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Cambodia officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia (Khmer: ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា Preăh Réachéa Nachâk Kâmpŭchéa), is a country in Southeast Asia that borders Thailand to the west and northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. The geography of Cambodia is dominated by the Mekong River (Tonlé Mékong) and Tonlé Sap lake.

The kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with King Norodom Sihamoni as head of state, and Prime Minister Hun Sen as head of government. Phnom Penh is the kingdom's capital and largest city, and is the center of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. Siem Reap is the main destination for tourism and gateway to the Angkor region. Battambang, the largest province in northwestern Cambodia is known for its rice production, and Sihanoukville, a coastal city, is the primary sea port and beach resort.

Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometres (69,898 sq mi) and a population of 14.8 million people. Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of Cambodia, which is practiced by around 96% of the Cambodian population. The country's minority people number around 1.9 million Vietnamese,[5] 855,000 Chinese, [6] over 20 various hill tribes, [7] and 317,000 Chams.

Agriculture has long been the most important sector to the Cambodian economy, with around 57.6% of the population relying on agriculture for their livelihood (with rice being the principal crop).[8] The country in the last decade has seen rapid economical and industrial growth. Other important sectors include garments, construction, textiles, and tourism. In 2005, oil and natural gas deposits were found beneath Cambodia's territorial waters, and once commercial extraction begins in 2011, the oil revenues could profoundly affect Cambodia's economy.[9]

Contents

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Etymology

Main article: Name of Cambodia
Khmer Land, a local expression which refers to Cambodia

The full official name of the modern country is (Preăh Réachéa Nachâk Kâmpŭchéa "ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា") meaning "Kingdom of Cambodia". Etymologically, its components are: Preah- ("sacred"); -reach- ("king, royal, realm", from Sanskrit raja); -ana- (from Pāli āṇā, "authority, command, power", itself from Sanskrit आज्ञा ājñā, same meaning) -châk (from Sanskrit chakra, meaning "wheel", a symbol of power and rule).

Names used on general occasions include "Cambodia", "Cambodge", "Kâmpŭchea" and "Srok Khmer", a transliteration of the colloquial (Khmer: ស្រុកខ្មែរ) which means "the Land of Khmers". The name used on formal occasions, such as political speeches and news programs, is Prâteh Kampuchea (Khmer: ប្រទេសកម្ពុជា), literally "the Country of Cambodia". "Cambodia" is the English form of the French "Cambodge" which, in turn, is a transliteration of the Khmer name "Kâmpŭchea" (កម្ពុជា).

History

Main article: History of Cambodia

Pre-history

A gold-lotus bowl dating back to 1200CE.
Khmer army going to war against the Cham, from a relief on the Bayon

The sparse evidence for a Pleistocene human occupation of present day Cambodia are quartz and quartzite pebble tools found in terraces along the Mekong River, in Stung Treng and Kratié provinces, and in Kampot Province, but their dating is unreliable.[10]

Some slight archaeological evidence shows communities of hunter-gatherers inhabited Cambodia during Holocene: the most ancient Cambodian archeological site is considered to be the cave of L'aang Spean, in Battambang Province, which belongs to the so-called Hoabinhian period. Excavations in its lower layers produced a series of radiocarbon dates as of 6000 BC.[10][11]

Upper layers in the same site gave evidence of transition to Neolithic, containing the earliest dated earthenware ceramics in Cambodia[12]

Archeological records for the period between Holocene and Iron Age remain equally limited. Other prehistoric sites of somewhat uncertain date are Samrong Sen (not far from the ancient capital of Oudong), where the first investigations began in 1877,[13] and Phum Snay, in the northern province of Banteay Meanchey.[14] Prehistoric artifacts are often found during mining activities in Ratanakiri.[10]

The most outstanding prehistoric evidence in Cambodia however are probably various "circular earthworks", discovered in the red soils near Memot and in the adjacent region of Vietnam as of the end of the 1950s. Their function and age are still debated, but some of them possibly date from 2nd millennium BC at least.[15][16]

A pivotal event in Cambodian prehistory was the slow penetration of the first rice farmers from the North, which begun in the late 3rd millennium BC.[17]

