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History of Cambodia
 
 
 

Early History

Archaeological evidence indicates that parts of the region now called Cambodia were inhabited from around 1000-2000 BC by a Neolithic culture that may have migrated from South Eastern China to the Indochinese Peninsula. By the first century AD, the inhabitants had developed relatively stable, organised societies which had far surpassed the primitive stage in culture and technical skills. The most advanced groups lived along the coast and in the lower Mekong River valley and delta regions in houses constructed on stilts where they cultivated rice, fished and kept domesticated animals.

The Khmer people were one of the first inhabitants of South East Asia. They were also among the first in South East Asia to adopt religious ideas and political institutions from India and to establish centralised kingdoms surrounding large territories. The earliest known kingdom in the area, Funan, flourished from around the first to the sixth century AD. This was succeeded by Chenla, which controlled large parts of modern Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

Khmer Empire

The golden age of Khmer civilisation, however, was the period from the ninth to the 13th centuries, when the kingdom of Kambuja, which gave Kampuchea, or Cambodia, its name, ruled large territories from its capital in the region of Angkor in western Cambodia.

Under Jayavarman VII (1181-ca. 1218), Kambuja reached its zenith of political power and cultural creativity. Jayavarman VII gained power and territory in a series of successful wars against its close enemies; the Cham and the Vietnamese. Following Jayavarman VII's death, Kambuja experienced a gradual decline. Important factors were the aggressiveness of its neighbours (especially the Thai, or Siamese), chronic interdynastic strife, and the gradual deterioration of the complex irrigation system that had ensured rice surpluses. The Angkorian monarchy survived until 1431, when the Thai captured Angkor Thom and the Cambodian king fled to the southern part of the country.

15th – 19th Centuries

The 15th to the 19th centuries were a period of continued decline and territorial loss. Cambodia enjoyed a brief period of prosperity during the 16th century because its kings, who built their capitals in the region southeast of the Tonle Sap along the Mekong River, promoted trade with other parts of Asia. This was the period when Spanish and Portuguese adventurers and missionaries first visited the country. However, the Thai conquest of the new capital at Lovek in 1594 marked a downturn in the country's fortunes and Cambodia. Becoming a pawn in power struggles between its two increasingly powerful neighbours, Siam and Vietnam. Cambodia remained a protectorate of Siam. Vietnam's settlement of the Mekong Delta led to its annexation of that area at the end of the 17th century. Cambodia thereby lost some of its richest territory and was cut off from the sea. Because of current king's brother, prince Ang whom allowed the Vietnamese to settle and take over the last portion which was left of Cambodia's soil to the sea. Such foreign encroachments continued through the first half of the 19th century because Vietnam was determined to absorb Khmer land and to force the inhabitants to accept Vietnamese culture.


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