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Posted by on Apr 26, 2020 in TellMeWhy |

When and Why Did Kampuchea Become Cambodia?

When and Why Did Kampuchea Become Cambodia?

Cambodia also Kampuchea, officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country in south-east Asia. Capital and largest city, Phnom Penh; area about 181035 sq km (69898 sq miles). It was part of French Indo-china, becoming independent in 1954. It was involved in the Vietnam War and suffered political upheavals as a result of contesting groups inside and outside the country.

Kampuchea is the shortened alternative to the country’s official name in Khmer. The Khmer endonym Kampuchea derives from the Sanskrit name kambojadeśa, composed of deśa (“land of” or “country of”) and kamboja, which alludes to the foundation myths of the first ancient Khmer kingdom.

On January 5, 1976, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot announces a new constitution changing the name of Cambodia to Kampuchea and legalizing its Communist government. During the next three years his brutal regime sent the nation back to the Middle Ages and was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1 to 2 million Cambodians. The man who seized power inspired by a mixture of ideologies and personal ambitions, is said to have been responsible for massacres on a large scale.

Cambodians were forced into the countryside to work in communes, anyone with education or wealth was killed and schools, newspapers, hospitals, culture, religion and private property were abolished. Tens of thousands of Cambodians died of starvation while countless others succumbed to disease and forced labor or were murdered. Many people attempted to leave the country by sea.

mass grave at the chaung ek torture camp run by the khmer rouge

The Khmer Rouge carried out the Cambodian genocide from 1975 until 1979, when they were ousted by Vietnam and the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea, supported by the Soviet Union, in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War.

The sovereign state of Cambodia has a population of over 15 million. The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, practiced by approximately 95 percent of the population. Cambodia’s minority groups include Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams and 30 hill tribes. The kingdom is an elective constitutional monarchy with a monarch, currently Norodom Sihamoni, chosen by the Royal Council of the Throne as head of state. The head of government is the Prime Minister, currently Hun Sen, the longest serving non-royal leader in Southeast Asia, ruling Cambodia since 1985.

Agriculture remains the dominant economic sector, with strong growth in textiles, construction, garments and tourism leading to increased foreign investment and international trade. The lowlands of the Mekong valley are very fertile. Rice is much the largest crop. With its monsoon climate, much of the country is covered by dense forest which could be a valuable source of future revenue. Fishing is an important occupation too, and there is little industrial or mining development.

Content for this question contributed by Lucy Baldwin, resident of Enfield, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA