Cambodia or Kampuchea, republic in South East Asia, bordered on the northeast by Laos, on the east and southeast by Vietnam, on the southwest by the Gulf of Thailand, and on the west and northwest by Thailand. Cambodia covers a total area of 181,035 sq km (69,898 sq mi). The capital and largest city of Cambodia is Phnom Penh.


Cambodia’s terrain is dominated by a large, low-lying alluvial plain that occupies most of the central part of the country. To the east of the plain lies an undulating plateau region. Mountain ranges fringe the plain on the southwest, where the Kravanh range of mountains (Cardamom Mountains) form a physical barrier along the country’s coast, and on the north by the Dangrek Range.

A Rivers and Lakes

The main features of the plain are the Mekong River, which flows from north to south through Cambodia, and Lake Sap, which covers an area of about 2,600 sq km (1,000 sq mi) in the dry season to about 10,400 sq km (4,000 sq mi) in the rainy season. The outlet of Lake Sap is the Sab River, which during the dry season flows south into the Mekong River. During the rainy season, the floodwaters of the Mekong River flow back into Lake Sap, inundating the central part of the country.

B Climate

Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate. The average annual temperature is about 26.7° C (80° F). A rainy season extends from mid-April to mid-October. Average annual rainfall is about 1,400 mm (55 in) on the central plains and more than 3,800 mm (150 in) in mountainous areas and along the coast.

C Natural Resources

Known mineral resources are limited; phosphate and gemstones are most important. Cambodia has an enormous hydroelectric power potential, but its development has been hindered by the warfare and civil strife of the 1970s and 1980s.

D Plants and Animals

About three-quarters of Cambodia is forested. The densest forests are found in the mountains and along the south-western coast. Savannahs, covered with high, sharp grass, are present in the higher plains and plateaux. Such trees as rubber, kapok, palm, coconut, and banana are common.

Wildlife is varied and includes elephant, deer, wild ox, buffalo, panther, bear, and tiger. Cormorant, crane, pheasant and wild duck are also found, as are poisonous snakes, including cobras.

E Environmental Concerns

Deforestation is the most serious threat to Cambodia’s environment. In the 1960s and 1970s Cambodian forests and wetlands were harmed by bombings and defoliants used during the Vietnam War. In the 1970s and 1980s, the damage continued with the disastrous agricultural policies of the Khmer Rouge regime and civil war. In the relatively peaceful 1990s, timber became an important export for Cambodia. More than 800,000 hectares (2 million acres) of Cambodian forest were cut down from 1990 to 1995—an alarming rate of 1.6 percent (1990-1996) per year. In 1995 the government responded by banning log exports, but illegal timber exporting has led to continued deforestation. In 1995, 55.7 percent of Cambodia’s total land area was forested. The government has declared a large portion—16.2 percent (1997)—of the country’s total land area protected.

Many of the mangrove swamps crucial to the country’s fisheries and wildlife have been destroyed. The loss of wildlife habitat and the negative environmental effects of logging and mining industries have caused a decline in biodiversity. In 1996, 55 species were listed as threatened in Cambodia, including 23 species of mammals. In addition, the pollution and contamination of streams and lakes have made much of the country’s fresh water unsafe. Only 30 percent (1990-1998) of all Cambodian people have access to safe, drinkable water, and only 19 percent (1990-1998) have access to sanitation. The government has ratified international environmental agreements on biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, marine life conservation, ship pollution, and tropical timber.


About 94 percent of the Cambodian people are ethnic Cambodians, known as Khmer. Minorities such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Cham-Malays (who inhabit the mountainous regions) make up most of the remaining 6 percent. In 2005 population was about 80 percent rural.

A Population Characteristics

Cambodia has a population of 14,241,640 (2008 estimate). The overall population density is some 81 people per sq km (209 per sq mi). Average life expectancy at birth in 2008 was 59.6 years for men and 63.8 years for women. At least 15 percent of the population died between 1975 and 1979 as a result of Khmer Rouge policies.

B Principal Cities

The capital, Phnom Penh, with a population of 1,157,000 (2003 estimate), is situated at the junction of the Mekong and Sab rivers. Other major cities are Battambang, population 171,382 (2002), Kompong Cham (population, 1987, 33,000), and Kampot (population, 1987, 15,000). The major port is Kompong Som (population, 1990, 75,000), formerly Sihanoukville, on the Gulf of Thailand. During the late 1970s, the larger cities were depopulated, with residents fleeing or being sent to rural areas.

