Country Profile: Cambodia

By Abbey Tiderman 10.05.2017 interact

Cambodia, the setting for Angelina Jolie’s latest film based on the Khmer Rouge-led genocide that occurred there, has a long history and rich culture. Bordered by Thailand and Vietnam in Southeast Asia, it’s an ancient civilization, where remains of both Hindu and Buddhist temples linger amidst tropical forests, and symbols of kingdoms past can be found.

Today, the country is home to over 15 million people, most of whom are ethnic Khmer practicing Theravada Buddhism, with Muslim, Christian and sparse tribal minorities. Despite recent economic growth and an internationally-backed path toward peace and stability, it’s one of the poorest countries in the region and has been engulfed in political turmoil and civil war for decades.

Map

History

Culture

Life in Cambodia is vastly different from the United States. As a result of civil war and political unrest and corruption, building an infrastructure of reliable education, healthcare, roads and utilities have not always been top priority. Over 2 million people live on less than $1.20 per day, and chronic malnutrition among children and preventable disease is a serious problem. In rural areas, almost a million people live without electricity, and only about a quarter of the country use the Internet.

The Cambodian economy is largely based on agriculture–with rice as a primary export–although the textile, garment and tourism industries continue to grow. With one of the high rates of deforestation in the world and illegal practices, the logging industry is also expanding, taking a toll on ecosystems there.

Fish and rice are staple foods in Cambodia, and one of the most popular dishes is kuy teav, a flavorful soup filled with rice noodles, spices and lime, and topped with beef, pork or shrimp. Native-grown fruit such as coconut, mango and bananas are also widely consumed.

Cambodians are rooted in long-held traditions. They typically greet others with a respectful “Sampeah” bow, and weddings are steeped in customs–an intricate gatherings filled with traditional tea, food, songs and dance ceremonies. Cambodians also observe many holidays throughout the year, including a three-day end-of-harvest celebration in April and Independence Day on November 9.

Traditional martial arts, wrestling and boat racing are practiced in the country and with Western influences, soccer and volleyball have become popular as well.

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