Cambodia history


historical Highlights


Status: Rice, fish, wood and rubber are the main agricultural commodities and 75-80% population are farmers; 34% population with average annual income less than $52. An uneducated population, poor infrastructure and corruption slows progress.

Recently: Tourism and textile manufacturing are being successfully developed.

Foreign Aid:  Cambodia receives and is reliant on foreign aid.

links for more info

Reports: U.S. Congressional Research report, 2007.

Wiki: History of Cambodia

Programs: Yale Cambodian Genocide Program

UK-Cambodia relations: Embassy website


On April 17th, 1975 the Khmer Rouge, a communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot, took power in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. They forced all city dwellers into the countryside and to labor camps. During their rule, it is estimated that nearly 2 million Cambodians died by starvation, torture or execution. 

The Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia to year zero. They banned all institutions, including stores, banks, hospitals, schools, religion, and the family. Everyone was forced to work 12 - 14 hours a day, every day. Children were separated from their parents to work in mobile groups or as soldiers. People were fed one watery bowl of soup with a few grains of rice thrown in. Babies, children, adults and the elderly were killed everywhere. The Khmer Rouge killed people if they didn’t like them, if didn’t work hard enough, if they were educated, if they came from different ethnic groups, or if they showed sympathy when their family members were taken away to be killed. All were killed without reason. Everyone had to pledge total allegiance to Angka, the Khmer Rouge government. It was a campaign based on instilling constant fear and keeping their victims off balance.

After the Vietnamese invaded and liberated the Cambodian people from the Khmer Rouge, 600,000 Cambodians fled to Thai border camps. Ten million land mines were left in the ground, one for every person in Cambodia. The United Nations installed the largest peacekeeping mission in the world in Cambodia in 1991 to ensure free and fair elections after the withdrawal of the Vietnamese troops. Cambodia was turned upside down during the Khmer Rouge years and the country has the daunting task of healing physically, mentally and economically.

The Cambodian Killing Fields


The summary above taken from Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, Inc.

These two photos are copyright 2008, Cambodian Genocide Program, Yale University.

Additional note: As a result of the genocide, Cambodia has a very young population. As all teachers were executed and schools destroyed, the population is largely uneducated. In the area we visited, Siem Reap, less than 30% of children complete primary (elementary) school and under 8% finish upper secondary school (high school)*. Classrooms for Cambodia will help educate the new generation of Cambodia - its future -  in every sense of the word. Click here to see an excellent video, featuring Khmer Rouge survivors now helping to build AAfC schools. (it takes a few minutes to load)

*Sources: Ministry of Commerce National and Regional Data Bank and Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport, 2004-05 Education Statistics and Indicators