Iron was worked by about 500 BC, with supporting evidence coming from the Khorat Plateau, which is now in modern day Thailand. In Cambodia, some Iron Age settlements were found beneath Angkorian temples, like Baksei Chamkrong. Others were circular earthworks, like Lovea, a few kilometers north-west of Angkor. Burials, much richer, testify to improvement of food availability and trade (even on long distances: in the 4th century BC trade relations with India were already opened) and the existence of a social structure and labor organization.[17]

Pre-Angkorian and Angkorian eras

During the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries, the Indianised states of Funan and Chenla coalesced in what is now present-day Cambodia and southwestern Vietnam. For more than 2,000 years, Cambodia absorbed influences from India, passing them on to other Southeast Asian civilisations that are now Thailand, and Laos.[18] The Khmer Empire flourished in the area from the 9th to the 13th centuries.[19] Around the 13th century, Theravada Buddhism was introduced to the area through monks from Sri Lanka.[20]

From then on, Theravada Buddhism grew and eventually became the most popular religion. The Khmer Empire was Southeast Asia's largest empire during the 12th century and it remained very powerful. The Khmer Empire declined yet remained powerful in the region until the 15th century. The empire's centre of power was Angkor, where a series of capitals was constructed during the empire's zenith. Angkor could have supported a population of up to one million people.[21] Angkor, the world's largest pre-industrial settlement complex,[22] and Angkor Wat, the most famous and best-preserved religious temple at the site, are reminders of Cambodia's past as a major regional power.

Dark ages of Cambodia

After a long series of wars with neighboring kingdoms, Angkor was sacked by the Ayutthaya Kingdom and abandoned in 1432 because of ecological failure and infrastructure breakdown.[23][24] The court moved the capital to Lovek where the kingdom sought to regain its glory through maritime trade. The attempt was short-lived however, as continued wars with the Ayutthaya and Vietnamese resulted in the loss of more territory and Lovek being conquered in 1594. During the next three centuries, the Khmer kingdom alternated as a vassal state of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and Vietnamese kings, as well as short-lived periods of relative independence.[citation needed]

Map of French Indochina

French colonization

King Norodom is credited for saving Cambodia from disappearing altogether
A Cambodian pavilion at the Paris Exposition in the 1900s, when Cambodia was under French protection.

In 1863 King Norodom, who had been installed by Thailand,[25] sought the protection of France from the Thai and Vietnamese, after tensions grew between them. In 1867, the Thai king signed a treaty with France, renouncing suzerainty over Cambodia in exchange for the control of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces which officially became part of Thailand. The provinces were ceded back to Cambodia by a border treaty between France and Thailand in 1906.

Cambodia continued as a protectorate of France from 1863 to 1953, administered as part of the colony of French Indochina, though occupied by the Japanese empire from 1941 to 1945.[26] After King Norodom's death in 1904, France manipulated the choice of king and Sisowath, Norodom's brother, was placed on the throne. The throne became vacant in 1941 with the death of Monivong, Sisowath's son, and France passed over Monivong's son, Monireth, feeling he was too independently minded. Instead, Norodom Sihanouk, a maternal grand-son of king Sisowath, who was eighteen years old at the time, was enthroned. The French thought young Sihanouk would be easy to control.[26] They were wrong, however, and under the reign of King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953.[26]

Independence and Vietnam War

Cambodia became a constitutional monarchy under King Norodom Sihanouk. When French Indochina was given independence, Cambodia lost official control over the Mekong Delta as it was awarded to Vietnam.[citation needed] The area had been controlled by the Vietnamese since 1698 with King Chey Chettha II granting Vietnamese permission to settle in the area decades before.[26]

Norodom Sihanouk with Mao Zedong in 1956

In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father in order to participate in politics, and was elected Prime Minister. Upon his father's death in 1960, Sihanouk again became head of state, taking the title of Prince. As the Vietnam War progressed, Sihanouk adopted an official policy of neutrality in the Cold War, although he was widely considered to be sympathetic to the Communist cause. While visiting Beijing in 1970 he was ousted by a military coup led by Prime Minister General Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, who had the support of the United States. The King urged his followers to help in overthrowing this government, hastening the onset of civil war.[27] Soon the Khmer Rouge rebels began using him to gain support.

