City life in Phnom Penh

Palace Link

The Kingdom of Cambodia

Mekong River Tonle Sap

Mekong/Tonle Sap river interchange (
112k Jpeg)

The Khmer civilization under the Kingdom of Kampuja during the sixth century AD used to control a large part of the present countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam. The Ankorian period with its capital at Angkor Thom often had wars with its neighboring countries such as the Siamese and Cham (Vietnamese) and the country has been switched its capital between few periods due to territorial loss and decline of influence. Possibly due to insecurity being sandwiched between the two long time hostile neighbors, Cambodia eventually seek foreign protection under the French in 1863. What happened to World War II, Japanese never actually invaded Cambodia as French was already under occupation of Germany, their western allied. Technically, Cambodia freed itself from foreign power back in 1945 and that was how Prince Sihanouk emerged during this period. But most Cambodian would regard October 1953 as the true year of independence after long negotiation with all concerned parties.

The
Vietnam war (often referred as the second Indochina war) during the '60 had dragged Cambodia between the North Vietnamese Army / Viet Gong (NVA/VC) and the US. I still remembered the months-long carpet bombing events during the late 60. In an extremely complex political struggles between parties, countries and personalities, it was also during this period we saw one of the most horror episode on human history occurred after US pulled out from the Indochina conflicts. The Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), often being called as Khmer Rouge (Khmer in Red) eventually had differences with the victorious Vietnamese counterpart and this was one of the darkest period of the Nation history (So did Buddhism as religion was suppressed; further, remember the Killing Fields during the Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, and Son Sen-controlled period (a joke is, it was partly cultured during the US presence during the war). Phnom Penh in April 1975 was fell to the hands of the Khmer Rouge. In late December 1978, Vietnamese forces launched a full invasion of Cambodia, capturing Phnom Penh on January 7 and driving the remnants of Democratic Kampuchea's army westward toward Thailand and that was the decades existence of another long episode for issues on international refugees.

So, technically, Cambodia was also under foreign power again (Vietnamese occupation period and civil war during the 10 years period in the 1980s). For almost a decade of international negotiations, 1991/93 Paris Peace Accords eventually got all parties agreed on an acceptable equation to permit UN-led peacekeeping mission to monitor cease-fire among all conflicting parties. UN-sponsored elections was eventually happened in 1993 and a national elections followed in 1998 which formed its first coalition government (Norodom Sihanouk was reinstated as King). This was the new beginning of Cambodia, as it has brought renewed political stability and the surrender of remaining Khmer Rouge forces in 1998. The subsequent election held back in 2003 has resulted in another formation of a coalition government. I think per term is five years, so, it should be another round in two years time from now (as at 2005).

Personal:- What do I think of Cambodia ? GOOD. Prior to my visit, I have to admit I did got influenced by some negative media reports which sometimes can be biased for certain political cause. I heard there are some success stories of Malaysian Businessmen who made it there in Cambodia, but never had a reason to find sometime to make a trip thus far. As compared to Burma's ill-state of economic situation, Cambodia is a good representation of a non military controlled kind of free-economy model. In fact, when you studied the turbulent historical background of this Nation, the 10+ years of change from civil war to restarting its engine for growth can be considered as heartwarming as to witness another Aseam neighbors waking up from the past within such a short span of time of recovery. Recent local political development also mirrored the approval of the locals towards the directions the ruling parties adopted in their local and economic policies. Although I know some of you may have different opinions in such a optimistic view; in such a case, try apply a Visa to a visit Myanmar - a country which under constant bombardment of western media attacks and even faced a US-led economic sanctions - you will probably agree Cambodia is on the rise for better things to come. In any case, there are some issues that even me may feel uncomfortable during this visit but like any Nation which is going through a painstaking path for reconstruction, there are bound to have problems, dissatisfaction among the concerned parties. (Cambodia had enjoyed a brief spell as one of the most active Nation in South East Asia on economic development under French colonial ruled, with Phnom Penh was referred as the mini Paris in Asia).

Although the good times may have been a history; well, from here onwards, as long as the Cambodian can instill and guarding political stability for another few terms, confidence of international investment will begin looking at here again. The only apparent weakness from a bird eye-view is - it has only 13 million in its population which may be a little weak in a domestic market consumption. However, Cambodia is not short of other natural resources (Fair amount of Oil & Gas, timber, gemstones, some iron ore, manganese, phosphates, hydropower potential- not to mention it has a very young age group of its population as backbone for continuous gowth of its Nation building. So, its workforce and ever improving educational standard among the younger generations, I am sure all the good things will begin from here. Right now, tourism is a big industry in South East Asian countries. Seemingly in Cambodia, it is still at its infancy and a task force is essential in protecting the tourism industry (such as patroling tourist police who can serve to provide guides and help on the streets or at specific spots) as the Thai did all these years. One way or another, despite I enjoyed my stay but the shadowy of unsafe presence is still lingering in my mind. The influx of the green becks is all it needs at the moment. May Lord Buddha always has an merciful eyes on you all the time, Cambodia. I will return with more friends..

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Official Locations (Palace, Museum, Silver Pagoda);
Wat Phnom - Best representation of publicly accessed local Buddhist Landmark
Selective Wat and Pagodas in an around it capital City of Phnom Penh

Supplementary: Some Background & History of of Cambodia/Phnom Penh
Streets of Phnom Penh - Photography

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Wat Keschaiyo, Anthong

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