Cambodia History

Cambodia History

The ancestors of the Cambodians, the Mon and Khmer peoples, moved to Southeast Asia before our era, probably from the north, arriving before the residents of neighboring territories: Vietnamese, Laotians and Thais. The adoption of the culture of India transformed the first kingdom of Cambodia, by providing a system of writing, architectural styles, religions (Hinduism and Buddhism), the concept of god-king (deva-raja) and a highly stratified class system.

First state fear

Funan, the first kingdom to occupy present-day Cambodia, was formed in the 1st century, probably by the Mon-Khmer peoples. The Funan culture came mainly from India. Its port, Oc Eo, on the Gulf of Thailand, served as a large exchange link between China and India. The kingdom of Chenla, located northeast of the Tônlé Sap, was originally a vassal state of Funan, but was conquered in the 6th and 7th centuries. In 706, however, Chenla split into two parts. The northern half, Chenla of the land, located in the northern reaches of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and the high plateaus of central Annam, while the southern half, called Chenla of the water, in the area of present-day Cambodia, maritime and close to the Malay world, fell under the sovereignty of Java.

He was Angkorian

With the reign of Jayavarman II (802-850) the Angkor era in Khmer history began, as well as the development of the great Khmer kingdoms. At the beginning of the 9th century he returned from exile in Java, rejected the claims of the Javanese kingdom of Srivijaya, and consolidated the cult of the god-king. The great temples of the Angkor era were built by their successors to contain their royal lingas, the phallic emblems of the Hindu god Siva. The kings of Angkor ruled most of Southeast Asia until the early 15th century. Its capital was the center of a network of reservoirs and canals that controlled the supply of water for rice cultivation and allowed the residents to produce a surplus of wealth to finance wars and monumental buildings. During the 12th and early 13th centuries, King Jayavarman VIII built hospitals and rest homes on the roads that crossed his kingdom.

According to bridgat, the first signs of imperial weakness could be seen in the rebellions of the twelfth century, which had their origin in the excessive demands of the rulers on their people and in the abandonment of the irrigation system. Epidemics of malaria, plagues and other diseases affected the population. The introduction of Theravada Buddhism (which taught that everyone could hope to achieve spiritual advancement through meditation) may also have contributed to the overthrow of the Angkor regime and its rigid social order. The loss of control in the Chao Phraya river basin, in present-day Thailand, meant a further weakness of the Angkor empire.


After Thailand (or Siam, as it was called then) defeated Angkor in 1431, the Cambodian court moved south to Phnom Penh. Despite the continuing enmity with Siam in the west, daily life in the interior of Cambodia changed little until that country took Phnom Penh in 1594 and established a degree of political control. Vietnam’s small advance south reached the Mekong Delta a few years later. In 1620, the Khmer King Chetta II (who reigned between 1618 and 1625) married a Vietnamese princess and allowed Vietnam to lift a series of customs at the site of present-day Ho Chi Minh City. (ancient Saigon). Later, Siam and Vietnam each attempted to control the Khmer kingdom through military occupation and the enthronement of manageable monarchs.

French empire

In 1863, France rapidly expanded into Indochina, and intervened to slow the process of Cambodia’s dismemberment by Vietnam and Siam, by proclaiming a protectorate over the country. French rule in Cambodia, nominally indirect, was exercised through advisers whose word was decisive in relevant matters. The Cambodian monarchy was maintained and a Khmer civil administration was gradually formed. Roads, port infrastructures and other public works were built, with an emphasis on internal security and the export of rubber and rice. The restoration of a vast religious complex at Angkor Wat in the 1930s it helped rekindle the pride of the Khmer people in their past. During World War II, when Japanese forces were allowed into Indochina in 1940, the submissive French administration left the region. On the brink of defeat in 1945, the Japanese removed their French collaborators and installed a nominally independent Khmer government under the young king, Norodom Sihanuk. France quickly reestablished its control after the war, but Sihanuk gained full independence for his country in 1953.

Modern state

Two years later King Sihanuk abdicated in favor of his father. However, he retained the title of prince, which made him maintain an aura of majesty and greater freedom to lean on the urban ruling class, who wanted to monopolize the highest political positions. Sihanuk had his support and organized a popular movement whose centers of action were in the most important cities. Foreign powers, such as the United States, the Soviet Union, and China Seeking influence in the region, they maintained relationships with Sihanuk, leading them to compete for the privilege of directing Cambodia’s development aid. His diplomatic success increased Sihanuk’s political control in the interior of the country. For more than fifteen years it kept Cambodia relatively away from the violent upheaval in neighboring Vietnam. However, he was unable to prevent the breakdown of Cambodia’s neutrality by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces in the Vietnam War.

1970 coup

In March 1970, while Sihanuk was abroad, his prime minister, General Lon Nol, seized power, declared Cambodia a republic, and sent his army to fight the Vietcong in the border areas. The defeat of the North Vietnamese inside Cambodia also had the support of the American troops and the South Vietnamese. For the next two years the Vietnam War spread to Cambodia. The United States and Vietnam The South armed Lon Nol’s army especially with planes and military advisers, hoping to alleviate the Saigon regime. Meanwhile, Khmer Communist Party guerrillas, known as Khmer Rouge, were fighting the Lon Nol regime. They were aided by the North Vietnamese and by Prince Sihanuk, who had found asylum in China. Hundreds of thousands of peasants sought the relative safety offered by the cities under Lon Nol’s control.

Khmer genocide and Vietnamese domination

In April 1975, just before the fall of Saigon by the North Vietnamese attack, the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh. His regime, headed by Pol Pot, forcibly transferred the entire urban population to rural areas, where death was the punishment for disobedience of orders or even manifesting bourgeois origins or conditions. The Khmer Rouge regime attempted to insulate Cambodia from all outside influence, abolished money, executed opponents, attempted the economic transformation of most of the country by applying the Chinese Great Leap Forward model, and otherwise attempted introduce the doctrine of communism in its Maoist variant. Their brutality, which may have caused the disappearance of more than a million people, gave Hanoi in December 1978 a pretext for invasion. Major cities and roads were quickly brought under the control of a pro-Vietnamese puppet regime led by Heng Samrin, as president of the Council of State, and Hun Sen, first as foreign minister, and later as prime minister. This government restored much of the pre- 1970 ways of life, including Buddhism, but not the monarchy. The Khmer Rouge, meanwhile, with some support from non-Communists, continued resistance, especially in areas bordering Thailand, and maintained Cambodia’s representation at the United Nations. The unstable coalition thus formed, with Sihanuk as nominal president, enjoyed external recognition but, above all, internal support.

Cambodia History