Between 1969 and 1973, Republic of Vietnam forces and U.S. forces bombed and briefly invaded Cambodia in an effort to disrupt the Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge.[28] Some two million Cambodians were made refugees by the war and fled to Phnom Penh. Estimates of the number of Cambodians killed during the bombing campaigns vary widely, as do views of the effects of the bombing. The US Seventh Air Force argued that the bombing prevented the fall of Phnom Penh in 1973 by killing 16,000 of 25,500 Khmer Rouge fighters besieging the city.[29] However, journalist William Shawcross and Cambodia specialists Milton Osborne, David P. Chandler and Ben Kiernan argued that the bombing drove peasants to join the Khmer Rouge.[30] Cambodia specialist Craig Etcheson argued that the Khmer Rouge "would have won anyway", even without US intervention driving recruitment despite the US secretly playing a major role behind the leading cause of the Khmer Rouge.[31]

Khmer Rouge rule

As the Vietnam War ended, a draft USAID report observed that the country faced famine in 1975, with 75% of its draft animals destroyed, and that rice planting for the next harvest would have to be done "by the hard labour of seriously malnourished people". The report predicted that

"Without large-scale external food and equipment assistance there will be widespread starvation between now and next February ... Slave labour and starvation rations for half the nation's people (probably heaviest among those who supported the republic) will be a cruel necessity for this year, and general deprivation and suffering will stretch over the next two or three years before Cambodia can get back to rice self-sufficiency".[32]

Flag of the Khmer Rouge and Democratic Kampuchea

The Khmer Rouge reached Phnom Penh and took power in 1975. The regime, led by Pol Pot, changed the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea. They immediately evacuated the cities and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. They attempted to rebuild the country's agriculture on the model of the 11th century, discarded Western medicine, and destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered Western. At least a million Cambodians, out of a total population of 8 million, died from executions, overwork, starvation and disease.[33]

Estimates as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime range from approximately one to three million; the most commonly cited figure is two million (about one-third of the population).[34][35] This era gave rise to the term Killing Fields, and the prison Tuol Sleng became notorious for its history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand. The regime disproportionately targeted ethnic minority groups. The Cham Muslims suffered serious purges with as much as half of their population exterminated.[36]

In the late 1960s, an estimated 425,000 ethnic Chinese lived in Cambodia, but by 1984, due to Khmer Rouge genocide and to emigration, only about 61,400 Chinese remained in the country.[37] Professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and teachers, were also targeted. According to Robert D. Kaplan, "eyeglasses were as deadly as the yellow star" as they were seen as a sign of intellectualism.[33]

End of Khmer Rouge and transition

Stupa which houses the skulls of those killed by the Khmer Rouge at Choeung Ek

In November 1978, Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia. [38] The People's Republic of Kampuchea, a Pro-Soviet state led by the Salvation Front, a group of Cambodian leftists dissatisfied with the Khmer Rouge, was established.[citation needed] In 1981, three years after the Vietnamese invasion, the country was divided between a further three factions that the United Nations euphemistically referred to as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea. This consisted of the Khmer Rouge, a royalist faction led by Sihanouk, and the Khmer People's National Liberation Front. The Khmer Rouge representative to the UN, Thiounn Prasith was retained.[39][40]

Throughout the 1980s the Khmer Rouge, supplied by Thailand, the United States[41][42] and the United Kingdom[43] continued to control much of the country and attacked territory not under their dominance. These attacks, compounded by total economic sanctions[44] by the US and its allies, made reconstruction virtually impossible and left the country deeply impoverished.

Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989 under the State of Cambodia, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a comprehensive peace settlement. The United Nations was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire, and deal with refugees and disarmament known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).[45]

In 1993, Norodom Sihanouk was restored as King of Cambodia, making Cambodia the world's only postcommunist country which restored monarchy as the system of government.[citation needed] The stability established following the conflict was shaken in 1997 by a coup d'état,[46] but has otherwise remained in place. In recent years, reconstruction efforts have progressed and led to some political stability in the form of a multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy.[47] In July 2010 Kang Gek Iew was the first Khmer Rouge member found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in his role as the former commandant of the S21 extermination camp. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.[48]

