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The Kingdom of Cambodia, sometimes known as Kampuchea, is on the Indochina Peninsula of Southeast Asia, bordered by Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. It has a coastline along the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Malaysia is across the Gulf from Cambodia.

The travel guide, Lonely Planet, describes the history of Cambodia as including "the good, the bad, and the ugly." and that seems to be an accurate summation. In the early years of Cambodia's history, things were good. The Khmer Empire, followed by the Angkar Dynasty, dominated the region for several centuries, beginning in 802 AD.

When Angkor fell to Siam in the 1400s, a weakened Cambodia was ruled as a vassal state by its neighbors. Over the next centuries, much of its territory was lost, little by little. Cambodia became a French protectorate in 1863. France reclaimed much of Cambodia's territory, reclaiming land that had been lost to Thailand.

Cambodia became independent from France in 1953, but the new country soon found itself involved in the Vietnam War, facing a United States bombing campaign, from 1969 to 1973. After a coup in 1970, the deposed Cambodian king made an alliance with the Khmer Rouge, formerly his enemies, allowing them to become a major power in Cambodia, taking the capital city of Phnom Penh in 1975, establishing a communist government, and carrying out a campaign of genocide, in which anyone accused of being an enemy of the communist state was arrested, tortured, and executed. It is estimated that as many as three million Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, when they were ousted by Vietnam.

This began the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, which lasted until 1991. Briefly, Cambodia was governed by the United Nations, but the UN withdrew after elections were held in 1993. In 1997, a coup was carried out by the Cambodian prime minister and the Cambodian People's Party, in whose hands the country is currently in, as of February of 2018.

Currently, Cambodia is governed as a constitutional monarchy, but there are also elements of a parliamentary democracy. The prime minister is the head of government while the king is the head of state. The king appoints the prime minister after consultation with the national assembly, who are elected for five-year terms.

According to the last official census, more than 90% of the population of Cambodia are ethnic Khmers, but there has been a large movement of Chinese and Vietnamese into the country during the past few years. There are smaller communities of Cham and Lao people, particularly in the rural highlands.

For most of the history of Cambodia, life was centered on the family, with generations of family members sharing the same home. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, the traditional life of the Cambodian people was torn apart by war and the Khmer Rouge regime, which turned children against parents and brothers against sisters. Cambodian society is being rebuilt today, but will probably never be what it once was, as young people today are facing and embracing a modern world., and have never had the traditions that were wrested from their grandparents.

Approximately 95% of Khmers adhere to Theravada Buddhism, which incorporates aspects of Hinduism, as well as a belief in genies and spirits, which may go back to past beliefs in animism or to Muslim influences.

During the Khmer Rouge era, most of Cambodia's Buddhist monks were killed and Buddhist temples were destroyed, but Buddhism again became the state religion in the late 1980s. Other religions in Buddhism included Islam and Christianity, as well as animist religions still practiced among some of the hill tribes.

Cambodians speak the Khmer language primarily, although French is the language of instruction in some schools and is spoken by some older Cambodians. English is taught at the university level, and Cambodian street signs are in Khmer and English. Literacy rates are just below 80%.

Dominant geographical features in Cambodia include the Mekong River and the Tonlé Sap, which is variously described as a wide river or a vast lake, both of which have contributed to the fertile plains where most Cambodians live. The Cardamom Mountains make up most of the southwest quadrant. Along its northern border with Thailand, the plains meet the Eastern Highlands, remote forested region.

Until the 1990s, Cambodia still had healthy forests and wildlife. Wars had a impact on some of its species, but others were protected by remote jungles. However, with peace came loggers who cut huge areas of forest, and an illegal trade in wildlife targeted the country's endangered species.

After the textile industry, tourism is Cambodia's second source of income. Most tourists visit Siem Reap, in northwestern Cambodia, which has become a popular resort town.



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