Angkor Wat

History of Cambodia

The long history of Cambodia began with the first Khmer empire called Funan known not only as Khmer’s but also as southeast Asia’s oldest state. And it seems like today’s Khmer customs and culture are, though not much, influenced by such a great dynasty.

Established in the first century, Funan is believed to have followed the Indian civilization and thus used Sanskrit as the written and spoken language and Hinduism as the formal religion. The prosperity of Funan Dynasty lasted approximately 600 years before passing to another kingdom of Chenla and then to the powerful Angkor Empire whose reputation and legacy visually remained till the present day.

Angkor Empire is most renowned for its spectacular temples huge in size built throughout the territory that covered almost what is currently South East Asia. The extreme power of Angkor is marked on top of the list of all other periods in Cambodian history thanks to most successful kings like Preah Bat Jaya Varman II, Preah Bat Indra Varman I, Preah Bat Surya VarmanII, and especially Preah Bat Jaya Varman VII.

Angkor, a state with the most predominant creations on earth, began to develop aggressively in all areas, especially agricultural and architectural field that included intricate irrigation systems, water reservoirs, and countless magical and religious temples that in turn brought about a unique civilization to Khmer people. Unfortunately, No one stays on the top forever, and Angkor is no exceptional case.

The golden age of Angkor era lasted peacefully and proudly for about 650 years before an immediate fall down after the death of the most achieved and famous king Preah Bat Jaya Varman VII in the 13th century, which marked the sudden shift of Angkor’s power. Not long after the loss of the king came the invasion from Siam(Thai) on the west frontier and the Annam on the east, which left the kingdom insecure for centuries. The war then continued further enough for Cambodia to loss three western provinces to Siam and Cochin China to the Annam in 17th century.

The continually invaded Angkor later, not surprisingly, experienced an abandonment as the whole Cambodian capital population migrated to the new city of Long Vek where had been home to the sympathetic Khmer empire until it was captured by Siam in 1594. Shortly thereafter, the Cambodian capital was transferred to Oudong and then Phnom Penh eventually.

Tensions and wars in Cambodian territory continued till 19th century when the king Norodom signed a Protectorate Treaty with France in 1863, which ensured to keep Cambodia into existence with no more threat from the neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. Following the king Norodom’s death in 1904, the thrown was passed to his cousin, Preah Bat Sisowath before returning to the 18-year-old Norodom Sihanouk in 1941.

A few years later during the Second World War in 1945, King Sihanouk took the advantage of French’s defeat to Japanese, working tirelessly for years to earn Cambodia independency on its own. Consequently, his devotions had been rewarded as Cambodia was granted the full independence in 1953, which made his name, Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk, place in the most successful kings list of Cambodia’s history.

After its independence granted, Cambodia seemed to enjoy the wealth of peace once again under the rule of King Sihanouk. However, the prosperous period sadly ended as soon as King Sihanouk was overthrown by General Lonol in 1970. Since then, the country had become completely chaotic and involved in series of civil wars before the communist forces, known as Khmer Rough, seized the power from the American-backed government in 1975 and made the situation even worse.

Khmer Rough government, headed by Pol Pot, wasting no time, began to implement a genocidal reign by evacuating all city residents from their home and making an entire population work as slaves in farming fields. People were forced to work from dawn till dark with inadequate food and care. The pain and sorrow are beyond descriptions; while some were tortured or starved to death, others died of curable diseases. Finally, 2 millions of lives were estimated to have been lost during this 3-year-8-month-20-day period.

In 1979, the genocidal regime came to an end thanks to the intervention from Vietnam troops. After attacking Khmer Rough and liberating the capital, Vietnam established a 10-year protectorate in Cambodia. Then throughout the 1980’s, Cambodia backed by Vietnam rebuilt the whole nation.

Following the withdrawal of Vietnamese, under the peace agreements signed in Paris in 1991, Cambodia was granted the warm protection from United Nations troops to prepare the first, free, and fair general election in 1993. Since then, Cambodia has become a constitutional monarchy under the rule of coalition government. There were also two other general elections held in 1993 and 1998 that were supervised by the Cambodian government on its own.
Today, Cambodia is in general sense considered a safe and fascinating country to explore for every traveler. In the process of the vast development, Cambodia’s economy was supported by the 2 important sectors of garment and tourism industry as well as the indispensable sources of foreign aids.