C Religion

Theravada (Hinayana) Buddhism is the dominant religion and is adhered to by about 90 percent of the population. Hinduism has had an important cultural and historical influence. Other religions include Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Mahayana Buddhism; the mountain tribes are animists.

D Language

The official language is Central Khmer, an Austro-Asiatic language sometimes called “Cambodian”, which is spoken by the majority of the population. French was formerly an important secondary language, but its use has been discouraged since independence. Western Cham, an Austronesian language, is a mother tongue for around 220,000 people living near major cities. Sixteen other Austro-Asiatic languages are spoken, including Tampuan, Central Mnong, and Kuy.

E Education

About 71.3 percent of the adult Cambodian population is literate (2005 estimate). Government plans to re-establish and expand the educational system, which was disrupted by warfare and ideologically motivated vandalism in the late 1970s, are being realized. All public education is free. In 2000 about 2.43 million pupils attended some 5,527 primary schools, and 396,876 pupils attended secondary school. Institutions of higher education were closed in the late 1970s, and many instructors were murdered or died of starvation or disease. In 1995-1996 some 8,400 students attended Cambodia’s main national university, the Royal University of Phnom Penh (1960).

F Culture

The cultural heritage of the Khmer dynasties is very important in South East Asian art and architecture and is reflected in many facets of contemporary Cambodia. Many buildings, such as the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, are decorated in the Khmer architectural style and use such motifs as the garuda, a mythical symbolic bird in Hinduism. Handicraft items, often in woven gold or silver lamé, also reflect ancient motifs. The classical Cambodian dance mimes in the most traditional style the legendary lives of ancient religious deities.

The ruins of the ancient Khmer empire, found in north-western Cambodia, constitute one of the richest and most remarkable archaeological sites in the world. Particularly noteworthy are the ruins of the Khmer capital of Angkor Thom, built about 850, and to the south, the temple of Angkor Wat (or Angor Vat), built between 1112 and 1152.


Agriculture is the mainstay of the Cambodian economy. Before the onset of warfare and civil disorder during the 1970s and 1980s, Cambodia was largely self-sufficient in food products, and in spite of low yields per unit area and the planting of only one crop a year, the country exported sizeable amounts of rice. By 1974 rice had to be imported. Production of rubber, the other major crop, also fell. In 1975 the new Khmer Rouge government nationalized all means of production, and agriculture was collectivized. Crop production rose slightly until warfare in 1978 and 1979 disrupted the harvesting and planting of rice. Widespread famine followed. Disruption was also severe in the country’s small manufacturing sector, and many transport and communication links were destroyed. By the mid-1980s both agriculture and manufacturing had begun to recover from the effects of years of warfare. Nevertheless, Cambodia remained one of the world’s poorest countries; in 2004, the gross national product was US$4,808 million (World Bank figure) and the per capita GNP was about US$490, among the lowest in the world.

A Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing

Rice is the most important crop of Cambodian agriculture. Some 80 per cent of the cultivated land is planted with rice; production in 2006 was estimated at 6.26 million tonnes. Rubber, the other leading crop, is primarily grown on the eastern plateaux. Other important agricultural products include maize, cassava, soya beans, sesame, palm sugar, and pepper. Mangoes, bananas, and pineapples are grown for local consumption.

Of the extensive, potentially valuable forests, only a small proportion has been exploited, mainly because of Cambodia’s poor transport facilities. Roundwood removals were about 9 million cu m (330 million cu ft) in 2006.

Fishing is an important economic activity; most of the annual fish catch (426,000 tonnes in 2005) is consumed locally. Lake Sap provides one of the largest freshwater fishery resources in South East Asia. Carp, perch and smelt are the principal varieties of fish caught.

B Mining

Zircons, sapphires, and rubies are mined in limited amounts in the west, and salt is found in the central provinces. Other mineral resources include bauxite and phosphates.

C Manufacturing

Cambodia’s limited industry was severely damaged during the 1970s and has been only partially rebuilt since that time. Industrial products in the early 1990s included 50,000 tonnes of cement and 35,000 tonnes of processed rubber annually.

D Energy

Most of Cambodia’s electricity generating and distribution capacity was lost during the Vietnam War and the Pol Pot years. Electricity generation was estimated at 123.7 million kWh in 2003.

