Cambodia has had a tumultuous history, from being the most powerful kingdom in Southeast Asia between the 9th-12th centuries to the recent tragic genocide where the population was nearly annihilated by Pol Pot in the 1970s.
At its most powerful, the Kingdom of Funan (1st to 6th centuries) covered much of present-day SE Asia and even had contact with the Roman Empire. Funan developed into the state of Chenla (a mass of warring principalities) and was finally replaced by the even more powerful Kingdom of Angkor in the 9th century. The legacy of this era is what draws most visitors to Cambodia; from the 9th to 13th centuries Angkor’s rulers presided over the construction of one of the most astonishing architectural achievements in the world. While more than 100 temples remain, these magnificent structures are but a mere shadow of the fabulous religious capital that once stood here. Hundreds of wooden palaces, houses and public buildings are long gone.
In 1864 the French added Cambodia to their colonies in Indochina. Independence was declared in 1953. In 1969 the war in neighboring Vietnam spilled over into Cambodia, as American and South Vietnamese troops invaded to attack the northern Vietnamese forces operating in Cambodia.
On April 17th, 1975, a Cambodian resistance group, the Khmer Rouge, took control of the capital, and proceeded to implement one of the most destructive campaigns of social re-engineering ever recorded. As the Khmer Rouge wished to create a peasant-led, agrarian cooperative, Cambodia’s cities were forcibly emptied and people were resettled in rural labor camps. Anyone with foreign ties or education was liable to be executed. By the time Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 and overthrew the Khmer Rouge, almost one in five Cambodians was dead.
In the middle of 1993 the United Nations oversaw elections in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge’s leader, Pol Pot, died of natural causes in April 1998.
Today Cambodia is a member of the WTO, ASEAN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The per capita income is rapidly increasing, with tourism and textiles making up the top 2 industries of the economy.