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(Foto: © Hans Spicar. Återgivet med tillstånd)

Cambodia History
The Angkor empire was founded in the 9th century. Before that people have lived in the area since 15000 B. C. Several khmer empires arose and the first stone scriptures in Khmer are from the 7 the century Funan was around year 0 B.C. a Khmer empire that lost its power to another empire - Chenla. The Kingdom of Kambuja was established. King Jayarvarman I is considered to be the flounder of Cambodia since he united several kingdoms and made them indecent. The glorious period of Cambodia started with S Jayarvarman II who founded the Angkor Empire. The capital was established in Angkor 889.


Angkor was a city of more than one million inhabitants ( it has been claimed that this was the first city in the world with more than one million inhabitants). The temples are what remains of a city that built irrigation dams but also expensive temples. The biggest, Angkor Wat, is the largest religious building in the world and was built in the 12th century. The Angkor empires power declined, partly due to devastating wars. Angkor was abandoned in 1431 when the capital was moved to Pnom Penh.

The French arrive

1863 Cambodia was turned into a French protectorate. Rebellions against the French was brutally repressed. The French put heavy tax burdens on the people to support its colony called Indochina - consisting also of Vietnam and Laos. The French did not invest much in Cambodia and ruled Cambodia as a part of France.
In 1953 King Norodom Sihanouk managed to negotiate a formal independence. In 1954 the Geneve accords were signed, ending the French part of the war in Indochina.
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Vietnam was divided between the communist ruled Notth Vietnam and the US supported South Vietnam. The Pathet Lao resistance movement was regrouped within Laos- The resistance in Cambodia got nothing.

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Cambodia under Sihanouk

During the 50´s and 60´s Cambodia was run by an erratic king Sihanouk. He formed his own part, the Sangkum, and resigned as a king. He tried to balance between the greater powers China, the Soviet Union, USA and Vietnam. He was an erratic ruler who ran Cambodia after his own mimd.

In the countryside a resistance was formed but for a long time it was quite weak. Sihanouk called them the Khmer Rouge, a name that stuck although there has never existed any organization with that name. The Khmer Rouge started the uprising in 1967 but had no big influence until 1970,

The Vietnam war spilled into to Cambodia. North Vietnam and the NLF used bases in Cambodia as a retreat and parts of the famous Ho Chi Mih trail passed through Cambodia. Sometimes all of this took place with a silent approval of Sihanouk. At the same time he periodically accepted aid from the US. In 1970 Sihanouk was overthrown in a coup led by the pro US general Lon Nol. Sihanouk was abroad and called after a few days for resistance and united with hike old enemies the Khmer Rouge.
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Fights 1970-1975

Fighting started immediately. On one side were badly trained and badly equipped soldiers in the Lon Nol army. On the other side was the resistance consisting of communist (the Khmr Rouge) and many peasants who joined the resistance because they supported Sihanouk. In the beginning the North Vietnamese army also fought for the resistance. Soon the Lon Nol forces were isolated in the cities. The US answered by invading Cambodia in 1970 and then by starting the worst bombings in the history of the world. They had bombed secretly earlier but now the bombings were stronger and no longer a secret. The bombs fell until 1973.
In 1975 the Lon Nols army was defeated and the Khmer Rouge marched into Pnom Penh April 17 1975.
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The Khmer Rouge take over on April 17 1975

In the morning of April 17 975 the young peasant army of the Khmer Rouge entered Pnom Penh. After a few hours of celebration and people cheering the atmosphere changed as the soldiers started to evacuate the whole city. Sometimes they said that the US would bomb the city and that the evacuation was only for a couple of days. Sometimes the soldiers were just threatening and demanded people to leave everything behind and start marching on the overfilled routes out of Pnom Penh. The evacuation affected everybody, even the old, the sick and the children. All cities in Cambodia were emptied the same way. The Khmer Rouge were in power and a social experiment the world has never seen was carried out brutally and without mercy. The coming 3 years they ruled the country under the name of Democratic Kampuchea. Private property was abolished, money was not used, and people were organized into different work units. They were often put to hard work and had little food. Dams and irrigation sites were built and the plan was to make Cambodia sells sufficient and to move faster than any revolution had done so far. The price was high - 1,7 million dead due to starvation, diseases and executions. Read more on the page Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge,