Fast Facts

Phnom Penh; 1,157,000
181,035 square kilometers (69,898 square miles)
Khmer, French, English
Theravada Buddhist
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $1,600
Literacy Percent:
Flag: Cambodia
Map: Cambodia

A mostly flat and forested land, Cambodia is a small, compact country. But for more than 500 years, Angkor (in northwestern Cambodia) was the capital of the Khmer Empire, which controlled mainland Southeast Asia from the 9th to the 13th century. Thailand and Vietnam encroached upon the kingdom until 1863, when France made Cambodia a protectorate. Independence came in 1953.

The Vietnam War spilled into Cambodia, igniting conflict, and in 1970 a pro-Western military government overthrew longtime ruler Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Five years later Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrillas began brutally enforcing radical communism, killing some two million Cambodians. After intense border clashes, Vietnam invaded and occupied Cambodia from 1978 to 1989, with up to 200,000 troops. In 1991 three rebel groups and the Phnom Penh government signed a UN-sponsored peace accord. Returned from exile in 1993, Sihanouk became king, leading the new constitutional monarchy.

Coming into the 21st century, Cambodia enjoys relative stability; but subsistence farming employs 75 percent of the workforce and many live in poverty. Cambodians hope that tourism focused on Angkor Wat, meaning "capital monastery," will bring prosperity; it is the largest temple at Angkor—its image is on Cambodia's flag.


  • Industry: Tourism, garments, rice milling, fishing, wood and wood products
  • Agriculture: Rice, rubber, corn, vegetables
  • Exports: Timber, garments, rubber, rice, fish

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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