Cambodia History and Politics
The empire of the Khmer
The first Khmer, Cham and Funanese settlements existed as early as the 4th century. The people mainly settled in the fertile delta of the Mekong River and around Lake Tonle Sap. In the 8th century the Khmer empire expanded. In 802 became Jayavarman II. King and in 889 Angkor the capital of his kingdom. With the construction of the gigantic temple complex of Angkor Wat he showed his power.
The Khmer Empire flourished during this time and it also included parts of today’s Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, which at that time was still called the Empire of Siam. In the 12th century, Angkor was the largest city in the world, with more than a million people living there, a number that was very high for the cities of the 12th century. The Khmer traded with China and India and built important temple cities.
Fight for Angkor
The kings had been Buddhists since the 9th century. Fighting occurred again and again as the other states sought independence from the powerful Khmer Empire. The capital Angkor was conquered and the capital was moved to Phnom Penh, which is still the capital of Cambodia today. Again and again there were fights against Thailand and Vietnam. The Khmer rule ended at the end of the 16th century when their last king was captured by the Thais. From 1840 Thailand and Vietnam ruled together in Cambodia and the formerly powerful empire was facing dissolution.
Cambodia becomes part of Indochina
So the king at the time sought help from France. France had been an important colonial power in the region since 1859 and had already conquered parts of Vietnam. Cambodia came under French protectorate in 1863. Cambodia became a colony and part of French Indochina. The French built plantations and exploited the land for their own ends. At the same time, however, they expanded the traffic routes and improved the country’s infrastructure.
The way to independence
During World War II, Japan occupied all of Southeast Asia. After the war ended in 1945, all treaties with France were terminated and Cambodia declared itself independent. When the Japanese left the country, the British came and then the French again, who re-exerted their influence. It was not until 1954 that French domination in the country was ended at the Indochina conference.
Cambodia’s role in the Cold War
Cambodia tried to remain largely neutral during the Cold War and neither side with the United States nor the Soviet Union and China. But the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which is important for the Viet Cong and on which supplies were transported, also led through Cambodia, a country located in Asia according to physicscat. The Americans felt that the Cambodians were not doing enough against the Viet Cong that the US was fighting.
The Vietnam War in Cambodia
So the Vietnam War came to Cambodia and in 1970 the Sihanouk government was overthrown. General Lon Nol, who took over the government and this in agreement with the Americans, played an important role.
In 1970 the kingship in Cambodia was declared abolished and in 1972 Lon Nol became President of the Khmer Republic. He found support from the United States and South Vietnam.
Drawn into the Vietnam War
From 1969 to 1973 Cambodia was also bombed by the Americans in order to destroy the supply routes of the Viet Cong to Vietnam. Cambodia was part of the Vietnam War and had to watch how much of the country’s agricultural land was destroyed. And many people were killed. The exact numbers are not known, they are between 200,000 and a million people. The people in the country suffered greatly from the bombs and turned away from the US and the Khmer Rouge, from whom they expected help. In 1973 the Americans withdrew, but the conflict between the communist Khmer Rouge and the American-backed government increased.
The reign of terror of the Khmer Rouge
In 1975 the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, was taken by the Khmer Rouge. A large part of the population was killed and many were sent to the countryside to do forced labor in the fields. A reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge followed in which millions of people lost their lives.
The Khmer Rouge established a communist peasant state. Most of the educated people fell victim to their purges. Personal property was abolished, all signs of modernity destroyed, including hospitals. The people were to be re-educated politically and were put into political camps. Religion was banned and women were forced into marriage.
Many people died
So it came about that the economy shrank and food became scarce. Those who did not die directly as a result of the Khmer Rouge often died of starvation or malnutrition and the subsequent diseases. More than three million people are said to have been murdered during this time. This included a large part of the country’s educated upper class.
After the Khmer Rouge came the civil war
But the Khmer Rouge not only directed their attacks on their own people, they also attacked parts of Vietnam. The Vietnamese resisted and in 1978 quickly captured Cambodia and drove out the Cambodian ruler Pol Pot with his army. But the situation did not improve. The newly proclaimed People’s Republic of Cambodia found no support because it was occupied by Vietnam. A civil war broke out. It was not until the late 1980s that the situation was defused.
But the past has not yet been overcome, many people who sit in the government have worked with the Khmer Rouge and are guilty. So the government is doing little against the reappraisal because otherwise it would have to burden people from its own ranks. The country also suffers from the high level of corruption of its government.
King Norodom Sihamoni has been the Cambodian head of state since 2004. However, he doesn’t have much to say. He is elected by a councilor for life. However, the king appoints the cabinet proposed by the prime minister.
Stone Age Communism
The policy achieved by the Khmer Rouge is also called “Stone Age Communism”. They aspired to an agriculturally working people with no education. In order to achieve their goal, educated people in particular were persecuted and murdered. Someone who didn’t have calloused hands from work or just wore glasses was considered educated.