E Currency and Banking

The monetary unit of Cambodia is the riel of 100 sen (4,039 riels equalled US$1; early 2008). The exchange rate for the riel has been unstable. The average exchange rate in 1991 was 700 riels per US$1; by late December 1993, more than 3,000 riels equalled US$1. The National Bank of Cambodia (1980) is the sole bank of issue. Money, which had been officially abolished in 1978, was reintroduced in 1980.

F Commerce and Trade

In peacetime, the principal Cambodian exports are rice and rice products, rubber, maize, and wood products. The total annual value of exports dropped from about US$60 million in the early 1970s to about US$12 million in the mid-1980s. By 1995, however, exports had risen to about US$855 million, although this dropped to US$2,798 million in 2004. The chief imports were metals, machinery, textiles, mineral products, and foodstuffs; their total value was about US$2,063 million in 2004.

G Labour

Around 68 per cent of the Cambodian labour force is engaged in agriculture. The Cambodian Federation of Trade Unions is the leading labour organization.

H Transport

In 1995 Cambodia had about 12,300 km (7,640 mi) of roads of all types; some one-third of these were paved. A modern highway links Phnom Penh with the port of Kompong Som. In 1996 Cambodia had around 36,920 cars and 10,700 larger vehicles, around 1 vehicle for every 206 people. A railway between the capital and Battambang also extends north-east to the Thai frontier. Another rail line connects Phnom Penh and Kompong Som. The entire railway system extended about 610 km (380 mi) in 1995. In October 2000 the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) approved plans for the Trans-Asia Railway Project, a 5,513 km (3,420 mi) rail link, costing US$2.5 billion. The link, which is scheduled for completion in 2006, will connect Cambodia and six other ASEAN countries (Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) with Kunming, in Yunnan Province, China. Inland waterways, including navigable sections of the main rivers, total about 1,400 km (870 mi) in the rainy season and less than 650 km (400 mi) at other times. Pochentong International Airport lies near Phnom Penh.

I Communications

All major Cambodian communications systems are controlled by the government. Radio services link the large cities; telephone, telegraph, and postal services were resumed in 1979. Cambodia had only around 5,900 main telephone lines in use in 1993. In 1995 the country had some 1.5 million radios and 70,000 television sets.


In April 1975 Cambodia came under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, as Democratic Kampuchea, though its 600-year-old monarchy had been in abeyance since the toppling of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1972 by General Lon Nol. In 1979 a rebel organization, the Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation (KNUFNS), deposed the Khmer Rouge government with the backing of Vietnamese troops and established the People’s Republic of Kampuchea; the country’s official name was changed to the State of Cambodia in 1989.

The KNUFNS established a 14-member People’s Revolutionary Council to govern the country. A draft constitution was promulgated in March 1981, and in May elections were held for the 117 seats of the National Assembly. Executive power was vested in the chair of the Council of State and the chair of the Council of Ministers (the premier). Remnants of the Khmer Rouge and other groups organized the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea in opposition to the Vietnamese-backed regime and were able to retain Cambodia’s seat at the UN. Continued armed conflict between these factions made it virtually impossible to govern the country effectively.

In October 1991 an agreement was signed providing for the UN and a 12-member Supreme National Council to share power until the election of a constituent assembly. Prince Norodom Sihanouk was elected Council Chairman. The popular election, in May 1993, resulted in a new coalition government. In September 1993 the government ratified a new constitution that provided for a pluralistic democratic government with a limited monarchy.

A Executive and Legislature

Under the 1993 constitution, Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy. The monarch is elected by the nine-member Throne Council from among the three royal lines. Executive power is vested in a Cabinet headed by a prime minister, who is appointed by the sovereign at the recommendation of the National Assembly. After the May 1993 elections, two prime ministers were appointed: Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh, son of Prince Sihanouk, the monarch. A constitutional amendment was passed by the National Assembly in March 1999 to provide for the formation of a 61-member Senate, whose members are appointed by the king.

Cambodia’s legislature is the 122-seat unicameral National Assembly, elected every 5 years by universal adult suffrage.

