Introduction to Cambodia

Cambodia Map

One of our favorite places to visit on earth is Cambodia.  The people are so kind, the food delicious, the photography and history inspiring, and the ease and cost of travel in country are affordable to many.  We believe Cambodia is an under-appreciated photography and tourist destination and we work hard to expose as many people as possible to what the country has to offer.

Angkor Complex B&W Cambodia1

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/90, f/4, ISO 500, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Let us share a bit about Cambodia that will hopefully help you understand her history and plan to enjoy a visit.  Most Cambodians consider themselves Khmers, descendants of the Angkor Empire that extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its peak between the 10th and 13th centuries.  Attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day Vietnam) weakened the empire, ushering in a long period of decline.  The king placed the country under French protection in 1863 and it became part of French Indochina in 1887.  Following the Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia gained full independence from France in 1953.  In April 1975, after a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh and evacuated all cities and towns.  At least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, forced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot.  A December 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and began a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war.  UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy under a coalition government.  Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability.  The remaining elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999.  Some of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders have been tried or are awaiting trial for crimes against humanity by a hybrid UN-Cambodian tribunal supported by international assistance. In October 2004, King Norodom SIHANOUK abdicated the throne and his son, Prince Norodom SIHAMONI, was selected to succeed him.  Local elections were held in Cambodia in April 2007, with little of the pre-election violence that preceded prior elections. National elections in July 2008 were relatively peaceful.  Cambodia is a multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

Bayon2

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/15, f/8, ISO 100, Tiffen Grad ND, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Cambodians consist of 90% Khmer, 5% Vietnamese, 1% Chinese, and 4% other.  Religiously they are 96.4% Buddhist (the official State religion), 2.1% Muslim, 1.3% other religions, and 0.2% are unspecified.

Angkor Complex Monks Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 28mm, 1/60, f/4, ISO 2000, Tiffen Grad ND, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Since 2004, garments, construction, agriculture, and tourism have driven Cambodia’s growth. GDP climbed more than 6% per year between 2010 and 2012.  The 2012 per capita GDP for Cambodia was $2,400 – the 2012 USA GDP was $49,800. The garment industry currently employs more than 335,000 people and accounts for more than 75% of Cambodia’s total exports.  In 2005, oil deposits were found beneath Cambodia’s territorial waters, representing a potential revenue stream for the government, if commercial extraction becomes feasible.  Mining also is attracting some investor interest and the government has touted opportunities for mining bauxite, gold, iron and gems.  The tourism industry has continued to grow rapidly with foreign arrivals exceeding 2 million per year since 2007.  However, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia and long-term economic development remains a daunting challenge, inhibited by corruption, limited educational opportunities, high income inequality, and poor job prospects.  Approximately 4 million people live on less than $1.25 per day and 37% of Cambodian children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. More than 50% of the population is less than 25 years old.  Much of the population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the countryside, which also lacks basic infrastructure.  The Cambodian government is working with bilateral and multilateral donors, including the World Bank and IMF, to address the country’s many pressing needs; more than 50% of the government budget comes from donor assistance.

Floating Village Family Homestead Back Door View- Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 24mm, 1/60, f/6.7, ISO 250, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid RS-7, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

The major economic challenge for Cambodia over the next decade will be fashioning an economic environment in which the private sector can create enough jobs to handle Cambodia’s demographic imbalance.

Learning the trade Floating Villages Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 70-200 OS @ 70mm, 1/800, f/5, ISO 2000, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

Each visit we make it is pleasing for us to see progress being made for the people of Cambodia.  International travelers from all over the world visit key sites and contribute to the local economies.  Unfortunately, large portions of revenues from the prized Angkor complex, one of the highest grossing tourist sites in the country, are sent to Vietnam as payment for their help in repelling the Khmer Rouge – an example of the saying that “Freedom is not free.”  Even with that we see Cambodia’s future as bright and on the rise.

Colorful homestead reflections Floating Villages Cambodia

Canon 5D Mark III, Sigma 70-200 OS @ 147mm, 1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 800, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, BlackRapid Sport, Clik Elite Pro Express, Lexar Digital Film

We hope you’ll join us for our October 2013 visit to Cambodia.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: