Cambodia’s history covers the period up to around 1990. Archaeological finds show that the areas northwest of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Cambodia have been inhabited in Neolithic times. Historical time in Cambodia begins with Funan Empire (50-500 CE.), Who was succeeded by Chenla (500-800) and Angkor (800-1431). From 1594 to 1800, Cambodia was subject to Thailand. In the 19th century, Thailand and Vietnam waged a series of wars over the rule of Cambodia, prompting the Cambodian king to seek support from France.
Cambodia became a French protectorate in 1863 and was administered as part of the Indochina colony, interrupted by Japanese occupation in 1941-1945. Cambodia became independent in 1953. In 1955, Cambodia resigned from the French Union and became fully independent. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Cambodia.
From 1955 to 1970, Cambodia was a royal monarchy, but by a coup in 1970 the king was deposed, and the same year Cambodia was proclaimed as the Republic of Khmer. There was a civil war with American and Vietnamese involvement in the period 1970-1975 (at the same time as the Vietnam War was going on), while the Red Khmer ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. After the Red Khmer was overthrown, they continued guerrilla activity. In 1991, the United Nations peace plan was signed by all combatants, and in 1993 Cambodia was united as a monarchy.
Funan Empire (50-500 CE.) Had its base in the Mekong Delta, with vassal -rich northern Malacca and in Thailand. Funan had a lively trade with India and China. Many of the traits that characterize the later Khmer empires can already be found in Funan: a strongly centralized kingdom, organized by Indian model with a god-king in the lead, surrounded by a large royal family and a very complicated bureaucracy. The most important tasks were to control the workforce and maintain a well-developed irrigation system.
Large parts of the Mekong Delta swamp areas became fertile land by building hundreds of kilometers of canals, which decayed after Funan’s fall.
In the 500s, Funan was weakened, and a new center of power emerged further north around the state of Chenla (about 500-800 AD) in northeastern Cambodia. Chenla expanded south and west, waging a series of wars against Champa, a kingdom in central Vietnam. Inscriptions, and later historical annals, give a chronology of kingdoms, wars and civil engineering back to about 500 AD.
In the late 700s, Chenla was attacked by Javanese forces, who sailed up the Mekong and burned cities. In addition, Chenla was divided into a northern and southern part.
Angkor period (800-1431)
King Jayavarman 2 (800-850) again gathered Cambodia, and established the capital north of Tonlé Sap, where he and his successors embarked on large irrigation facilities and built the enormous monuments now called Angkor. In 1296–1297, a Chinese envoy visited Angkor and gave a valuable description. The temples had thousands of priests, servants, and temple dancers; they required tens of thousands of peasant labor for maintenance and supplies.
The Khmer Empire (Cambodia) reached its greatest extent during Suryavarman 2 (1113-150).
The Fight for Cambodia (1431-1863)
During the 1300s, Cambodia quickly fell apart. Thai armies occupied Angkor in 1369, 1388 and 1431, and the capital was moved to Lovek. Legislative texts, the earliest from the 16th century, provide an insight into the different classes and state apparatus in Cambodia. Lovek’s fall in 1594 marked the end of an independent Cambodia, and until 1800 Cambodia was a vassal state under Thailand.
The first Europeans (Portuguese) came to the country around 1550 as traders, missionaries and adventurers. In the 16th century, a few descriptions of Cambodia were written by Portuguese and Spaniards. From 1850 several travelogues were written.
The Vietnamese expanded south from the Tonking area along the coast of Indochina. In 1471, they conquered Champa and gained access to the Mekong’s underpopulated delta region. Until 1750, Vietnamese settlers occupied and fortified this area and introduced Vietnamese administration.
During the period 1800-1850, Thailand and Vietnam waged a number of wars over the dominion of Cambodia. The Vietnamese gained control around 1830 and began a hard-fought Vietnamese policy, which resulted in an uprising in 1840. The conflict between the Thais and the Vietnamese continued in Cambodia without anyone taking over.
In 1853 King Ang Duong asked the French Emperor Napoleon 3 for protection, and in 1863 King Norodom (1860-1904) signed a Protectorate Treaty with France. (See Vietnam’s history.)
Under French rule (1863–1955)
In 1867, the French surrendered the provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap to Thailand, and in 1884 King Norodom was forced to sign a new treaty which in effect made Cambodia the French colony. The French used Vietnamese in lower positions in the administration, and encouraged Vietnamese immigration into Cambodia. The kings Sisowath (1904–1927) and Moniwong (1927–1941) cooperated loyally with the French colonial power.
In 1907, Thailand was forced to give Battambang and Siem Reap back to Cambodia. The Japanese gave them to Thailand in 1941, but the provinces were reunited with Cambodia in 1946.
Norodom Sihanouk became king in 1941, and in 1949 Cambodia gained independence within the French Union. In the 1940s, two anti-French guerrilla groups were active. One, Khmer Issarak (The Free Khmer), was led by Son Ngoc Thanh and used Thailand as the base area. The other, the People’s Freedom Army, was supported by Viet Minh. In 1953, Sihanouk transferred all power from the French.
The Geneva Conference in 1954 ended with the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Cambodia and the local rebel forces disarming. In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his father Suramarit (1955–1960) and formed the party Sangkum Reastr Niyum (Socialist People’s Community), which won overwhelming victories in the elections of 1955, 1962 and 1966. In 1955, Cambodia resigned from the French union and became fully independent.
Royal monarchy (1955-1970)
As prime minister and head of state (from 1960), Sihanouk led a neutral foreign policy. He won little hearing with the Western powers, however, relations with the Soviet Union and China were good. Cambodia has repeatedly accused South Vietnam of border violations.
From 1967, communist activities in the country (Red Khmer) increased, and Sihanouk responded by pulling to the right. In 1969, a right-wing government was formed with Lon Nol as prime minister. Sihanouk demanded that 40,000 North Vietnamese and FNL soldiers immediately leave Cambodia, but withdrew from anti-Vietnam riots in Phnom Penh.
At a coup on March 18, 1970, led by Lon Nol, King Sihanouk was deposed, and in October Cambodia was proclaimed the Republic of Khmer.
Right dictatorship (1970-1975)
In Beijing, Sihanouk formed a “national unity government” (GRUNC), dominated by the Cambodian Communists – his former enemies. In Cambodia, a unity front was created; its armed forces consisted of communists and Sihanouk supporters. The guerrilla movement initially received strong support from Vietnamese communist forces; eventually it came to stand on its own legs. Lon Nol regime military situation became increasingly compromised despite extensive assistance from the US. US troops conducted operations in Cambodia in April-July 1970, and South Vietnamese forces remained in the country until 1972.
US aircraft made heavy bomb attacks until August 1973. During the war, refugees flocked to Phnom Penh, and the population increased from 600,000 to between 2 and 3 million. The government controlled most cities, but only a small part of the land area. There was widespread corruption in the officer corps. Red Khmer, dominant in the guerrilla movement, managed in January 1975 to block all supply routes to Phnom Penh, and on April 17, 1975, the government capitulated.
Red Khmer regime (1975–79)
On April 17, 1975, the government surrendered and the Red Khmer took power. On the same day, the victors ordered Phnom Penh to be immediately evacuated by the entire population, about two million people. The order was enforced without supervision – thousands of sick and wounded in hospitals also had to leave. The other towns were also emptied and all the inhabitants were forced to work colonies in the countryside. The new rulers launched a peasant revolutionary program that turned into a humanitarian disaster.
The colonies were characterized by extreme work pressure under extremely rigorous discipline, which led to mass deaths of exhaustion, illness and malnutrition. At the same time, people suspected of being associated with the Lon Nol regime, or influenced by bourgeois urban culture, were systematically liquidated. Academics, teachers, Buddhist monks, civil servants and military were imprisoned and largely executed. Wearing glasses could arouse suspicion of literal lessons. Crimes that could be punished with death, for example, were not to work hard enough, to complain, to show sorrow to deceased relatives or to practice religion.
