Phnom Penh, Cambodia Overview

By | January 22, 2022

Cambodia. (official name, Preah Reach Ana Pak Kampuchea, Kingdom of Cambodia). Monarchy of Southeast Asia, bordered to the northeast with Laos, to the east and southeast with Vietnam, to the southwest with the Gulf of Thailand and to the west and northwest with Thailand. Cambodia occupies an area of 181,035 km². Cambodia’s capital and largest city is Phnom Penh.


The city is named after Wat Phnom Daun Penh (now known simply as Wat Phnom or “hill temple”), built in 1373 to house five Buddha statues on a man-made hill with a height of 27 meters.

Phnom Penh did not begin a life as a relevant town until after the Angkor period in which Angkor Wat and the surrounding cities increased in importance. In the middle of the 15th century, King Ponhea Yat fled the invasion of Siam in Angkor and settled in what is now Phnom Penh creating a palace. Buddhist relics were later added but the city was not the official capital and seat of the monarchy until 1866 under the reign of Norodom I.

Three years earlier, Cambodia had been under the protectorate of France and was part of the French Indochina Empire, which also included Vietnam and Laos. Under the full control of Paris, Phnom Penh prospered: previously little more than a town, the city was transformed as the French mainly developed the water-facing area.

Despite the confusion in other parts of the country before and after World War II, Phnom Penh remained under the full control of France until 1953 when King Sihanouk negotiated independence within a wave of Khmer nationalism. returning triumphant to Phnom Penh. It didn’t take long for things to change bitterly. In the early 1970s, Phnom Penh was little more than an island of tranquility in a sea of ​​war in Cambodia.

In 1975, the Communist guerilla of the Red Khmer Army led by Pol Pot took Phnom Penh cheering the crowds. A few days later they were sent to the countryside while Phnom Penh was evicted from two million residents. For 4 years, it was the most desolate capital on the planet except for torture centers like S-21 and a few of the Khmer Red Elite who lived there.

When the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh were driven out in 1979, people slowly returned to a completely devastated city. The extent of what had happened came to light, while the international community began to give aid and aid to rehabilitate the city as its population increased. It was not until after the Peace Accords in Paris in 1991 that full stability was restored in Cambodia.

In 1999, Cambodia joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which strengthened foreign investment aid in Phnom Penh, beginning a positive new chapter in the city’s recent history.

Political – administrative division

The city of Phnom Penh is divided into 7 districts called khan which in turn are divided into communes called khum.

The districts with the number of communes:

  • Meanchey (8)
  • Tuol Kork (10)
  • Makara (7)
  • Russey Keo (12)
  • Dangkor (15)
  • Chamcar Morn (12)
  • Daun Penh (11)

Hun Sen in power

Almost all of the Vietnamese troops were evacuated in September 1989, leaving the Hun Sen regime in a precarious position. In October 1991 the warring parties signed a peace treaty that stipulated that the UN and a Supreme National Council, which included most of the factions, would rule temporarily. Sihanuk returned to Cambodia and was appointed president. Sporadic Khmer Rouge-inspired violence continued into 1992, with UN peacekeepers often subjected to these attacks. The first multi-party legislative elections since 1972 were held in May 1993. The Khmer Rouge boycotted the elections, even though they had signed the 1991 peace treaty.

None of the participating parties obtained a majority in the elections, so the two major parties, the monarchists of Funcinpec (United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia) and the Hun Sen People’s Party and two smaller parties they formed a coalition. In September 1993, after the new Constitution was ratified, Sihanuk was appointed king; Norodom Ranariddh, the head of the Funcinpec and son of Sihanuk, formed a government of national concentration with Hun Sen in which they both served as co-prime minister. The Khmer Rouge maintained their armed opposition to the government coalition; However, and with the intention of demoralizing its members, the information transcended that throughout 1995 between 5,000 and 10,000 of its unconditional members had left the organization. Hun Sen carried out a veritable coup in 1997 that expelled Norodom Ranariddh from the government and the country, albeit at the cost of great unpopularity and international political isolation. In 1998, the already few members of the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia, shortly after Pol Pot’s death in April of that year. Three months later, the legislative elections gave the victory to the Hun Sen People’s Party, which obtained a small difference with respect to the monarchists, along with those who continued to govern.

Hun Sen focused his political program on promoting social and economic development, fulfilling one of his goals in 1999, when Cambodia became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In January 2001, a law was passed for the establishment of a court to prosecute former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide. The Cambodian government and the UN subsequently held discussions on technical and legal issues in this matter. In July 2003, the People’s Party won the elections, although it did not get enough votes to govern alone, so it would need to form a new coalition to guarantee Hun Sen’s continuity in power. The On October 7 of 2004, Norodom Sihanouk abdicated, and the head of the state became exercised provisionally by the President of the Senate Samdech Chea Sim. Days later, the Throne Council appointed Norodom Sihamoni, son of Norodom Sihanuk, to succeed his father.


According to, Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. It is also the largest and most populated city in the country. It is strategically located at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. It is the most important port in the country, with access to the South China Sea through the delta of the Mekong River, in Vietnam.


Phnom Penh is located in the south-central part of the country in a not very mountainous area. It is washed by the Tonlé Sap River, a tributary of the Mekong.


Phnom Penh is a hot and humid Asian capital. Unlike other parts of South Asia, the monsoon season here hits very gradually around the beginning of April through September and October when it rains heavily before fading away again.

The coolest time of year in the Cambodian capital is during December and January when temperatures are generally around 25ºC but drop from there at night. So it is the ideal time of year to pay a visit to Phnom Penh. February is quite cold but March and April can be unbearable due to the heat, with high temperatures sometimes close to 40ºC.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia Overview