the people were politically indoctrinated in different kinds of schools. Intellectuals (wearing spectacles was already a proof for being 'intellectual') were killed, Chinese and Vietnamese were killed as well. Eating was only allowed in common kitchens; it was forbidden to utter any feelings like laughing, weeping etc; only cheering to the communist party was allowed. No personal possessions were allowed. The people were organized in small working teams of three workers and had to oversee each other; in case of an escape of one the others would be killed. Everybody was addressed as 'comrade', forms of addresses like 'mom', 'dad', 'uncle' and so on were abolished.

Registrated Children

Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng, Cambodia by Asienreisender

Inside Tuol Sleng (also S-21, a former school in Phnom Penh), the notorious interrogation camp, were 16,000 people of all age tortured and killed. On arrival of every prisoner was a photo taken. Practically none of them survived. Image by Asienreisender, 2007

Money was abolished, markets were abolished as well as any kind of exchange of goods. All technical devices were destroyed inclusive medical devices and whole hospitals; only military equipment was kept.

To enhance the rice production new irrigation systems had to be built and therefore jungle had to be cut - this had to be done without any technical devices except hacks and without planning. All the rice paddies were measured in the same size and only one single kind of rice was grown.

All kinds of punishment were abolished except the death penalty. To safe ammunition it was accomplished by putting a plastic bag over a convict's head or by beating him dead with a hack or anything else. The corpses were put on the fields as fertilizer. Prisons were established in which people got interrogated and systematically tortured to death, like the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, a former school in Phnom Penh. The tortures were most bestial. Almost nobody who was in such a prison escaped alive. From Tuol Sleng, in which sixteen thousand prisoners were tortured and killed are only seven cases of survivers reported. As more control the Khmer Rouge gained over the people as more excessively they killed. They prefered to use indoctrinated children as executers for their purposes.

Occasionally revolts evolved - they all were brutally beaten down. The Khmer Rouge were firmly in power.

Tuol Sleng

Tuol Sleng by Asienreisender

One of the buildings of Tuol Sleng. It's not a big place, consisting of three main buildings. Image by Asienreisender, 2007

Because of Cambodia's isolation in this time all the news from the country who came out sounded so weird and unbelievable that it was widely considered as either Vietnamese or American propaganda.

Sporadically the Khmer Rouge attacked Thailand and Vietnam militarily in the border regions, but without success. The aggression was later focused on Vietnam only.

In 1979 Vietnam decided to attack Cambodia militarily in full scale. Within a few days the Vietnamese army reached Phnom Penh and occupied most of the country. The Khmer Rouge fled into the mountainous forests of the Cardamon Mountains and the remote forests of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces. From now on the USA, Thailand and other western countries supported Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in leading a guerilla war against the by the USA itself made-up enemy Vietnam.

In the four years of the Khmer Rouge rule between 1 million and 3 million out of the 8 million Cambodians died under the terrorist regime.


Vietnamese Occupation

Due to the abolishment of all medias the most Cambodians didn't know about the war with Vietnam until the Vietnamese troops arrived. Over night the Khmer Rouge disappeared - in many cases they took slaves out of the local population with them.

Due to all the devastation and chaos in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge rule another 200,000 Cambodians died, mostly because of starvation and the total lack of medical infrastructure.

Air Defence

Anti Aircraft in Cambodia by Asienreisender

After the Khmer Rouge's rule over Cambodia was finished by Vietnamese troops, they retreated into the forests and lead a guerilla war. They got years-long arms supplies from the USA and China. In many places in Cambodia are still old guns and tanks to see. Here anti aircraft in Battambang Province. Image by Asienreisender, 2007

Under massive pressure from the USA, Thailand had to open it's eastern border to allow hundred of thousands of Cambodian refugees coming in. Pictures of mere sceletons appeared in the world news. UNO, Red Cross and other caritative organizations built up refugee camps, sheltering about 300,000 Cambodians. The camps were from outside guarded by the Thai military, from inside by a great deal of - Khmer Rouge, the west's new cronies. Another 350,000 Cambodians lived outside of such camps in Thailand. Around 250,000 went in the following years to European countries or to north America. Most of the others were sent back to Cambodia after the 1992 occupation of Cambodia by the UNO.

After the Vietnamese conquest 225,000 Vietnamese troops were stationed in Cambodia, all the important positions were occupied by Vietnamese. Parallel to that Vietnam implemented a new government which was recruited of former, early Khmer Rouge members, who fled to Vietnam in the time of the political cleansing.

The Vietnamese action against the Khmer Rouge was backed by the Soviet Union, while China, ironically on the same side with the USA, Thailand, the ASEAN states and other western countries backed the Khmer Rouge. They together put pressure on the UN assembly to condemn the Vietnamese occupation, demanded it's withdrawal and didn't acknowledge the new Cambodian government. The UNO seat in New York was given to the Khmer Rouge.

Cambodia became again a playground for the struggle of the superpowers. While the Soviet Union and Vietnam were allied and tied by a friendship agreement, China took action now to punish Vietnam. Chinese troops tresspassed the Vietnamese border and fought against Vietnamese troops. The Americans supplied Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge with weapons for their struggle against the new Cambodian government. Human Rights didn't play a role in the whole affair. Neither the communist dictatorships nor the western democracies gave it the slightest consideration. Factually the Vietnamese intervention saved the life of a hypothetically but certainly great number of Cambodian People. It's not unrealistic to say that the Khmer Rouge terror regime would have destroyed the Cambodian population totally if it would have been in power for a couple of more years.