B Political Parties

Principal political parties are the royalist group Funcinpec and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Hun Sen, with minor parties including the Buddhist Democratic Liberal Party (BDLP) and Khmer Nation Party (KNP). However, by 1997 these parties were functioning more as front organizations for rival armed power groups, with Hun Sen’s forces soon achieving the upper hand. The Khmer Rouge refused to participate in the 1993 elections, and declared a provisional government in the 10 percent or so of Cambodia still in its hands. Three other parties, the Populism Party, the Sam Rainsy Party, and the New Society Party, were formed to contest the July 1998 elections. In 2002 Prince Norodom Chakrapong set up the Norodom Chakrapong (NC) Khmer Soul Party; his half-brother Prince Norodom Ranariddh heads Funcinpec.

C Judiciary

The 1993 constitution established an independent judiciary in Cambodia, headed by a Supreme Court.

D Local Government

In theory, Cambodia is divided into 21 provinces for administrative purposes, with municipalities and districts at the lower level. In practice, local warlords and power groups frequently usurp central government authority, with around 10 per cent of the country near the Thai border still under the control of the Khmer Rouge.

E Health and Welfare

Cambodia’s chronic poverty and decades of dislocation have led to a very poor public health record. In 2008 average life expectancy at birth was just 60 years for men and 64 years for women. Infant mortality in 2008 was 57 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 1993 Cambodia had around 5,640 doctors or 1 for every 1,650 people. In 1994 around 3.1 per cent of total national budgetary expenditure went on health care and welfare.

F Defence

In 2004 Cambodia had an estimated 124,300 personnel in the armed forces, including an army of around 75,000, a navy of 2,800, and an air force of 1,500. A force of about 140,000 Vietnamese troops occupied the country from 1979 to 1989. The government plans to shrink the size of the armed forces by around 30,000 personnel.

G International Organizations

Cambodia is a member of the United Nations (UN). Cambodia had long held observer status at the Association of South East Asian Nations and was officially admitted as a full member in April 1999, after fulfilling a key membership requirement by establishing a Senate. The country was admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2004.


The ancestors of the Cambodians, the Mon, and the Khmer peoples moved into South East Asia before the Christian era, probably from the north, arriving before their present neighbours—the Vietnamese, Lao, and Thai. Indian cultural borrowings transformed the early kingdom of Cambodia, providing a writing system, architectural styles, religions (Hinduism and Buddhism), the concept of the god-king (deva-raja), and a highly stratified class system.

A Early Khmer States

Funan, the first kingdom to occupy the present area of Cambodia, was formed in the 1st-century ad, probably by Mon-Khmer peoples. Funan’s culture came mainly from India. Its port, Oc Eo, on the Gulf of Thailand, was a major trade link between China and India. The kingdom of Chenla, located north-east of Lake Sap, was originally a vassal state of Funan, but in the 6th and 7th centuries, it conquered that kingdom. In 706, however, Chenla was split in two. The northern half, Land Chenla, was in Laos, and the southern half, called Water Chenla, in the area of modern Cambodia, fell under the sovereignty of Java.

A1 Angkor Era

The reign of Jayavarman II (reigned c. 802-c. 850) began the Angkor era in Khmer history and the rise of the great Khmer kingdoms. In the early 9th century he returned from exile in Java, rejected the pretensions of the Javanese kingdom of Sri Vijaya, and strengthened the cult of the god-king. The great temples of the Angkor era were built by his successors to house their royal lingas, the phallic emblems of the Hindu god Shiva. The kings of Angkor ruled over much of the South East Asian mainland until the early 15th century. Their capital was the centre of a network of reservoirs and canals that controlled the supply of water for rice-farming and enabled the people to produce a surplus of wealth to finance wars and monumental construction. One king, Jayavarman VIII, built hospitals and rest houses during the 12th and early 13th centuries along the roads that crisscrossed his kingdom.

Early signs of imperial weakening could be seen in the rebellions of the 1100s. These were caused by the rulers’ excessive demands on their people and by neglect of the irrigation system. Epidemics of malaria, plague, and other diseases undermined the population. The introduction of Theravada Buddhism—which taught that all could hope for spiritual advancement through meditation—may also have upset Angkor’s imperial drive and its rigid social order. Loss of control in the Chao Phraya river basin in present-day Thailand signified the further weakening of the Angkor empire.

A2 Decline

After Thailand—or Siam, as it was then called—defeated Angkor in 1431, the Cambodian court was moved south-eastwards to Phnom Penh. Despite almost constant fighting with Siam in the west, everyday life in Cambodia’s interior was little changed until Siam took Phnom Penh in 1594 and established a degree of political control. Vietnam’s slow advance southward reached the Mekong delta a few years later. In 1620 the Khmer king Chetta II (reigned 1618-1625) married a Vietnamese princess and allowed Vietnam to set up a customs collection house on the site of present Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Thereafter, Siam and Vietnam each tried to control the Khmer kingdom by military occupation and the enthronement of puppet monarchs.

