An Introduction to Contemporary Cambodia

Cambodia is in the world mostly known for it’s tourist attractions of Angkor Wat and the other grand temple complexes of the medieval Khmer empire. In fact did the Angkorean empire coin the Southeast Asian peninsula culturally until today; particularly Siam / Thailand took much of the Angkorean traditions over and maintains many of them still now. The Angkorean age between 802 CE (Common Era, replacing Anno Domini (AD)) and 1431 CE therefore represents the classical era of Southeast Asia.

In the aftermath of the grand time Cambodia lost power totally and came under severe pressure of it’s two new emerging neighbours, Siam / Thailand in the west and Vietnam in the east. In the 19th century Cambodia almost ceased to exist; most historians agree that without the French interference the country would have been shared between Siam and Vietnam.

In the 20th century the small and weak country was pulled into the American Vietnam War against it’s will and suffered the fiercest consequences, the total destruction of it’s infrastructure, a complete civil breakdown and genocide. The barbarious Khmer Rouge regime executed the educated part of the population except the few who could escape the country.

The contemporary Cambodian society is built up from scratch, still suffering the consequences of the genocide and is on the developing level of early capitalism. Particularly the lack of educated people and the maintainance of an authoritarian, hierarchical society keeps Cambodia down. In fact the Khmer Rouge came away with genocide and their networks still occupy the administrative key positions. The ongoing Khmer Rouge Tribunal gives a very poor impression to the observer. Corruption is rampant. Education is a long-term process and not achievable due to the investment of however much money into a conventional education system like schools and universities. Education, being more than the breeding of (one-track) specialists, requires generations to develop, includes the transfer from long-term experiences from parents to children.

In a global society focused on total competition, from the individuals up via corporations to states fighting for their positions on the world market, a country which development was interrupted so severe is in our times no more able to catch up with the much advancer competitors. On the contrary do we observe the decline of the leading western industrialized countries down to the level of third world societies under the conditions of advanced globalization and a structural capitalist crisis. The prospect for the Cambodian society towards a better future are therefore against zero.


This is only a part of the illustrated article ‘Cambodia’. Read the whole article on Cambodia by Asienreisender.

Keep yourself up-to-date

Check the list of recently published articles on a great variety of Southeast Asian themes. All of them are richly illustrated: Asienreisender

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