Politics

Main articles: Politics of Cambodia and List of political parties in Cambodia

Government

King Norodom Sihamoni during the Royal Ploughing Ceremony

National politics in Cambodia take place within the framework of the nation's constitution of 1993. The government is a constitutional monarchy operated as a parliamentary representative democracy. The Prime Minister of Cambodia, an office held by Hun Sen since 1985, is the head of government, while the King (currently Norodom Sihamoni) is the head of state. The Prime Minister is appointed by the King, on the advice and with the approval of the National Assembly

The Prime Minister and the ministerial appointees exercise executive power while legislative powers are shared by the executive and the bicameral Parliament of Cambodia, which consists of a lower house, the National Assembly or Radhsphea and an upper house, the Senate or Sénat. Members of the 123-seat Assembly are elected through a system of proportional representation and serve for a maximum term of five years. The Senate has 61 seats, two of which are appointed by the King and two others by the National Assembly. Senators serve five year terms.

On October 14, 2004, King Norodom Sihamoni was selected by a special nine-member throne council, part of a selection process that was quickly put in place after the abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk a week prior. Sihamoni's selection was endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly Speaker Prince Norodom Ranariddh (the king's half brother and current chief advisor), both members of the throne council. He was enthroned in Phnom Penh on October 29, 2004.

The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is the major ruling party in Cambodia. The CP controls the lower and upper chambers of parliament, with 73 seats in the National Assembly and 43 seats in the Senate. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party is the second largest party in Cambodia with 26 seats in the National Assembly and 2 in the Senate.

Military

Main article: Royal Cambodian Armed Forces
A Cambodian Tank from the Civil War Era

The Royal Cambodian Army, Royal Cambodian Navy, Royal Cambodian Air Force and Royal Gendarmerie collectively form the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, under the command of the Ministry of National Defense, presided over by the Prime Minister of Cambodia. His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni is the Supreme Commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the country's Prime minister Hun Sen effectively holds the position of commander-in-chief.

UH-1P helicopters over Cambodia

The introduction of a revised command structure early in 2000 was a key prelude to the reorganisation of the Cambodian military. This saw the defence ministry form three subordinate general departments responsible for logistics and finance, materials and technical services, and defence services under the The High Command Headquarters (HCHQ).

The minister of National Defence is General Tea Banh. Banh has served as defence minister since 1979. The Secretaries of State for Defence are Chay Saing Yun and Por Bun Sreu. The new Commander-in-Chief of the RCAF and was replaced by his deputy General Pol Saroeun, who is a long time loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Army Commander is General Meas Sophea and the Army Chief of Staff is Chea Saran.

In 2010, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces had comprised about 315,000 personnel. Total Cambodian military spending remains the same, standing at $123 million, equal to 3% of national GDP. The Royal Gendarmerie of Cambodia total more than 7,000 personnel. Its civil duties include providing security and public peace, to investigate and prevent organized crime, terrorism and other violent groups; to protect state and private property; to help and assist civilians and other emergency forces in a case of emergency, natural disaster, civil unrest and armed conflicts.

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of Cambodia
Hun Sen at the 2010 ASEAN Summit

Cambodia is a member of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is an Asian Development Bank (ADB) member, a member of ASEAN, and joined the WTO on October 13, 2004. In 2005 Cambodia attended the inaugural East Asia Summit.

Cambodia's ambassador Khieu Thavika presents his letter of credentials to Vladimir Putin

Cambodia has established diplomatic relations with numerous countries; the government reports twenty embassies in the country[49] including many of its Asian neighbours and those of important players during the Paris peace negotiations, including the US, Australia, Canada, China, the European Union (EU), Japan, and Russia.[50] As a result of its international relations, various charitable organizations have assisted with both social and civil infrastructure needs. While the violent ruptures of the 1970s and 80s have passed, several border disputes between Cambodia and its neighbours persist. There are disagreements over some offshore islands and sections of the boundary with Vietnam, and undefined maritime boundaries and border areas with Thailand. Both Cambodian and Thai troops had clashed over the temple at Preah Vihear, which is claimed by both countries, leading to a deterioration in relations.

In recent years, bilateral relations between the United States and Cambodia have strengthened. The US supports efforts in Cambodia to combat terrorism, build democratic institutions, promote human rights, foster economic development, eliminate corruption, achieve the fullest possible accounting for Americans missing from the Vietnam War-era, and to bring to justice those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed under the Khmer Rouge regime.

