The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Conquest, War, Famine, and Death - have ridden roughshod over Cambodia. During the 1970s this country used to suffered from the twin horrors of war and famine- which made the Vietnamese neighbor call it a land of blood and tears, hell on earth.
So it's really a wonder meeting with the friendliest people of Indochina who have the widest smiles here nowadays. Their willingness to start a new speaks volumes for the resilience of the human spirit. Here's a country starting from scratch, rebuilding its traditions, culture, laws, government and economy. The gruesome past is still around after Khmer Rouge time, thousands people have still been maimed by landmines. As a symbol of reconstruction, the country flies the world's only flag with a building on it the triple towers visible from the causeway at Angkor Wat. All political factions, including the Khmer Rouge, have depicted Angkor Wat on their Cambodia flag. The Cambodian government officially claim all the foreigners use of Angkor as their product brand names as an illegal and unfriendly act. The Foreign Affairs ministry argued that Angkor Wat is the symbol of Khmer national identity. And so it is: Angkor is the cornerstone or Khmer culture, symbol of national pride and past greatness, and inspiration for painting, sculpture, and woodcarving.
Angkor is also a symbol for hope, because it is Angkor that draws tourists, and foreign exchange generated from tourism can help rebuild the economy. Angkor casts its spell over all who visit. Despite the risks of travel - or perhaps because of them, Cambodia is an extraordinary adventure.
A SHORT PROFILE
Country: Kingdom of Cambodia
Cities: Phnom Penh, the capital city, and Siem Reap, 7km from the wonder of Angkor, are the two largest political, cultural and economic centers.
Population: Estimated at 14 million. The Khmer constitute 95% of the population. The remainder is composed of hill tribe groups, Cham, Vietnamese (1%), Chinese (4%), and Thais. The biggest population concentrates in Phnom Penh, with more than one million people.
Area: 181,035 square km, roughly a half of Italy or Vietnam.
Land Borders: North borders Laos, all the East to Vietnam, and shares a long part of North and Northwest borders with the land of Thailand.
Sea Borders: Southwest, to the Gulf of Thailand.
Major Geographic Features: Tonle Sap Lake, Mekong River, Tonle Sap River, Bassac River, Mt. Oral
Tourist Attractions: Angkor Wat, Bayon, Temples of Angkor, National Museum, Royal Palace, Killing Fields, Beaches, Eco-tourism
Language: Khmer, the official language, is a non-tonal language of the Mon Khmer family, enriched by Pali and Sanskrit. English is the second major language, closely followed by French, Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian, are also spoken in Cambodia. Literacy rate is 60%, a legacy of the Pol Pot years.
Religion: Religious people accounts for 95% of the population. Theravada Buddhism was almost annihilated under the 1975 1979 reign of terror of the Khmer Rouge, but it has since been reinstated as the national religion of Cambodia. Minority groups adhere to other religion such as Catholicism (mainly Vietnamese) and Sunni Muslim (Cham).
Government: Constitutional Monarchy. UN-supervised elections in 1993 resulted in a coalition government composed of FUNCINPEC (United Front of an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia) and CPP (Cambodian People Party). The Prime Minister is Hun Sen. King Norodom Sihanouk is the Head of the State.
White triple towers of Angkor set on a red background, edged with blue trim, the symbol of the Khmer culture.
Economy: Agriculture employs about 75% of the workforce. Top exports are timber, rubber, cane furniture and garments.
Festival and official Holidays: The biggest festival is Cambodian New Year in mid-April, similar to Laos and Thai celebrations. In November there are boat races to celebrate the reversing current of the Tonle Sap River with dozens of colorful dug-out row boats compete for prizes and honors.
Most legal holidays fall on the same dates every year. Some holidays such as Khmer New Year, Visakhaboja, Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Prachum Ben and the Water Festival follow the lunar calendar and move a few days forward or back each year. Some holidays which are not legal holidays in Cambodia such as Chinese New Year receive almost as much attention and celebration as legal holidays.
|Jan 01||International New Year Days|
|Jan 07||Victory Day Day|
|Mid Apr||Cambodia local New Year Days|
|May 1||International Labor Day (May Day)|
|Nov 09||Independence Day|
|Mid Nov||Water and Moon Festival|