Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia boardered by Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Spanning over 6000 years, Cambodia’s history is a long and rich one. Due to the dating of pottery found in caves, it is suspected that people were living in what is now Cambodia before 4000 BCE.[1]From the third to the fifth century, the area underwent major Indianization. Through this process, Cambodia was given “writing system, a pantheon, meters for poetry, a language (Sanskrit) to write it in, a vocabulary of social hierarchies (not the same as a caste system), Buddhism, the idea of universal kingship, and new ways of looking at politics, sociology, architecture, iconography, astronomy, and aesthetics.”[2]In the early 800s, Jayavarman II paved way for the Angkorean Era. It was through his successors that Angkor was made the central city where the famous temple Angkor Wat would be built in the 12thcentury. Toward the end of the Era, the Angkorean Empire saw an almost total conversion of its people to Theravada Buddhism. Although the empire had been in decline for the past two centuries, it saw a complete end by 1431 due to constant wars with surrounding kingdoms. Struggles with the Vietnamese kingdoms continued on into the 19thcentury which would keep Cambodians distrustful of them for years to come. The mid 19thcentury saw an attempt at Vietnamization of the Cambodian people under Vietnamese emperor Minh Mang.

Cambodia became a protectorate of France in 1863 to 1953. The country finally won its independence in 1953. Although initially neutral in the Vietnam War, Cambodia’s neutrality was put into question when Prince Norodom Sihanouk ended diplomatic relations with the United States and allowed North Vietnamese troops to be stationed in Cambodia. Sihanouk had made a deal with the North Vietnamese for the safety of his people after the war as he believed that they would win against the South Vietnamese. Chandler argues that “Sihanouk’s most positive contribution was to keep Cambodia from being swept into the firestorm in Vietnam.”[3]Citizens became slowly outraged with Sihanouk’s policies in the late 1960s, and they were driven into the arms of communism. In 1970, he was removed from his position as Head of State. Prime Minister Lon Nol came into power changing the Kingdom of Cambodia into the Khmer Republic. Lon Nol gave the North Vietnamese forces forty-eight hours to leave the country. As expected, they did not leave the country, and there was a confrontation between the soldiers and angry Cambodian citizens. Over the next few weeks, thousands were killed. This helped to fuel the fire against the Vietnamese. The next five years would see the decline and end of the Khmer Republic. In April 1975, Cambodia fell to the communist regime of the Khmer Rouge. The state became known as Democratic Kampuchea.

[1]David Chandler, A History of Cambodia,(Boulder: Westview Press, 2008) 13.

[2]Chandler, ibid, 17.

[3]Chandler, ibid, 242.