Cambodia has a rich history dating back thousands of years. What was life like in ancient times? How did the Khmer Empire develop into its current state?
Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand. The country covers only 632 square miles (1,611 km2) and has a population of around 16 million.
Cambodia Facts for Kids
- 16.72 million people live in Cambodia
- Major Industries are tourism, fishing, and gem mining.
- The main religion is Buddhism.
- It has a total area of 69,898 square miles.
- Phnom Aural is Cambodia’s highest mountain.
Cambodia is known as “the land of smiles.” But it’s also home to some of the world’s most endangered wildlife. There are more tigers here than anywhere else in Asia outside India.
There are also leopards, elephants, gibbons, rhinos, bears, crocodiles, and even rare birds like the giant hornbill and the white-winged duck. And while much of the country is still covered in dense forests, Cambodia’s forests are being lost rapidly. Today, less than 5% of Cambodia’s original forest cover remains.
Cambodia’s relief map is divided into four zones:
1. Central Plain
2. Transitional Plains
3. The Eastern Highlands
4. The Western Highlands
The relief map of Cambodia covers areas ranging from the low-lying alluvial plain in the center to the rugged mountain ranges along the borders of Thailand and Laos. The map provides general information about landforms, topography, soils, hydrology, vegetation, climate, and human settlement patterns.
The Cambodian landscape is defined by the Mekong River, which flows southward across the country’s center. In the north lies the Tonle Sap Lake, fed by the mighty river, while the tropical forests of the Cardamom Mountains rise in the east. The climate varies widely from region to region: the southern plains are hot and dry, the lowlands around the Mekong delta are humid and wet, and the mountains provide cool relief from the summer heat.
Most of Cambodia’s soils are sandier than those in Thailand and Vietnam. Soils are classified into three categories based on texture and nutrient content.
Also known as krom, is largely composed of reddish clayey silt. These soils are well drained and fertile. They occur mainly in the central parts of the country, where rainfall averages about 2,500 millimeters per annum.
Also called khléng consists mostly of yellow loess. This type of soil is deep and heavy. It occurs throughout much of the country except along the coast.
Also called chhay krom is similar to red soil but contains less clay and more iron oxide. It is common in the highland regions of Ratanakiri province and Mondulkiri province.
Cambodia’s fertile soils make agriculture possible even though the country has one of the lowest levels of agricultural productivity in Southeast Asia.
Agricultural production is concentrated in the southern provinces of Kampot, Kandal, Koh Kong, Pursat, Preah Sihanouk, Svay Rieng, Takeo, and Mondulkiri. Rice is grown almost exclusively in the southern half of the country. Other important cash crops include cassava, sugarcane, coffee, and tea.
Livestock raising is another major source of income. Pigs and poultry are raised primarily for meat consumption, whereas cattle are used for milk and leather products. Beef exports account for most of the value added from livestock.
The Khmer people constitute about 75% of Cambodia’s population, making it the most populous state in Southeast Asia. Although there is no consensus on the exact number of Cambodian inhabitants, estimates range from 10 million to 15 million, depending on how many people live outside the country. In addition, some experts estimate that up to five million refugees remain displaced within Cambodia.
The Khmer language belongs to the Austroasiatic family of languages, which includes Burmese, Thai, and Malay, and several tribal languages are spoken in India. The Khmer language is written in Latin script.
The Khmer language is one of many languages spoken in Cambodia. It is the most widely used language there. Many Cambodians are fluent in the language, which is often considered the national language. This might sound contradictory since the country is also home to several ethnic groups speaking different languages. However, the Khmer language is the lingua franca of Cambodia, and even though some speakers of minority languages use it, they generally don’t consider themselves Khmers.
Cambodia is officially bilingual, although English is commonly taught in schools. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people still speak Khmer.
Plant and animal life
Cambodia covers about one-sixth of the Indochinese Peninsula. Its terrain includes mountains, hills, rivers, lakes, swamps, savannas, dense tropical forests, temperate forests, and arctic tundra. The climate varies considerably across the country.
Most of the land area lies within the tropics, where temperatures average around 90°F (32°C), although some regions near the coast that experience cooler weather. Rainfall is heaviest in the south, especially during the wet season from May to October.
The country lies entirely within the monsoon belt. During most of the year, heavy rains fall over the southern half of the peninsula, including the Mekong Delta, the Tonlé Sap River basin, and the provinces bordering Thailand. Monsoonal winds blow inland from November to April.
In general, the vegetation consists of broadleaf evergreens, conifers, and flowering shrubs. Tropical species predominate in the south. Evergreen forests cover most of the western highlands, and montane forests occur throughout the rest of the country. Mangrove swamps cover parts of the coastline.
Plant and animal life
Cambodia’s flora and fauna range from tropical rainforest to savannah grassland to mountain jungles. The country contains some 2,500 species of flowering plants. About 1,400 of those are endemic—found nowhere else in the world.
The country’s wildlife includes about 400
- Wild boars
There are over 300 bird species, mostly resident birds, but there are also migratory species.
- Monitor lizards
- Tree frogs
Cambodia’s population is growing rapidly, from 7 million in 1975 to more than 16 million today. While most Cambodians are ethnic Khmers, there are significant numbers of Vietnamese, Chinese, Cham Muslims, and European expatriates.
Cambodia ranks among the world’s least developed countries regarding health care, education, infrastructure, and economic opportunity.
The Cambodian capital Phnom Penh lies in the tropics, with a hot and humid climate throughout most of the year. The city receives around 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, and temperatures are generally high, averaging 25°C (77°F) during the day and 15°C (59°F) at night. Rainfall is heaviest during the summer, although it does occur throughout the year. Phnom Penh experiences some of the wettest weather in Southeast Asia.
Precipitation varies from 0.5 mm (0.02 inches) in January to almost 300 mm (12 inches) in October. This makes the average annual precipitation about 740 mm (29 inches). However, heavy downpours can occur during the rainy season, especially during July–October.
History of Cambodia
Cambodia has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Some artifacts indicate human settlements dating back at least 7,500 years ago. Archaeologists believe that the Khmer civilization began around 800 BC. This ancient culture flourished until it collapsed in 1431 AD, following the invasion of Angkor Wat by the Cham people.
The Khmers rebuilt their empire under Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181 to 1219. His son, Suryavarman I, continued his father’s work, expanding the kingdom into what became known as Indochina. He built temples and palaces throughout the region and established relations with China and India. In 1350, he died without an heir, and the throne passed to his brother, Thong.
After ruling for five years, he abdicated in favor of his nephew, Jayavarman VIII, who reigned for 30 years. During his reign, the capital city moved several times. By the 15th century, however, the Khmer Empire had declined due to foreign invasions.
In 1866, the French invaded Cambodia and forced King Norodom to sign a treaty granting France control over most of the country. In 1953, the French returned the area to Cambodia but retained sovereignty over Phnom Penh.
More Facts about Cambodia
- Cambodia, officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a sovereign country located on the Indochinese mainland of South East Asia.
- The term Indochinese is derived from India and China, which is an allusion to the influence of Indian and Chinese culture in the area.
- The official language of the country is Khmer.
- Cham and French are the other spoken languages.
- The country’s neighbors is Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, and Vietnam to the east.
- Cambodia gained its independence from France in the year 1953.
- The surface area of Cambodia is 181,035km2, making it larger than the European countries of Greece and Denmark combined.
- 95% of the country’s population practices Theravada Buddhism which is the official religion of the country. The majority of the population of neighboring countries of Burma, Thailand, and Laos also profess the same religion.
- There are many mountains in Cambodia, the tallest of which is the Phnom Aural, standing at 5,948 ft., the second being the Phnom Samkos at 5633ft. other notable mountains include Phnom Tumpor Dângrêk Phnom Kmoch Phnom Santuk and the Phnum Khmaaoch.
- There are 60 islands in Cambodia’s coastal waters. Some of the islands include the Islands of Koh Rong, Koh Rong, Sanloem Koh, Ta Kiev, Koh Thme, Koh Thonsá, Koh Russei, Koh Tang, Koh Pring Phú Quốc, Koh Kong and Koh Puos Koh.
- Cambodia is a low-income-earning country, its main export partners are Main export partner are United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Canada, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Its main import partners include Thailand, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Russia.
- Rivers in Cambodia include Mekong Kong River, Tonlé San, Tonle Sap River, Sangkat River, Mongkol Borei River, Kah Bpow River, Siem Reap River, Saigon River, and Steung Saen River.
- The administrative and political capital of the country is Phnom Penh, the beautiful capital city is situated on the banks of the Tonlé Sap, Mekong, and Bassac rivers, and is home to about 1.5 million of Cambodia’s population. The city was once known as the “Pearl of Asia,” and was built by the French, who colonized the country in 1434. The city is popular for its array of beautifully constructed historical buildings that are also some of the best architectural masterpieces found throughout Asia.
- Based on the United Nations estimate, the current population of Cambodia as of Thursday, August 2, 2018, is 16,264,863 making the country’s population to be equivalent to 0.21% of the total world population.
- Cambodia ranks number 72 in the list of countries by population.
- The 2008 National Population Census puts adult literacy rate at 77.6%.
- The Khmer are the largest of the ethnic group in Cambodia, they make up about 90% of the total population and they inhabit the central plains lowland and the Mekong sub-region.
- The other ethnic groups are classified as “non-indigenous ethnic minorities” or “indigenous ethnic minorities”. The indigenous ethnic minorities are the ChamsJarai people, Pnong people, Khmer Loeu, Stieng people, Chinese Cambodian, Vietnamese Cambodians, Mnong people, Tampuan people, Pear people, Cambodian Hokkien, Brau people, and the Pearic people.
- Cambodia suffered from a devastating civil war when the Khmer Rouge, a communist guerrilla organization that opposed the Cambodian government in the 1960s waged a civil war and took over power in 1975. Communism is a political and economic system where the community owns all property, and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs. Communism frowns at private ownership of property. The adherents of communism are called communists.
- After the communist party of took over power, they sought to establish a classless society based on agriculture, Pol Pot whose real name is Saloth Saralso was appointed as the party and country’s leader in 1963. During his infamous rule Human Rights abuses were the order of the day, about 90% of the population were forcefully sent to work on rice cultivation farms. Public buildings were converted into prisons. Around two million people died from starvation, forced labor, and other forms of violence during the dark period of Cambodia’s history.
- Cambodia is home to a diverse range of wild animals, 212 mammal species, 536 bird species, 176 reptile species (including 89 subspecies), 850 freshwater species, and 435 marine fish species found throughout the country.
- Cambodia hosts the Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building, and is considered one of the world’s wonders.
- Gemstones, phosphates, timber, iron ore manganese are found in the country.