For the first time, Red Khmer ruled with a monotonous, anonymous body of power, Angkar (the “Organization”). Only in early 1976 did the leaders emerge in the light of Pol Pot as the highest-ranked “Brother # 1”. A government was now formed with Pol Pot as both head of government and chief of defense. Pol Pot’s brother-in-law, Ieng Sary, became Deputy Prime Minister. Khieu took over as head of state.
Prince Sihanouk had returned to Phnom Penh as head of state in the fall of 1975, but was in reality held captive and isolated, and formally deposed in April 1976. The country was renamed and renamed Democratic Kampuchea. A new era began in the revolution year 1975 as year zero. Money, private property and religion were banned. The country closed to the outside world. The exception here was China and Marxist-Leninist solidarity groups. In 1977, it finally became clear that Angkar and Cambodia’s Communist Party were one and the same organization; Pol Pot now also emerged as the party’s secretary general. A delegation from the Norwegian party AKP (ml) visited Phnom Penh in 1978 and was received by Pol Pot.
Relations with Vietnam were gradually deteriorating following massacres of Vietnamese and extensive fighting in disputed border areas. In 1978, hundreds of Vietnamese villagers were massacred. On December 25, 1979, Vietnam invaded and expelled the Red Khmer. The People’s Republic of Kampuchea was proclaimed and organized according to Vietnamese socialist model after the invasion of Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979.
Victims of the Red Khmer regime
The Cambodian government, which came to power after the Red Khmer, claimed that over three million died – a figure rejected by scientists. It was not until 1995 that a systematic collection of source material began during the Cambodian Genocide Program, led by researchers from the American Yale University. After studying nearly one million document pages from the Red Khmer archives, researchers have concluded about 1.7 million deaths of a population estimated in 1975 to be between 7.3 and 7.9 million – a death rate of about one-fifth. About 600,000 of the victims may have been executed, but the number is uncertain and may be greater or smaller. It is believed to have been able to detect over 19,000 mass graves around the country – Cambodia has since been called the “land of the dead”.
The worst hit by the terror was ethnic minorities and religious groups. Most ethnic Vietnamese, half of about 500,000 ethnic Chinese and a third of the country’s 250,000 Muslims lost their lives. Extreme Khmer nationalism stalemate against Vietnam was otherwise a distinctive feature of Red Khmer propaganda.
Cambodia after 1979
After the deposition of the Red Khmer, Cambodia was given a provincial government, led by Heng Samrin, later Hun Hun. Both were former Red Khmer officers who had jumped off in 1977-78 to escape the purge. The Red Khmer army, which had been 70,000 men but now reduced to just under half, led guerrillas against the Vietnamese in the border areas against Thailand for over a decade. The provincial regime was isolated internationally; The West introduced trade boycott following pressure from the United States.
China supplied Red Khmer with weapons, while the counterpart received support from the Soviet Union. In 1982, a tactical alliance was formed by three very different opposition groups: Red Khmer, Prince Sihanouk’s faction and the national liberation front of the anti-Communist Khmer people. An opposition government was established with Sihanouk as chief, but otherwise dominated by the Red Khmer. The coalition was to represent Democratic Cambodia, which, under the auspices of the Red Khmer, was still recognized by the UN. Pol Pot was pushed into the background as a political leader, but continued as military commander of the Red Khmer faction until he retired on health grounds in 1985. Following the fall of the Pol Pot regime in 1979, Khieu Shampan became Red Khmer’s front figure.
After ten years of continuous fighting, Vietnam withdrew its forces from Cambodia in 1989. The UN peace plan, signed by four warring parties in October 1991, brought Cambodia out of isolation. In 1993, Cambodia was given a new constitution which introduced a democratic system of government. Cambodia again changed its name from the People’s Republic to the Kingdom, and Prince Sihanouk, who had abdicated in 1955, was re-elected as King.