Khmer Culture

Cambodian History

A carbon-l4 online dating from a cave in northwestern Cambodia suggests that people using stone tools lived in the cave as soon as 4000 bc, and rice has been cultivated on Cambodian soil since prior to the very first century ad. The initial Cambodians likely arrived a long time before either of the dates. They most likely migrated from the north, although there is nothing known about their language or their way of life.

By the beginning of the 1st-century ad, Chinese traders began to statement the presence of inland and coastal kingdoms in Cambodia. These kingdoms already owed much to Indian tradition, which provided alphabets, art forms, architectural styles, religions (Hinduism and Buddhism), and a stratified class system. Local beliefs that stressed the importance of ancestral spirits coexisted with the Indian religions and remain powerful today.

Cambodia’s modem-day culture offers its roots in the 1st to 6th centuries in a state referred to as Funan, known as the oldest Indianized state in Southeast Asia. It is from this period that developed Cambodia’s language, the portion of the Mon-Khmer family members, which contains components of Sanskrit, its historic religious beliefs of Hinduism and Buddhism. Historians have observed, for instance, that Cambodians could be distinguished from their neighbors by their clothes – checkered scarves referred to as Kramas are put on rather than straw hats.

Funan gave method to the Angkor Empire with the rise to power of King Jayavarman II in 802. The next 600 years saw effective Khmer kings dominate a lot of current Southeast Asia, from the borders of Myanmar east south China Sea and north to Laos. It was during this period that Khmer kings built the most extensive concentration of religious temples in the world – the Angkor temple complex. The most successful of Angkor’s kings, Jayavarman II, Indravarman I, Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII, also devised a masterpiece of ancient engineering: a sophisticated irrigation system that includes barays (gigantic man-made lakes) and canals that ensured as many as three rice crops a year. Part of this system is still in use today.

The Khmer Kingdom (Funan)

Early Chinese writers referred to a kingdom in Cambodia that they called Funan. Modern-day archaeological findings provide evidence of a commercial society centered on the Mekong Delta that flourished from the 1st century to the 6th century. Among these findings are excavations of a port city from the 1st century, located in the region of Oc-Eo in what is now southern Vietnam. Served by a network of canals, the city was an important trade hyperlink between India and China. Ongoing excavations in southern Cambodia possess revealed the presence of another important city near the present-day village of Angkor Borei.

A group of inland kingdoms, known collectively to the Chinese as Zhenla, flourished in the 6th and 7th centuries from southern Cambodia to southern Laos. The first stone inscriptions in the Khmer language and the first brick and stone Hindu temples in Cambodia date from the Zhenla period.

Angkor Era

Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom The giant faces carved on the Bayon temple at the Angkor Thum complex in northwestern Cambodia represent both the Buddha and King Jayavarman VII (ruled about 1130-1219). Although a Buddhist temple, Angkor Thum was modeled after the great Hindu temple complex of Angkor Wat.

In the early 9th century a Khmer (ethnic Cambodian) prince returned to Cambodia from abroad. He probably arrived from nearby Java or Sumatra, where he may have been held hostage by island kings who had asserted control over portions of the Southeast Asian mainland.

In a series of ceremonies at different sites, the prince declared himself ruler of a new independent kingdom, which unified several local principalities. His kingdom eventually came to be centered near present-day Siemreab in northwestern Cambodia. The prince, known to his successors as Jayavarman II, inaugurated a cult honoring the Hindu god Shiva as a devaraja (Sanskrit term meaning “god-king”). The cult, which legitimized the king’s rule by linking him with Shiva, persisted at the Cambodian court for more than two hundred years.

Between the early 9th century and the early 15th century, 26 monarchs ruled successively over the Khmer kingdom (referred to as Angkor, the present-day name because of its capital city).

The successors of Jayavarman II built the fantastic temples that Angkor is famous for.

Historians have dated more than a thousand temple sites and over a thousand stone inscriptions (most of them on temple walls) to this era.