China's geopolitical interest in Cambodia changed significantly with the end of the Cold War. It retains considerable influence, including close links with former King Norodom Sihanouk, senior members of Cambodian Government, and the ethnic Chinese community in Cambodia. There are regular high level exchanges between the two countries. China provides substantial bilateral and economic aid to the kingdom.[citation needed]

Geography

Main article: Geography of Cambodia
Dângrêk Mountains in Northern Cambodia
Mekong River in Kratié

Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 sq mi) and lies entirely within the tropics, between latitudes 10° and 15°N, and longitudes 102° and 108°E. It borders Thailand to the north and west, Laos to the northeast, and Vietnam to the east and southeast. It has a 443-kilometer (275 mi) coastline along the Gulf of Thailand.

The most distinctive geographical feature is the lacustrine plain, formed by the inundations of the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), measuring about 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 sq mi) during the dry season and expanding to about 24,605 square kilometers (9,500 sq mi) during the rainy season. This densely populated plain, which is devoted to wet rice cultivation, is the heartland of Cambodia. Much of this area has been designated as a biosphere reserve.

Most (about 75%) of the country lies at elevations of less than 100 metres (330 ft) above sea level, the exceptions being the Cardamom Mountains (highest elevation 1,813 m / 5,948 ft) and their southeast extension the Dâmrei Mountains ("Elephant Mountains") (elevation range 500–1,000 m or 1,640–3,280 ft), as well the steep escarpment of the Dângrêk Mountains (average elevation 500 m / 1,640 ft) along the border with Thailand's Isan region. The highest elevation of Cambodia is Phnom Aoral, near Pursat in the center of the country, at 1,813 meters (5,948 ft).

Climate

Main article: Climate of Cambodia

Cambodia's climate, like that of the rest of Southeast Asia, is dominated by monsoons, which are known as tropical wet and dry because of the distinctly marked seasonal differences.

Cambodia has a temperature range from 21 to 35 °C (69.8 to 95 °F) and experiences tropical monsoons. Southwest monsoons blow inland bringing moisture-laden winds from the Gulf of Thailand and Indian Ocean from May to October. The northeast monsoon ushers in the dry season, which lasts from November to March. The country experiences the heaviest precipitation from September to October with the driest period occurring from January to February.

Cambodia has two distinct seasons. The rainy season, which runs from May to October, can see temperatures drop to 22 °C (71.6 °F) and is generally accompanied with high humidity. The dry season lasts from November to April when temperatures can rise up to 40 °C (104 °F) around April. Disastrous flooding, due to extremely heavy rainfall, occurred in 2001 and again in 2002. Yet almost every year there is flooding to some degree.

Wildlife

Main article: Wildlife of Cambodia
Siamese crocodiles

Cambodia has a wide variety of plants and animals. There are 212 mammal species, 536 bird species, 240 reptile species, 850 freshwater fish species (Tonle Sap Lake area), and 435 marine fish species. Much of this biodiversity is contained around the Tonle Sap Lake and the surrounding biosphere.[51] The Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is a unique ecological phenomenon surrounding the Tonle Sap. It encompasses the lake and nine provinces: Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Banteay Meanchey, Krong Pailin, Otdar Meanchey and Preah Vihear. In 1997, it was successfully nominated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.[52] Other key habitats include the dry forest of Mondolkiri and Ratanakiri provinces and the Cardamom Mountains ecosystem, including Bokor National Park, Botum-Sakor National Park, and the Phnom Aural and Phnom Samkos wildlife sanctuaries.

The rate of deforestation in Cambodia is one of the highest in the world. Cambodia's primary rainforest cover fell from over 70% in 1969 to just 31% in 2007. In total, Cambodia lost 25,000 square kilometres (9,700 sq mi) of forest between 1990 and 2005—3,340 km2 (1,290 sq mi) of which was primary forest. Since 2007, less than 3,220 km2 (1,243 sq mi) of primary forest remain with the result that the future sustainability of the forest reserves of Cambodia is under severe threat, with illegal loggers looking to generate revenue.[53]

Administrative divisions

Main article: Administrative divisions of Cambodia

Capital (Reach Theani) and Provinces (Khaet) are Cambodia's First-level administrative divisions. Cambodian areas are divided into 23 provinces and the capital. Municipalities, Districts (Srok) and Khan are the second-level administrative divisions of Cambodia. The provinces are divided into 26 municipalities and 159 districts, and the capital is divided into 8 khan. The districts in turn are further divided into communes (khum) and sangkat. The municipalities and khan are divided into sangkat.

No. City or Province Area
km²
1 Capital of Phnom Penh 758 293
2 Kandal Province 3,568 1,378
3 Takeo Province 3,563 1,376
4 Kampong Cham Province 9,799 3,783
5 Kampong Thom Province 13,814 5,334
6 Siem Reap Province 10,299 3,976
7 Preah Vihear Province 13,788 5,324
8 Oddar Meancheay Province 6,158 2,378
9 Banteay Meanchey Province 6,679 2,579
10 Battambang Province 11,072 4,275
11 Pailin Province 803 310
12 Pursat Province 12,692 4,900
13 Kampong Chhnang Province 5,521 2,132
14 Kampong Speu Province 7,017 2,709
15 Koh Kong Province 11,160 4,309
16 Preah Sihanouk Province 868 335
17 Kampot Province 4,873.2 1,881.6
18 Kep Province 335.8 129.7
19 Prey Veng Province 4,883 1,885
20 Svay Rieng Province 2,966 1,145
21 Kratie Province 11,094 4,283
22 Stung Treng Province 11,092 4,283
23 Ratanakiri Province 10,782 4,163
24 Mondulkiri Province 14,288 5,517
25 Tonlé Sap 3,000 1,158
TOTAL AREA 181,035 69,898

 

Cities

Largest cities in Cambodia  
Rank City Population Province

Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh
Siem Reap
Siem Reap

1 Phnom Penh 1,501,725 Phnom Penh
2 Battambang 250,000 Battambang
3 Siem Reap 171,800 Siem Reap
4 Sihanoukville 102,000 Preah Sihanouk
5 Prey Veng 74,000 Prey Veng

Economy

Main article: Economy of Cambodia
Rice cropping plays an important role in the economy
Cambodian Riel, Currency of Cambodia

Cambodia's per capita income is rapidly increasing, but is low compared to other countries in the region. Most rural households depend on agriculture and its related sub-sectors. Rice, fish, timber, garments and rubber are Cambodia's major exports. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) reintroduced more than 750 traditional rice varieties to Cambodia from its rice seed bank in the Philippines.[54] These varieties had been collected in the 1960s.

In 1987, the Australian government funded IRRI to help Cambodia improve its rice production. By 2000, Cambodia was again self-sufficient in rice.[55] However, few Cambodian farmers grow other crops, leaving them vulnerable to crop failure. In recent years, various international aid organisation's have begun crop diversification programs to encourage farmers to grow other crops. The recovery of Cambodia's economy slowed dramatically in 1997–98, because of the regional economic crisis, civil violence, and political infighting. Foreign investment and tourism also fell off drastically. Since then however, growth has been steady. In 1999, the first full year of peace in 30 years, progress was made on economic reforms and growth resumed at 5.0%.

Prasat Angkor Wat is a major tourist destination in the country

Based on the Economist, IMF: Annual average GDP growth for period 2001-2010 was 7.7%. For the periode, Cambodia is one of world's top ten Annual average GDP growth. Tourism was Cambodia's fastest growing industry, with arrivals increasing from 219,000 in 1997 to 2 million in 2007. In 2004, inflation was at 1.7% and exports at $1.6 billion USD. As of 2005, GDP per capita in PPP terms was $2,200, which ranked 178th (out of 233) countries.[56]

The older population often lacks education, particularly in the countryside, which suffers from a lack of basic infrastructure. Fear of renewed political instability and corruption within the government discourage foreign investment and delay foreign aid, although there has been significant aid from bilateral and multilateral donors. Donors pledged $504 million to the country in 2004,[57] while the Asian Development Bank alone has provided $850 million in loans, grants, and technical assistance.[58]

Tourism

The tourism industry is the country's second-greatest source of hard currency after the textile industry.[45] Between January and December 2007, visitor arrivals were 2.0 million, an increase of 18.5% over the same period in 2006. Most visitors (51%) arrived through Siem Reap with the remainder (49%) through Phnom Penh and other destinations.[59] Other tourist destinations include Sihanoukville in the south east which has several popular beaches, and the area around Kampot and Kep including the Bokor Hill Station. Tourism has increased steadily year on year in the relatively stable period since the 1993 UNTAC elections as in 1993 there were 118,183 international tourists and in 2009 there was 2,161,577 international tourists.[60]


Boats in front of the Royal Palace

Demographics

Main articles: Demographics of Cambodia, Ethnic groups in Cambodia, and Religion in Cambodia
Buddhism is the major religion in Cambodia

Ninety percent of Cambodia's population is of Khmer origin and speaks the Khmer language, the country's official language. The remainder include Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham and Khmer Loeu.[61]

The Khmer language is a member of the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austroasiatic language group. French, once the language of government in Indochina, is still spoken by many older Cambodians. French is also the language of instruction in some schools and universities that are funded by the government of France. Cambodian French, a remnant of the country's colonial past, is a dialect found in Cambodia and is sometimes used in government.

Wat Preah Keo in Phnom Penh

However, in recent decades, many younger Cambodians and those in the business-class have favoured learning English. In the major cities and tourist centers, English is widely spoken and taught at a large number of schools because of the overwhelming number of tourists from English-speaking countries. Even in the most rural outposts, most young people speak at least some English, as it is often taught by monks at the local pagodas where many children are educated.

Theravada Buddhism, the official religion of Cambodia, was suppressed by the Khmer Rouge but has since experienced a revival. Islam (2%) and Christianity (2%) are also practiced.[62]

The civil war and its aftermath have markedly effected the Cambodian population. 50% of the population is younger than 22. At 0.96 males/female, Cambodia has the most female-biased sex ratio in the Greater Mekong Subregion.[63] In the Cambodian population over 65, the female to male ratio is 1.6:1.[57]

UNICEF has designated Cambodia the third most landmined country in the world,[64] attributing over 60,000 civilian deaths and thousands more maimed or injured since 1970 to the unexploded land mines left behind in rural areas.[65] The majority of the victims are children herding animals or playing in the fields.[64]

Adults that survive landmines often require amputation of one or more limbs and have to resort to begging for survival.[65] However, the number of landmine casualties has sharply decreased, from 800 in 2005 to less than 400 in 2006 and 208 in 2007 (38 killed and 170 injured).[66]

Health

The quality of health in Cambodia is rising. As of 2009, the life expectancy was 64 years for females and 60 for males, a major improvement since 1999 when the average life expectancy was 49.8 and 46.8 respectively.[67] The Cambodian government plans to increase the quality of healthcare in the country and raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, and malaria.

Cambodia's infant mortality rate has decreased from 115 per 1000 live births in 1993 to 54 in 2009. In the same period, the under-five mortality rate decreased from 181 to 115 per 1000 live births.[68] In the province with worst health indicators, Ratanakiri, 22.9% of children die before age five.[69]

Education

In 2004 it was estimated that 73.6% of the population was literate (84.7% of males and 64.1% of females).[70] The education system in Cambodia continues to face many challenges, but during the past years there have been significant improvements, especially in terms of primary net enrollment gains, the introduction of program based-budgeting and the development of a policy framework which helps disadvantaged children to gain access to education.[71]

Traditionally, education in Cambodia was offered by the wats (Buddhist temples), thus providing education exclusively for the male population[72] During the Khmer Rouge regime, education suffered significant drawbacks.

Culture

The Churning of the Ocean of Milk at Angkor Wat
National Museum of Cambodia
Reamker is one the most famous story in Khmer literature

Various factors contribute to Cambodian culture including Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism, French colonialism, Angkorian culture, and modern globalization. The Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts is responsible for promoting and developing Cambodian culture. Cambodian culture not only includes the culture of the lowland ethnic majority, but also some 20 culturally distinct hill tribes colloquially known as the Khmer Loeu, a term coined by Norodom Sihanouk to encourage unity between the highlanders and lowlanders. Rural Cambodians wear a krama scarf which is a unique aspect of Cambodian clothing. Khmer culture, as developed and spread by the Khmer empire, has distinctive styles of dance, architecture and sculpture, which have been exchanged with neighbouring Laos and Thailand through the history. Angkor Wat (Angkor means "city" and Wat "temple") is the best preserved example of Khmer architecture from the Angkorian era and hundreds of other temples have been discovered in and around the region.