B French Rule

In 1863 France, by then rapidly expanding its penetration of Indochina, intervened to slow the process of Cambodia’s dismemberment by Vietnam and Siam, proclaiming a protectorate over the country. French rule in Cambodia, nominally indirect, was exercised through advisers whose word was final on major issues. The Cambodian monarchy was retained, and a Khmer civil service was gradually trained. Roads, port facilities, and other public works were built, with emphasis on internal security and the export of rubber and rice. The restoration of the vast temple complex at Angkor Wat in the 1930s helped rekindle the Khmer people’s pride in their past. During World War II, when Japanese forces were allowed into Indochina in 1940, the compliant French administration was left in place. On the verge of defeat in 1945, the Japanese removed their French collaborators and installed a nominally independent Khmer government under the young king, Norodom Sihanouk. France quickly re-established control after the war, but Sihanouk gained full independence for his country in 1953.

C Modern State

Two years later King Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father. As Prince Sihanouk, he retained an aura of majesty but was much freer to manipulate the urban elite, who constantly jockeyed for high-status jobs. Sihanouk controlled them by organizing a popular movement that centred on village notables. Foreign powers, such as the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and China, seeking influence in the region, courted Sihanouk, who drew them into competition for the privilege of aiding Cambodia’s development. His success in diplomacy abroad enhanced Sihanouk’s political control at home. For more than 15 years he walked the neutralist tightrope and kept Cambodia relatively isolated from the turmoil raging in neighbouring Vietnam. In so doing, however, he had to close his eyes to more and more blatant abuse of Cambodia’s neutrality by North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces in the Vietnam War.

C1 Coup of 1970

In March 1970, while Sihanouk was abroad, his prime minister, General Lon Nol, seized power, declared Cambodia a republic, and sent his army to fight the Vietcong in the border areas. This drew the North Vietnamese into Cambodia, followed by US and South Vietnamese troops. For the next two years, Cambodia was a battleground of the Vietnam War. The United States and South Vietnam supplied Lon Nol’s army and supported it with air power, hoping to gain a breathing space for the Saigon regime. Meanwhile, Khmer Communist Party guerrillas, called the Khmer Rouge, were battling Lon Nol’s regime. They were aided by the North Vietnamese and by Prince Sihanouk, who had found asylum in China. Hundreds of thousands of peasants sought the relative safety of towns under Lon Nol’s control.

C2 Khmer Rouge Rule and Vietnamese Domination

In April 1975, just before Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, the Khmer Rouge seized Phnom Penh. Their regime, headed by Pol Pot, forced the entire urban population into rural communes, where death was the penalty for disobeying orders or even for revealing middle-class status. The Khmer Rouge tried to isolate Cambodia from all foreign influence, abolished money, executed opponents, attempted mass economic transformations along the lines of China’s Great Leap Forward, and otherwise tried to introduce doctrinaire Communism or Maoism. Their brutality, which may have caused more than 1 million people to perish, gave Hanoi in December 1978 a pretext for invading. The main towns and highways were quickly brought under the control of a Vietnamese-backed puppet regime led by Heng Samrin, as head of the Council of State, and Hun Sen, first as foreign minister, then as prime minister. This government restored much of the pre-1970 way of life, including Buddhism, but not the monarchy. Khmer Rouge remnants, meanwhile, with some support from non-Communists, continued resistance, especially in areas on the Thai border, and they retained Cambodia’s UN seat. The uneasy coalition thus formed, with Sihanouk as nominal president, enjoyed foreign recognition but little else, least of all domestic support.

Almost all Vietnamese troops were pulled out by September 1989, leaving the Hun Sen regime in a precarious position. In October 1991 the warring parties signed a peace treaty that provided for the UN and a Supreme National Council, which included most factions, to govern temporarily. Sihanouk returned to Cambodia and was named a president. Sporadic Khmer-Rouge-inspired violence continued in 1992, with UN peacekeepers often under attack.

