CambodiaCopyright:  Nick Velichko 123rf.com

Cambodia

Capital: Phnom Penh
Currency: Riel (KHR)
Language: Khmer
Listen to the national anthem

Cambodia is also known as Kampuchea, depending on where you are from. Generally eastern peoples use Kampuchea while western peoples call it Cambodia.

The Khmer Empire at its height covered 1.2 million km2 and at its heart was the Angkor Wat. The biggest temple in the world was built in 37 years at a time when there was much upheaval around the world, but Cambodia was prospering, growing and spreading outwards. By 1432 the local ecology could not support the growing population. The empire was succumbing to more and more outside influence and a religion changed and the desire to build monuments like Angkor Wat faded.

In 1970 - 1975, civil war ensued and a reign of terror gripped the country as the official government was forcefully ousted and Pol Pot took the reigns of the country. The aim of the Khmer Rouge was to go back to the time of their Golden Age, the 1100's. They systematically destroyed libraries, temples and rejected all forms of modern medicine. The Communist backed Khmer Rouge went on a killing spree and the term 'Killing Fields' comes from this period. It is estimated that as many as 1.3 million were murdered and dumped into mass graves. Professional persons like doctors were also persecuted and items like glasses were seen as a sign of intelligence and so anyone wearing them were also killed. It was nothing short of genocide. Like Auschwitz, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was a site of a notorious prison. Pol Pot supposedly died of heart failure but the body was quickly cremated fuelling the idea that he committed suicide.

Wildlife in Cambodia is varied and most is endangered due to poaching and deforestation. it is possible that Cambodia's national animal, the Kouprey, may already be extinct due to poaching.

Kouprey
Copyright: vivtony00  Flickr

Another native to the region is the Sun Bear, a honey eating bear and is sometimes called the Honey Bear.

The Tonie Sap Biosphere Reserve is a region that surrounds Tonie Sap Lake. In 1997, the region was granted as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Deforestation in the country is the highest anywhere in the world and it is believed that just over 3,000 km2 of prime rain forest remains. Illegal logging is a major threat to the forests of Cambodia.

Music and dance in Cambodia harks back to the Khmer Empire. The Royal Apsara Dance is an icon of Cambodia.

Apsara danceCopyright: Arian Zwegers Wikimedia Commons.

Many masters of the dance were put to death in the Khmer Revolution and most of the recordings were destroyed so there is now a big hole in the dance and music culture. Today, we have the term 'world music' which combines traditional music (not just Cambodian) with modern music styles.

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