Traditionally, the Khmer people have a unique method of recording information on Tra[clarification needed] leaves. Tra leaf books record legends of the Khmer people, the Ramayana, the origin of Buddhism and other prayer book series. They are greatly taken care of and wrapped in cloth as to protect from moisture and the jungle climate.[73] Bonn Om Teuk (Festival of Boat Racing), the annual boat rowing contest, is the most attended Cambodian national festival. Held at the end of the rainy season when the Mekong river begins to sink back to its normal levels allowing the Tonle Sap River to reverse flow, approximately 10% of Cambodia's population attends this event each year to play games, give thanks to the moon, watch fireworks, and attend the boat race in a carnival-type atmosphere.[74] Popular games include cockfighting, soccer, and kicking a sey, which is similar to a footbag. Based on the classical Indian solar calendar and Theravada Buddhism, the Cambodian New Year is a major holiday that takes place in April. Recent artistic figures include singers Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea (and later Meng Keo Pichenda), who introduced new musical styles to the country.

Cuisine

Amok, a popular Khmer dish

Rice is the staple grain, as in other Southeast Asian countries. Fish from the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers is also an important part of the diet. The supply of fish and fish products for food and trade in 2000 was 20 kilograms per person or 2 ounces per day per person.[75] Some of the fish can be made into prahok for longer storage. The cuisine of Cambodia contains tropical fruits, soups and noodles. Key ingredients are kaffir lime, lemon grass, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, curry, tamarind, ginger, oyster sauce, coconut milk and black pepper. Some delicacies are(នំបញ្ចុក) (Num Bunhjok), (អាមុក​) (Amok), (អាពីង) (Ah Ping).

French influence on Cambodian cuisine includes the Cambodian red curry with toasted baguette bread. The toasted baguette pieces are dipped in the curry and eaten. Cambodian red curry is also eaten with rice and rice vermicelli noodles. Probably the most popular dine out dish, ka tieu, is a pork broth rice noodle soup with fried garlic, scallions, green onions that may also contain various toppings such as beef balls, shrimp, pork liver or lettuce. The cuisine is relatively unknown to the world compared to that of its neighbours Thailand and Vietnam.

Sports

Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh
A Pradal Serey match during the colonial period

Football is one of the more popular sports, although professional organized sports are not as prevalent in Cambodia as in western countries because of the economic conditions. Football was brought to Cambodia by the French and became popular with the locals.[76] The Cambodia national football team managed fourth in the 1972 Asian Cup but development has slowed since the civil war. Western sports such as volleyball, bodybuilding, field hockey, rugby union, golf, and baseball are gaining popularity. Native sports include traditional boat racing, buffalo racing, Pradal Serey, Khmer traditional wrestling and Bokator. Cambodia first participated in the Olympics during the 1956 Summer Olympic Games sending Equestrian riders. Cambodia also hosted the GANEFO Games, the alternative to the Olympics, in the 1960s.

Music

Ros Sereysothea

Traditional Cambodian music dates back as far as the Khmer Empire. Royal dances like the Apsara Dance are icons of the Cambodian Culture. Popular types of dances are Romvong, commonly danced at festivals. The Classic Music Era of Cambodia was during the 1960s to the 1970s featuring notable singers Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea. However, during the Khmer Rouge Revolution many classic and popular singers of the 60s and 70s died of execution, starvation, or overwork[citation needed].

Internet

As Cambodia continues to grow, so does its connection to the world. These days there are numerous places where internet is available for public use, such as coffee shops, bars, restaurants and gas stations.

The increased connection to the internet has created the desire for more websites focused on Cambodia. Because of the literacy rate in Cambodia, the issue arises of whether Cambodia-focused sites need to be in English or Khmer. English is the predominant language of the internet, and the majority of internet users in Cambodia are able to understand English, but with the use of Khmer Unicode more sites have the capability to provide Khmer language

This page was last modified on 16 April 2011 at 03:04.

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