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Cambodia Brief History

Cambodia Map

Cambodia, a country bordered by Thailand in the west, Laos in the north and Vietnam in the east, was once the mightiest kingdom in South East Asia. The world heritage site Angkor Wat is still a silent wittiness of that era (802-1471 AD).France

For almost a decade the country became protected by the French in 1859, mainly to avoid invasions of Thailand and Vietnam. In 1887 it formed the Indochina Union or French Indochina with neighboring countries Laos and Vietnam under French regime. During World War II Cambodia was occupied by the Japanese that stationed its troops on Cambodian grounds. A year after World War II has ended, the 1st Indochina war started. Eventually also China became a partner in this nasty war that was mainly taking place on Vietnam grounds. This conflict was backed by the US and the Soviet Union who provided the most modern weapons during this dirty war. Because of those chemical weapons the whole region still suffers nowadays, mainly because of the birth defects that still occur as a result of the use of those chemicals, better known as Agent Orange made by Monsanto (USA). Finally, in 1954, the war ended and the French lost Cambodia. As a result of that, the country became independent in 1954.


Only one year later, the Second Indochina War started, better known as the Vietnam War. It was a cold war era in Cambodia that ended with the fall of Saigon in 1975. The war extended into Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge that first took Phnom Penh and later carried out the awful genocide that took place from 1975-1979.

Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge with Pol Pot wanted to create a “new” Cambodia based on the Maoist-Communist model. Their aim was to deconstruct Cambodia into an agricultural society, wherein all citizens would participate in rural work projects, and any Western innovations would be removed. There were continuous population shifts throughout the country transporting people from urban areas to the countryside. Anyone who was against this system had to be eliminated. The list of “potential opposition” included intellectuals, educated people, professionals, monks, religious enthusiasts, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodians with Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai ancestry. The entire system was destroyed: equipment, supplies, and personnel along with major demolitions on the infrastructure: transportation, power, water, sanitation and irrigation. One of the greatest losses was the people: in only three years over 25% of the country’s population was destroyed. Many of those were people with higher levels of education; all professionals, engineers, technicians and planners who could potentially reorganize Cambodia had been killed in the genocide. The Khmer Rouge also frequently executed its own members on suspicions of treachery or sabotage.

Royal Palace Phnom Penh


Then in 1979 Vietnam invaded Cambodia and ousted the Khmer Rouge government. The Vietnamese occupation and the continual threat of Khmer Rouge guerilla forces preserved Cambodia in underdeveloped and prehistoric conditions- until Vietnam’s eventual withdrawal in 1989. In all the military conflicts of 1978-1989, an additional 14,000 Cambodian civilians perished.
Upon the withdrawal of the Vietnamese, it allowed the government that it had installed there to consolidate its rule and gain sufficient military strength. After a decade of conflict, the pro-Vietnamese Cambodian government and the rebel coalition signed a treaty in 1991 calling for elections and disarmament. In 1992, however, the Khmer Rouge resumed fighting, boycotted the election and, in the following year, rejected its results. It now fought against the new Cambodian coalition government which included the former Vietnamese-backed Communists (headed by Hun Sen) as well as the Khmer Rouge’s former non-Communist and monarchist allies (notably Prince Rannaridh).
In July 1994 a “Provisional Government of National Union and Notional Salvation of Cambodia” was established by Khmer Rouge authorities. There was a mass defection from the Khmer Rouge in 1996, when around half of its remaining soldiers (about 4,000) left. Since the coup in 1997 the power of the country is placed solely in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodians People’s Party who remain in power since.

Peace at last …

In a country like this, where the people and the country have suffered so much from war after war, you might understand that it’s difficult to rebuild it all again, especially since the remaining Cambodians after the genocide were mostly the less intelligent. Due to that fact, it takes a lot of time and patience for everyone.

Please read more on the different pages about our charity programs and how this affected the main sectors of Cambodia, like health care, education and environment. There you will also find how we, as Charity Tours Cambodia, help in these sectors and what you can do to help the poorest Cambodians.