is known of the early history of Cambodia, although
there is evidence of habitation in parts of the
country as far back as 4000BC. Much of Cambodia
is strewn with staggering artifacts of the dynasty
that ruled throughout the 12th and early 13th
centuries, based at the famous temple complex
of Angkor Wat. These temples are regarded as some
of the most astounding architectural creations
worldwide. Large and intricate balustrades, pillars
and causeways loom out of surrounding jungle.
Yet these monuments are also a wistful chronicle
of Cambodia's comparable fall into ruin: by the
end of the
15th century, Angkor had been abandoned.
the magnificence of Cambodia is now marred by
unexploded landmines and dangerous roads, largely
abandoned by tourists until quite recently. Khmer
Rouge Communist guerrillas took control of Cambodia
in 1975 with Prime Minister Pol Pot at the helm.
Pol Pot manufactured a unique ideology based on
elements of Maoist thought and Medieval quasi-mysticism,
rooted in the history of the Angkor state. ‘Year
Zero’ was established in 1975, under which Cambodia
was to be converted into a pure Communist state
centered on basic agricultural production. Currency
was abolished, intellectuals purged, churches
and temples destroyed and thousands of urban dwellers
driven into the countryside for ‘re-education’
and primitive labor. The outcome was a regime
of horrific brutality, which was responsible for
another of the 20th century’s genocides – it is
estimated that one third of the population died
during the four years of Khmer Rouge rule.
tourists are now beginning to return to Cambodia.
Pol Pot died of natural causes in 1998 and his
death seemed to symbolise a collective 'moving
on'. Following the overthrow of the Khmers by
the Vietnamese army, Phnom Penh, a ghost city
under the Khmer Rouge, was re-populated by 1982.
Although Cambodia drifted in and out of penury
and semi-chaos during the 1980s, 1998 was also
the year that Cambodia would finally comply with
the international community and was reinstated
as a member of ASEAN. Cambodians have also regained
pride in their country, which is as beautiful
as it ever was: for the traveller who seeks it,
there is sprawling jungle, verdant fields, snaking
rivers and golden beaches. Cambodia remains afflicted
by poverty and authoritarian regimes that hide
behind the veneer of democratic practice but for
those who dare believe in it, there is also hope.
shares borders in the north with Laos and Thailand,
in the east with Vietnam and in the southwest
with the Gulf of Thailand. The landscape comprises
tropical rainforest and fertile cultivated land
traversed by many rivers. In the northeast area
rise highlands. The capital is located at the
junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The
latter flows from a large inland lake, also called
Tonle Sap, situated in the center of the country.
There are numerous offshore islands along the