Government and Politics in Southeast Asia

By John Funston | Go to book overview

2
CAMBODIA
After the Killing Fields

Sorpong Peou


INTRODUCTION

Cambodia is one of the oldest states in Southeast Asia, but longevity has not provided a shield against political turmoil. The Khmer Rouge government gained international notoriety in the 1970s, turning the whole country into killing fields, and subsequent governments have found it hard to escape this legacy.

From the ninth to the thirteenth centuries Cambodia’s Angkor dynasty ruled over much of the Southeast Asia mainland. It left historical remains that are among the wonders of the world, and evidence of a highly developed civilization. From the fourteenth century Cambodia began to contract, squeezed by Thailand on one side and Vietnam on the other. France made it a protectorate in 1863, and the state assumed its present form after Battambang and Siem Riep were wrested from Thailand in 1904 and 1907. Apart from a brief Japanese interlude during World War II, it remained a French colony until independence in 1953.

Cambodia shares long and often contested borders with Laos (in the north), Thailand (in the west), and Vietnam (in the east). It remains a predominantly agrarian society, with 75 to 80 per cent of the population earning their living from agriculture. Forests are among the country’s most important natural resources, but have been depleted rapidly (often illegally) since the mid-1990s. Despite being resource-rich, Cambodia remains poor. This is largely the legacy of the civil war in the first half of the 1970s and the Khmer Rouge reign of terror. In the early 1980s, a socialist government started to rebuild the economy from scratch. Faced with economic stagnation, the government moved to adopt a policy of liberalization late in the decade. A market-oriented economic system has

-36-

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Government and Politics in Southeast Asia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Preface x
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Brunei Malay, Monarchical, Micro-State 1
  • 2 - Cambodia after the Killing Fields 36
  • 3 - Indonesia Transforming the Leviathan 74
  • 4 - Laos Timid Transition 120
  • 5 - Malaysia Developmental State Challenged 160
  • 6 - Myanmar Military in Charge 203
  • 7 - Philippines Continuing People Power 252
  • 8 - Singapore Meritocratic City-State 291
  • 9 - Thailand Reform Politics 328
  • 10 - Vietnam Doi Moi Difficulties 372
  • Conclusion 411
  • Index 425
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