C3 Reconstituted State

In May 1993 the nation’s first multi-party legislative elections since 1972 were held. The Khmer Rouge boycotted the elections, even though it had signed the 1991 peace treaty. None of the participating parties secured a majority in the elections, so the two major parties, the royalist Funcinpec (National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia) and Hun Sen’s People’s Party, and two smaller parties formed a coalition. In September 1993, after the new constitution was ratified, Sihanouk was named king; Norodom Ranariddh, the leader of the Funcinpec Party and the son of Sihanouk, was named First Premier; and Hun Sen was named Second Premier. The Khmer Rouge continued to oppose the coalition government; though able to continue violent disruption into 1995, it was revealed by defectors’ information to be shrinking and demoralized, with some 5,000 to 10,000 hardcore members left.

Doubts over the stability and democratic credentials of the new government were highlighted in December 1995, when Nodorom Sereivut, half-brother of Sihanouk and former coalition foreign minister, went into exile in France following allegations that he had plotted to assassinate Hun Sen; a court found him guilty of conspiracy in February 1996. Sporadic Khmer Rouge violence and a trickle of defections continued, bringing in August 1996 a major split within the organization’s remnants when Ieng Sary, Pol Pot’s brother-in-law, and former deputy, allied his forces with the government. The assassination in November 1996 of Hun Sen’s brother-in-law Kov Samuth raised political tensions. In June 1997, the remnants of the Khmer Rouge began a violent internal feud, reportedly because Pol Pot had executed followers suspected of disloyalty. Supported by only a small force, Pol Pot was captured by other Khmer Rouge fighters, who began bargaining with the Cambodian government for his handover. Proposals were made for him to be tried in an international court for genocide, but his capture and the final collapse of the Khmer Rouge only threatened to intensify the power struggle between Funcinpec and the People’s Party.

The rivalry between Cambodia’s two prime ministers erupted in July 1997, with open fighting paralysing Phnom Penh. Leaders of ASEAN promptly condemned the fighting and refused Cambodia’s concurrent application to join their body, but by August Hun Sen had gained control of the country, pursuing Funcinpec supporters while Prince Ranariddh remained abroad. In the same month, Pol Pot was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder by the Khmer Rouge rivals holding him. In February international pressure finally secured Hun Sen’s acceptance of a Japanese peace plan, which stipulated a ceasefire, Ranariddh’s return from exile, and elections in July. In March 1998 Ranariddh returned briefly from exile, but with Hun Sen’s firm control of the country giving him a little prospect of victory in the elections scheduled for July. Pol Pot died of natural causes in Khmer Rouge custody in April 1998.

In May 1998 Cambodian forces captured the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. General elections in July 1998 led in August to Hun Sen being declared the winner by a small majority, but opposition groups protested the result. In November 1998 Sihanouk brokered a compromise to create a coalition with Ranariddh serving as head of the National Assembly.

In February 1999 the Cambodian government announced that the last remaining members of the Khmer Rouge had joined the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and in March Ta Mok, the last Khmer Rouge leader at large was arrested. A bill was passed by the Senate in January 2001 to set up a tribunal to prosecute former leaders of the Khmer Rouge accused of genocide. Negotiations were held between the United Nations and Cambodian officials to discuss the draft legislation of the tribunal, and an agreement was reached in which Cambodian and foreign prosecutors and judges were given joint responsibility for indicting defendants and reaching final verdicts. The king approved the bill in August. Discussions concerning legal technicalities and requests for further revisions to the draft legislation continued between the UN and the Cambodian government. However, in January 2003, negotiations resumed and by March of the same year, an agreement had been reached. The outline agreement for the arrangements for the tribunal stated that the prosecution of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge would be handled jointly by Cambodia and the UN. The trials will be held in Phnom Penh and will be presided over by both Cambodian and foreign judges.

Cambodia held its first multi-party local elections in February 2002, but they were marred by the murders of dozens of candidates. Almost all seats were taken by the Cambodian People’s Party. Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won July 2003’s general election with just over 40 percent of the vote, with the monarchist Funcinpec party in second. Hun Sen was reelected by parliament in July 2004 after an agreement with Fucinpec was reached on power-sharing between the two parties.

C4 The Resignation of King Sihanouk

In October 2004, King Sihanouk announced his intention to abdicate. However, laws for deciding the succession have never been drawn up and the king’s most politically minded son and obvious heir, Ranariddh, was not in favour of succeeding his father in such circumstances. Instead, the eldest son, Sihamoni, was chosen to succeed his father and was crowned in October. By profession, he is a dancer but has also served as a Unesco ambassador.