Notable among the Khmer builder-kings were Suyavarman II, who built the temple known as Angkor Wat in the mid-12th century, and Jayavarman VII, who built the Bayon temple at Angkor Thum and several other large Buddhist temples half a century later. Jayavarman VII, a fervent Buddhist, also built hospitals and rest houses along the roads that crisscrossed the kingdom. Most of the monarchs, however, seem to have been more concerned with displaying and increasing their power than with the welfare of their subjects.

Ancient City of Angkor This map shows the layout of the ancient city of Angkor, the capital of the Cambodian Khmer kingdom from the 9th century to the 15th century. The city’s huge stone temples had been both civic centers and spiritual symbols of the Hindu cosmos. Historians think that Angkor’s network of canals and barays (reservoirs) had been used for irrigation.

At its greatest degree, in the 12th century, the Khmer kingdom encompassed (furthermore to present-day Cambodia) elements of present-day Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar (formerly Burma), and the Malay Peninsula. Thailand and Laos still contain Khmer ruins and inscriptions. The kings at Angkor received tribute from smaller sized kingdoms to the north, east, and west, and carried out trade with China. The administrative center city was the guts of an impressive network of reservoirs and canals, which historians theorize supplied water for irrigation. Many historians believe that the abundant harvests made possible by irrigation supported a large population whose labor could be drawn on to construct the kings’ temples and to fight their wars. The massive temples, extensive roads, and waterworks, and confident inscriptions give an illusion of stability that is undermined by the fact that many Khmer kings gained the throne by conquering their predecessors. Inscriptions indicate that the kingdom frequently suffered from rebellions and international invasions.

Historians have not had the opportunity to totally explain the decline of the Khmer kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries. Nevertheless, it was probably linked to the rise of effective Thai kingdoms that got once paid tribute to Angkor, also to population losses carrying out a series of wars with these kingdoms. Another factor might have been the launch of Theravada Buddhism, which trained that anyone could attain enlightenment through meritorious perform and meditation. These egalitarian concepts undermined the hierarchical framework of Cambodian society and the power of prominent Hindu families. After a Thai invasion in 1431, what remained of the Cambodian elite shifted southeastward to the vicinity of Phnom Penh.

Cambodia Dark Age

This map of Southeast Asia in the mid-16th century shows the major centers of power in the region prior to the arrival of Europeans. During this period, these kingdoms were constantly at war. Eventually, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (modern Thailand) expanded to the north and east, absorbing a lot of Lan Na and Lan Xang (contemporary Laos). Dai Viet (contemporary Vietnam) expanded south, taking over the rest of the territory of the Kingdom of Champa and the southern suggestion of the Kingdom of Lovek (contemporary Cambodia). Toungoo progressed into modern Myanmar.

The four centuries of Cambodian history following abandonment of Angkor are badly recorded, and for that reason, historians know small about them beyond the bare outlines. Cambodia retained its vocabulary and its own cultural identity despite regular invasions by the effective Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya and incursions by Vietnamese forces. Indeed, for a lot of this era, Cambodia was a comparatively prosperous trading kingdom using its capital at Lovek, near present-time Phnom Penh. European guests wrote of the Buddhist piety of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Lovek. During this time period, Cambodians composed the country’s most significant function of literature, the Reamker (predicated on the Indian myth of the Ramayana).

In the late 18th century, a civil war in Vietnam and disorder carrying out a Burmese invasion of Ayutthaya spilled over into Cambodia and devastated the region. In the early 19th century, newly set up dynasties in Vietnam and Thailand competed for control over the Cambodian courtroom. The warfare that ensued, from the l830s, came near destroying Cambodia.

