The history of the Kingdom of Cambodia is a tumultuous, happy and tragic history.
Cambodia was born around the 6th century AD. The fourth of the Khmer kings, Brhavavarman, ascended the throne around the year 550 AD.
Ancient travelers spoke with admiration about this country with its magnificent monuments, treasures filled with jewels, objects carved in ivory or crystal,and its famous Apsaras, the celestial dancers evolving under the shaded porches of the royal city.
Towards the first half of the thirteenth century, the Khmer Empire was at the peak of its power and splendor. It then extended over a large part of Siam (now Thailand), on Southern Laos, towards the kingdoms of Champa (Central Vietnam) and Cochin China (the present Mekong Delta and the provinces bordering it).
During that period, and especially in the 12th century, during the reign of Javaryaman VII, Khmer architects and builders conceived and built the city of Angkor.
From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, continually torn by conflicts between heirs to the throne, the country became prey to foreign invasions.
The arrival of the French and the protectorate they established (1863-1954) put an end to the decline of Cambodia. During that period, many territories occupied by Siam were returned to Cambodia.
After the Second World War, under the combined effect of the rise of nationalism in Cambodia and the French defeat in Indochina, the independence of Cambodia was officially recognized in 1954.
After its independence, Cambodia underwent a happy period under the leadership of King Norodom Sihanouk. Phnom Penh became the Pearl of the Far East.
Yet the military coup of 1970, by General Lon Nol, opened a period of chaos for Cambodian people. The worst was still to come: the bloody regime of the Khmers Rouges. Phnom-Penh fell to them in April 1975 and they then proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea. From that date, the Khmers Rouges achieved total control over the country. They carried out a policy of exterminating the elites and emptying the cities. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of the population was wiped out. The genocide carried out by this regime caused three million deaths in four years (by killing, torture, forced labor in rural labor camps and famine), creating an unprecedented trauma among the population.
The genocide ceased in 1979 and in the early 1990s, under the auspices of UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia), the kingdom entered at last a new period of peace and reconstruction.
Since the end of Pol Pot’s regime, the Cambodian population has grown steadily and now reaches more than fourteen million, half of them under the age of twenty-five.
Park of the Royal Palace (Phnom Penh)