The American trade embargo against Vietnam was extended on Cambodia, escaped Khmer Rouge were accepted as non-communistic, legitimate resistance fighters against the illegitimate Cambodian government. The Khmer Rouge were by the west acknowledged as the legal government of Cambodia. All their crimes were totally ignored. Due to this fatalities, poverty and hardship in Cambodia couldn't be overcome and more Cambodians died and others had no other choice than to deliver themselves again as working slaves for the Khmer Rouge, of whome some 30,000 were still fighting in the Cambodian forests.

The new reports in the western media triggered a wave of help. But all the western aid like food, medicals, clothes etc. couldn't come into Cambodia. It was therefore directed into the refugee camps in Thailand who where mostly under control of - the Khmer Rouge again.

That's a lively example for the concept of 'human rights' constructed by the western democracies. It's in the tradition of Christianity, which was a legitimation in the times of early colonialization (15th to 17th century) to conquer and punish the godless savages in other parts of the world, followed by the concept of a superiour western civilization (together with racism), which legitimated the established western rule over the colonialized people of Asia, Africa, Latin America. Nowadays it's 'human rights'. Human rights are always a main legitimation for imperial wars and interventions, and what exactly that means is depending on the particular case and defined by the USA. It's a very flexible concept, to say the least.

After more and more information about the genocide in Cambodia came to the western public, pressure grew on the USA government and it couldn't maintain it's support for the Khmer Rouge anymore. In 1982 prince Sihanouk was the by the USA and China and the ASEAN states newly promoted president of the exile government of Cambodia, replacing Pol Pot. And still some Khmer Rouge were in the boat, but now more in the background. The Khmer Rouge still got arms supplies from China, partially still financed by the USA.

In the ten years of the Vietnamese occupation every rainy season the Khmer Rouge guerillas attacked the Vietnamese army in Cambodia, while in the dry season the Vietnamese attacked them in their hideouts.

The 1984 movie 'The Killing Fields', which was watched by a many millions, made the Cambodian genocide known for a broader world public. This movie, as shocking it is, nevertheless didn't have any influence on the politics of the leading western superpower. An Australian proposal to implement an international judicial war crime court was declined by the USA.

A first improvement of the situation came then not by western powers but by the intervention of the president of the Soviet Union, Michael Gorbachev. His diplomatic attempts to normalize the relations between the Soviet Union and China and Vietnam led to a commitment of the Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia in 1990.


The UNO Intervention

After a partial withdrawal of 50% of the Vietnamese troops in 1988 the threat of another take-over of the power by the Khmer Rouge grew considerably. The big powers in the UNO changed their politics now. Prince Sihanouk rejected as exile president and Hun Sen, Cambodias nowadays prime minister replaced him in that role. China ceased it's support for the Khmer Rouge guerilla. Attracted by the economic prospections Thailand changed it's attitude under a new government. The Soviet Union's and France's intervention led to an international agreement that the Khmer Rouge shouldn't have a powerful position in the new Cambodian government anymore. Vietnam withdrew it's remaining troops in 1989. According to official Vietnamese statements the Vietnamese army lost 55,300 casualties in the ten years lasting fight against the Khmer Rouge.


Disarmament in Cambodia by Asienreisender

Disarmament of war participants and fighters had to be done. Certainly there are still many weapons in private hands in Cambodia. Image by Asienreisender, Battambang Province, 2007

Following the power vacuum the remaining Khmer Rouge left their hideouts in the mountains and came over the border from Thailand and took over the province capitals Battambang and Pailin. Repeatedly they attacked other parts of Cambodia and deported working slaves from the population. They were dealing with corrupt Thai generals and got weapons from them in exchange for rice, logging agreements and gemstones.

In the same year, 1989, Australia proposed an UNO occupation of Cambodia and the disarmament of all political parties, followed by elections.

After the civil war between the Khmer Rouge and the new, weak Cambodian government intensified again, from 1992 on the UNO sent international troops into Cambodia. In the next year there were elections (boycotted by the Khmer Rouge) and Cambodia got a new constitution. Norodom Sihanouk became king again. The civil war went on until 1997/1998. Pol Pot were sentenced in a public trial. He was never hold responsible for his deeds and died in 1998 in his hideout in the Cardamom Mountains.

The UNO occupation ended in the same year 1998.

From then on the situation in Cambodia slowly stabilized over the coming years. Sihanouk resigned in 2004, under the pressure of heavy long-term struggles among the different political parties. He was succeeded by his son Norodom Sihamoni.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal

In 2005 an international UN Khmer-Rouge-Tribunal launched a trial against the leading heads of the Khmer Rouge. The first one under trial was Kang Kek Lew (also transcribed as Kaing Guek Eav), called 'Duch', the leader of the interrogation camp Tuol Sleng (S-21). Duch was accused for crimes against humanity, torture and murder in 16,000 cases.

Nevertheless, the still ongoing trial was from the beginning on accompanied by scandals and obstructions from the Cambodian government side. The old Khmer Rouge networks in Cambodia are still very strong and practically in power. It's clearly so that they got away with genocide.

The decade long wars and civil wars are among the major reasons why Cambodia is so comparably undeveloped and poor. In the last years there is little improvement to see. The economic growth is mostly concentrated on Phnom Penh and a very small, rich upper class, together with some international investors. The mass of the Cambodians remain in poverty and under oppression.

Asienreisender Up to the top!

Published on May 14th, 2013

135 | C. History

Last update on July 15th, 2015