French Rule

Phnom Penh, as planned by the French, found resemble a city in provincial France. By the next half of the 19th hundred years, France had started to broaden its colonial penetration of Indochina (the peninsula between India and China). In 1863 France recognized the Cambodian king’s invitation to impose a protectorate over his severely weakened kingdom, halting the country’s dismemberment by Thailand and Vietnam. For another 90 years, France ruled Cambodia. Theoretically, French administration was indirect, however, in practice, the term of French officials was last on all main subjects-including selecting Cambodia’s kings. The French still left Cambodian institutions, like the monarchy, set up, and gradually created a Cambodian civil program, arranged along French lines. The French administration neglected education but constructed roads, port facilities, and various other public works. Phnom Penh, as planned by the French, came to resemble a town in provincial France.

The French invested relatively little in Cambodia’s economy compared to that of Vietnam, which was also under French control. However, they developed rubber plantations in eastern Cambodia, and the kingdom exported sizable amounts of rice under their rule. The French also restored the Angkor temple complex and deciphered Angkorean inscriptions, which gave Cambodians a clear idea of their medieval heritage and kindled their pride in Cambodia’s past. Because France still left the monarchy, Buddhism, and the rhythms of rural lifestyle undisturbed, the anti-French feeling was gradual to develop.

King Sihanouk, through skillful maneuvering, was able to gain Cambodia’s independence peacefully in 1953. During Globe War II (1939-1945), Japanese forces entered French Indochina but still left the compliant French administration set up.

On the verge of defeat in 1945, japan took out their French collaborators and installed a nominally independent Cambodian government beneath the lately crowned young king, Norodom Sihanouk. France reimposed its protectorate in early 1946 but allowed the Cambodians to draft a constitution also to form political parties.

Quickly afterward, fighting erupted throughout Indochina because nationalist groups, a few with Communist ideologies, struggled to win independence from France. Most of the fighting took place in Vietnam, in a conflict known as the 1st Indochina War (1946-1954). In Cambodia, Communist guerrilla forces allied with Vietnamese Communists gained control of much of the country. However, King Sihanouk, through skillful maneuvering, managed to gain Cambodia’s independence peacefully in 1953, a few months earlier than Vietnam. The Geneva Accords of 1954, which marked the end of the 1st Indochina War, acknowledged Sihanouk’s authorities as to the sole legitimate authority in Cambodia.

Modern State

Sihanouk’s marketing campaign for independence sharpened his political skills and increased his ambitions. In 1955 he abdicated the throne in favor of his father to pursue a full-time political career, free of the constitutional constraints of the monarchy. In a move aimed at dismantling Cambodia’s fledgling political parties, Sihanouk inaugurated a national political movement referred to as the Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People’s Socialist Community), whose members were not permitted to belong to any additional political group. The Sangkum received all the seats in the national elections of 1955, benefiting from Sihanouk’s recognition and from police brutality at many polling stations. Sihanouk served as prime minister of Cambodia until 1960 when his father died and he was named head of state. Sihanouk remained widely popular among the people but was brutal to his opponents.

In the late 1950s, the Cold War (period of tension between the United States and its allies and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, and its allies) intensified in Asia. In this climate, foreign powers, including the United States, the USSR, and China, courted Sihanouk. Cambodia’s importance to these countries stemmed from events in neighboring Vietnam, where pressure had begun to attach between a Communist regime in the north and a pro-Western regime in the south. The USSR backed the Vietnamese Communists, as the USA opposed them, and China wished to include Vietnam for protection reasons. Each one of the international powers hoped that Cambodian support would bolster its placement in your community. Sihanouk pursued an insurance plan of neutrality that drew significant economic the help of the competing countries.

In 1965, however, Sihanouk broke off diplomatic relations with America. Simultaneously, he allowed North Vietnamese Communists, then fighting the Vietnam War against the United States and the South Vietnamese in southern Vietnam, to set up bases on Cambodian soil. As warfare intensified in Vietnam, domestic opposition to Sihanouk from both radical and conservative elements improved. The Cambodian Communist company, known as the Employees Party of Kampuchea (afterward renamed the Communist Party of Kampuchea, or CPK), had opted underground after failing woefully to earn any concessions at the Geneva Accords, however now they used arms once more. As the economic climate became unstable, Cambodia became tough to govern single-handedly. Looking for economic and military help, Sihanouk renewed diplomatic relations with America. Shortly thereafter, in 1969, U.S. President Richard Nixon certified a bombing advertising campaign against Cambodia in order to destroy Vietnamese Communist sanctuaries there.

Khmer Republic

In March 1970 Cambodia’s legislature, the Nationwide Assembly, deposed Sihanouk while he was overseas. The conservative forces behind the coup had been pro-Western and anti-Vietnamese. General Lon Nol, the country’s primary minister, assumed power and delivered his badly equipped army to combat the North Vietnamese Communist forces encamped in border areas. Lon Nol hoped that U.S. help allows him to defeat his enemies, but American support was at all times geared to occasions in Vietnam. In April U.S. and Southern Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia, looking for North Vietnamese, who transferred deeper into Cambodia. Over the next yr, North Vietnamese troops destroyed the offensive capacity of Lon Nol’s army.

In October 1970 Lon Nol inaugurated the Khmer Republic. Sihanouk, who had sought asylum in China, was condemned to death despite his absence. By that time, Chinese and North Vietnamese leaders had persuaded the prince to establish a government in exile, allied with North Vietnam and dominated by the CPK, whom Sihanouk referred to as the Khmer Rouge (French for “Red Khmers”).

In 1975, despite massive infusions of U.S. aid, the Khmer Republic collapsed, and Khmer Rouge forces occupied Phnom Penh.

The United States continued bombing Cambodia until the Congress of the United States halted the campaign in 1973. By that time, Lon Nol’s forces were fighting not only the Vietnamese but also the Khmer Rouge. The general lost control over most of the Cambodian countryside, which had been devastated by U.S. bombing. The fighting severely damaged the nation’s infrastructure and triggered high amounts of casualties. Thousands of refugees flooded into the towns. In 1975, despite substantial infusions of U.S. help, the Khmer Republic collapsed, and Khmer Rouge forces occupied Phnom Penh. Three several weeks, later on, North Vietnamese forces accomplished triumph in South Vietnam.

Democratic Kampuchea

Pol Pot Pol Pot is a pseudonym for the Cambodian guerrilla commander Saloth Sar, who organized the Communist guerrilla push referred to as the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge ousted General Lon Nol in 1975, establishing a brutal Communist regime that ruled until 1979.

Soon after occupying Cambodia’s towns, the Khmer Rouge ordered most city dwellers into the countryside to consider up agricultural jobs. The move reflected both Khmer Rouge’s contempt for urban dwellers, whom they noticed as enemies, and their utopian eyesight of Cambodia as a country of busy, effective peasants. The first choice of the regime, who remained concealed from the general public, was Saloth Sar, who utilized the pseudonym Pol Pot. The federal government, known as itself Democratic Kampuchea (DK), claimed to be looking for total independence from international powers but accepted financial and military the help of its main allies, China and North Korea.
Khmer Rouge Carnage The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, killed near 1.7 million people in the mid- to past due 1970s. In this picture, human being bones and skulls fill up a museum in Cambodia that was utilized as a prison and torture middle during Pol Pot’s reign, Sygma.

Without identifying themselves as Communists, the Khmer Rouge quickly introduced a number of far-reaching and frequently painful socialist applications. The people provided the majority of power in the brand new federal government were the mainly illiterate rural Cambodians who got fought alongside the Khmer Rouge in the civil war. DK leaders severely restricted freedom of speech, movement, and association, and forbade all religious practices. The regime controlled all communications along with access to food and information. Former city dwellers, now called “new people,” were particularly badly treated. The Khmer Rouge killed intellectuals, merchants, bureaucrats, members of religious groups, and any people suspected of disagreeing with the party. Millions of other Cambodians were forcibly relocated, deprived of food, tortured, or sent into forced labor.

While in power, the Khmer Rouge murdered, worked to death, or killed by starvation close to 1.7 million Cambodians.

The Khmer Rouge also attacked neighboring countries in an attempt to reclaim territories lost by Cambodia many centuries before. After fighting broke out with Vietnam (after that united beneath the Communists) in 1977, DK’s ideology became openly racist. Ethnic minorities in Cambodia, which includes ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese, had been hunted down and expelled or massacred. Purges of party members accused of treason became widespread. People in eastern Cambodia, suspected of cooperating with Vietnam, suffered severely, and hundreds of thousands of them were killed. While in power, the Khmer Rouge murdered, worked to death, or killed by starvation close to 1.7 million Cambodians-more than one-fifth of the country’s population.

Recent Development

In October 1991 Cambodia’s warring factions, the UN, and a number of interested foreign nations signed an agreement in Paris intended to end the conflict in Cambodia. The agreement provided for a temporary power-sharing arrangement between an United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) and a Supreme National Council (SNC) made up of delegates from the various Cambodian factions. Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the former king and prime minister of Cambodia, served as president of the SNC.

The Paris accords and the UN protectorate pushed Cambodia out of its isolation and introduced competitive politics, dormant since the early 1950s. UNTAC sponsored elections for a national assembly in May 1993, and for the first time in Cambodian history, a majority of voters rejected an armed, incumbent regime. A royalist party, known by its French acronym FUNCINPEC, won the most seats in the election, accompanied by the CPP, led by Hun Sen. Reluctant to stop power, Hun Sen threatened to upset the election outcomes. Under a compromise set up, a three-party coalition shaped a federal government headed by two primary ministers; FUNCINPEC’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh, among Sihanouk’s sons, became 1st primary minister, while Hun Sen became second primary minister.

In September 1993 the federal government ratified a fresh constitution restoring the monarchy and establishing the Kingdom of Cambodia. Sihanouk became king for the next time. Following the 1993 elections, no international countries continued to recognize the DK as Cambodia’s legal government. The DK lost its UN seat as well as most of its resources of international aid.

The unrealistic power-sharing relationship between Ranariddh and Hun Sen worked surprisingly well for another 3 years, but relations between your parties were by no means smooth. The CPP’s control over the army and the authorities provided the party effective control of the united states, and it dominated the coalition federal government. In July 1997 Hun Sen staged a violent coup against FUNCINPEC and changed Prince Ranariddh, who was simply overseas at that time, with Ung Huot, a far more pliable FUNCINPEC shape. Hun Sen’s actions shocked foreign countries and delayed Cambodia’s access to the Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN). By the finish of 1997, Cambodia was the only country in your community that was not an associate.

Regardless of the coup, elections planned for July 1998 proceeded as planned. A huge selection of international observers who monitored the elections affirmed that voting was fairly free and fair; nevertheless, the CPP harassed opposition applicants and party workers before and after the elections, when dozens were imprisoned and several were killed. The election gave the CPP a plurality of votes, but results, especially in towns, where voting could not be dictated by local authorities, indicated that the party did not enjoy widespread popular support. Prince Ranariddh and another opposition candidate, Sam Rainsy, took refuge abroad and contested the results of the election. In November the CPP and FUNCINPEC reached a contract whereby Hun Sen became a single primary minister and Ranariddh became president of the Nationwide Assembly. The parties shaped a coalition federal government, dividing control over the many cabinet ministries. In early 1999 the constitution was amended to create a Senate, called for in the 1998 agreement. These indicators that Cambodia’s political situation was stabilizing encouraged ASEAN to admit Cambodia to its membership a short time later.

Pol Pot died in 1998, and by early 1999 most of the remaining Khmer Rouge troops and leaders had surrendered. Rebel troops were integrated into the Cambodian army. In 1999 two Khmer Rouge leaders were arrested and charged with genocide for their part in the atrocities.

Since the Paris Accords of 1991, Cambodia’s economic growth has depended on millions of dollars of foreign aid. Foreign interest in Cambodia has decreased, however, and the country has received diminishing economic assistance. This development, along with the continued lack of openness in Cambodian politics, has made Cambodia’s potential customers for democratization dim, and also its chances for sustained economic growth.