Cambodia History

Cambodia History

Rise of the Khmer Empire

In the 1st century AD The Fu-Nan Empire, which had close trade relations with China, India and Arabia, originated in the south of today’s Cambodia. In the 6th century this empire was conquered by the Khmer invading from the north, the newly founded empire (598) with the capital Chenla split into a northern and a southern part at the end of the 8th century. The southern empire came under the influence of the Malay Empire Sriwijaya, whose center was on Java. From here, Buddhism entered today’s Cambodia, which finally became the dominant religion in the 13th century.

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In the 9th century, Jayavarman II succeeded in founding a new, unified Khmer empire, the unitary state of Cambodia. Under his successors, the empire extended far beyond the borders of today’s state. The country’s greatest expansion came in the 12th century under Suryavarman II, at which time the famous temple complex Angkor Wat, one of the largest religious buildings in the world, was built. Angkor, capital since 889, had around one million residents around 1200 and was probably the largest city in the world at the time.

French domination

From the 13th century, according to AbbreviationFinder, Cambodia gradually had to hand over its conquered areas to the newly created Thai Sukhothai empire, whose successor Siam conquered the capital Angkor for a short time (1353). The subsequent wars of Cambodia with the Thais and the Cham invading from the northeast further weakened the empire; in 1431 the capital Angkor was again conquered by the Thai and had to be abandoned by the Khmer. The residence was moved to Phnom Penh.

The following centuries were marked by constant clashes between Cambodia and the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand) and the Vietnamese Nguyen kings, with the empire losing more and more territories and weakening them. In order to avoid a total seizure of the country by Siam or Vi¨ºt-Nam, King Norodom I of Cambodia concluded a protectorate agreement with France in August 1864, which had begun subjugating Indochina in the mid-19th century. With the treaty began the colonial period of Cambodia, which was to last until 1954. The protective power took over the administration of the country, French settlers began to build huge cotton and rubber plantations. Both Chinese and Vietnamese were brought in as workers. The kingship remainedhowever, the king had hardly any power of disposal.

In 1887, the French protectorates in Indochina (in addition to Cambodia, South Vietnam / Cochinchina, Central Vietnam / Annam and North Vietnam / Tongking) were combined to form the “Union Indochina” (French Indochina). So in 1893 Laos was annexed.

During the Second World War, Cambodia was occupied by Japan. In March 1945, the Cambodian Prince Norodom Sihanuk, with the consent of the Japanese, declared the country to be independent and all contracts with France to be invalid. After Japan’s defeat in August of the same year, the country remained a French protectorate. The group of the Free Khmer (Khmer Issarak), which had already rebelled against the French occupiers during the Second World War, allied itself with the Communist-oriented Vietminh and continued their guerrilla war against France. In 1949, France granted the country limited sovereignty (within the framework of the French Union). In 1954, the former protective power had to recognize Cambodia’s independence after the Geneva Indochina Conference.

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King Norodom Sihanuk, who was still appointed by the French, initially gave his father Norodom Suramarit royal dignity; after his death in 1960, he took over the government again, but waived the title of king and reigned as president. In the outbreak of the Vietnam War, Cambodia initially tried to remain neutral, but after bombing of Cambodian villages along the border with Vietnam by US planes (the Communist Viet Cong had set up camps here in which they replenished supplies from North Vietnam via the famous Ho Chi Minh Path) Sihanuk broke diplomatic relations with the United States in the late 1960s.

Rule and resistance of the Khmer Rouge

In 1970 there was a coup in Cambodia supported by the United States, while Norodom Sihanuk was overthrown in his absence, and his successor was General Lon Nol. US and South Vietnamese troops march into Cambodia to support the Lon Nol government. In the same year Lon Nol proclaimed the republic “Khmer”. Sihanuk went into exile in Beijing. In Cambodia itself, the struggle of the “Khmer Rouge”, founded in 1966 and supported by North Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China, began against the new government. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge occupied the capital, Phnom Penh. The People’s Republic of Cambodia was proclaimed, the head of state was Norodom Sihanuk, Pol Pot head of government. Sihanuk had to resign just a year later due to criticism of the new government’s course, his successor was Khieu Samphan,

An unprecedentedly cruel phase of re-education of the population to communism and the isolation of the country began: Among other things, the cities were depopulated (residents in Phnom Penh 1974 2.4 million, 1978 about 20 000), the people should be as primitive as possible be shielded from the harmful western influences. Thousands of intellectuals and opposition figures were kidnapped and executed: the Pol Pot regime assumed that the Pol Pot regime would kill up to a million people in 1997 until more mass graves were discovered, and since then the death toll has been estimated at around two million.

At the end of 1978, troops from reunited Vietnam (supported by the Soviet Union) attacked Cambodian territory to overthrow the government there. With their support, the Cambodian “united front for national rescue” overthrew the Pol-Pot regime in January 1979. The Khmer Rouge withdrew to the northwest of the country and started another guerrilla war against the Vietnamese government under Heng Samrin. In 1982, an exile government was formed in Malaysia under the leadership of Norodom Sihanuk, including the Khmer Rouge and supporters of the pro-western Cambodian resistance movement, which was recognized by the UN. In 1989 the last Vietnamese troops withdrew from Cambodia.

There were repeated talks about a joint government between the government in exile and the government in Phnom Penh (Hun Sen since 1985). In 1991, all parties to the civil was signed a ceasefire negotiated by the UN. Sihanuk became leader of a transitional government. In September 1993, free elections were held for the first time in over 20 years under the supervision of a UN peacekeeping force. A new constitution made Cambodia a constitutional monarchy again, and Norodom Sihanuk was crowned king.

The Khmer Rouge, which opposed disarmament by the UN peacekeepers, boycotted the 1993 elections and resumed their struggle against the Cambodian government. The grouping was banned by parliamentary decision in July 1994, at which time there were still around 10,000 fighters. In 1996, a large part of the Khmer Rouge gave up their armed struggle and signed a peace agreement with the government in Phnom Penh, in exchange for an amnesty. The rest of the Khmer Rouge, an estimated 2,000 men, continued to fight.

The country, which was already economically depressed, was further weakened in 1997 by a clash within the government: armed troops of the First and Second Prime Ministers fought bitterly in the capital. In the first parliamentary elections organized by Cambodia in July 1998, Hun Sen’s CPP Socialist Party won 64 of the 122 seats, Hun Sen became Prime Minister, and in 1998 a coalition government of CPP and FUNCINPEC was formed. In December of the same year, the last fighting units of the Khmer Rouge surrendered. The civil war ended after almost 30 years. After the political situation calmed down, Cambodia was accepted as the tenth member of the Southeast Asian group of states ASEAN and resumed its seat in the UN.

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After the civil war

In January 2001, Hun Sen’s promise of amnesty to former Khmer Rouge relatives was canceled by law. In 2003, Cambodia and the UN signed an agreement on a court to prosecute the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge; the first indictment came in July 2007. By mid-2008, several senior Khmer Rouge officials were arrested and charged, including Nuon Chea, chief ideologist, and Khieu Samphan, Khmer leader.

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