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The Kingdom of Cambodia is a country in South East Asia with a population of over 3 million people. Cambodia is the successor state of the once-powerful Hindu and Buddhist Khmer Empire, which ruled most of the Indochinese Peninsula between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. Today, Cambodia is one of the greatest developing countries. Yet, the country is still having some issues such as its educational system.


Cambodia has an area of 181,035 square kilometers, and it borders Thailand to its west and northwest, Laos to its northeast, and Vietnam to its east and southeast. Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953. Cambodia's main industries are garments, tourism, and construction. As for its language, more than 90% of its population is of Khmer origin, therefore, speaks the Khmer language, the country's official language. The remainder includes Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indians. As for the religion, most Cambodians are Buddhists of Khmer extraction, but the country also has a substantial number of Muslim Cham, as well as small animist tribes. In addition, according to the report of The World Bank, “Cambodia's economy is showing resilience in spite of the challenging international economic environment. Economic growth in 2001 was estimated at 6.3 percent, driven by an expanding tourism sector and robust garment exports. In 2001, there was nearly zero inflation. In 2002 inflation continued to be low (World Bank)”. That is, Cambodia’s economic growth has been moderately strong over the past decade. However, this growth has been concentrated in urban areas (The World Bank). Therefore the rural-urban income gap is widening these days. And around 40 percent of the population still remains under the national poverty line.


Ta Phrom by Berglind R
Ta Phrom by Berglind R
  1. 1863 - Cambodia becomes a protectorate of France. French colonial rule lasts for 90 years.
  2. 1941 - Prince Norodom Sihanouk becomes king. Cambodia is occupied by Japan during World War II.
  3. 1945 - The Japanese occupation ends.
  4. 1946 - France re-imposes its protectorate. Communist guerrillas begin an armed campaign against the French.
  5. 1953 - Cambodia wins its independence from France. Under King Sihanouk, it becomes the Kingdom of Cambodia.
  6. Early 1970s - Cambodian army faces two enemies: the North Vietnamese and communist Khmer Rouge. Gradually, the army loses territory.
  7. 1975 - Lon Nol is overthrown as the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot occupied Phnom Penh. Sihanouk briefly becomes head of state, the country is re-named Kampuchea. Basic freedoms are curtailed and religion is banned. Hundreds of thousands of the educated middle-classes are tortured and executed in special centres. Others starve, or die from disease or exhaustion.
  8. 1976 - The country is re-named Democratic Kampuchea. Sihanouk resigns, Khieu Samphan becomes head of state, Pol Pot is prime minister.
  9. 1977 - Fighting breaks out with Vietnam.
  10. 1979 January - The Vietnamese take Phnom Penh. Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge forces flee to the border region with Thailand. The People's Republic of Kampuchea is established. Many elements of life before the Khmer Rouge take-over started to be re-established.
  11. 1981 - The pro-Vietnamese Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party wins the elections to the National Assembly.
  12. 1989 - Vietnamese troops withdraw. The country is re-named the State of Cambodia. Buddhism is re-established as the state religion.
  13. 1991 - A peace agreement is signed in Paris. A UN transitional authority shares power temporarily with representatives of the various factions in Cambodia. Sihanouk becomes head of state.
  14. 1993 - General election sees the royalist Funcinpec party win the most seats followed by Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP). A three-party coalition is formed with Funcinpec's Prince Norodom Ranariddh as prime minister and Hun Sen as deputy prime minister. The monarchy is restored, Sihanouk becomes king again. The country is re-named the Kingdom of Cambodia.
  15. 1994 - Thousands of Khmer Rouge guerrillas surrender in government amnesty.
  16. 1997 - Hun Sen stages a coup against the prime ministar, Prince Ranariddh, and replaces him with Ung Huot. The coup attracts international condemnation and Cambodia's membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is delayed. The Khmer Rouge put Pol Pot on trial and sentence him to life imprisonment.
  17. 1998 - Pol Pot dies in his jungle hideout. Elections in July are won by Hun Sen's CPP, amid allegations of harassment. A coalition is formed between the CPP and Funcinpec. Hun Sen becomes prime minister, Ranariddh is president of the National Assembly.
  18. 2001 - Senate approves a law to create a tribunal to bring genocide charges against Khmer Rouge leaders.
  19. 2001 June - International donors, encouraged by Cambodia's reform efforts, pledge $560 million in aid at a donor conference in Tokyo.
  20. 2001 June - Five Cambodians, three of them US citizens, are sentenced to life for involvement in armed attack by US-based Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) on government buildings in Phnom Penh in 2000. CFF says it will continue campaign to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen.
  21. 2001 December - First bridge across the Mekong River opens, linking the east and west of the country. The 1.36km bridge cost $56 million.
  22. 2002 February - First multi-party local elections; ruling Cambodian People's Party wins in all but 23 out of 1,620 communes.
  23. 2004 August - Parliament ratifies kingdom's entry into World Trade Organization (WTO).
  24. 2004 October - King Sihanouk abdicates and is succeeded by his son Norodom Sihamoni.
  25. 2005 April - Tribunal to try surviving Khmer Rouge leaders gets green light from UN after years of debate about funding.
  26. 2005 October - Prime minister signs a controversial border agreement with Vietnam. Legal action is taken against some critics of the deal, prompting international concern.
  27. 2006 July - Ta Mok, one of the top leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, dies aged 80.
  28. 2007 July - UN-backed court tribunals begin questioning suspects about allegations of genocide by the Khmer Rouge.
  29. 2007 September - Most senior surviving member of Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea - "Brother Number Two" - is arrested and charged with crimes against humanity.
  30. 2008 February - Cambodian court sentences 20 member of small Cambodian Freedom Fighters group to prison for attack on prime minister's office in November 2000.
  31. 2008 March - Genocide tribunal refuses bail plea of Nuon Chea.
  32. 2008 April - US court convicts Cambodian-born Cambodian Freedom Fighters leader Chhun Yasith of masterminding 2000 attack.
  33. 2008 July - PM Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) claims victory in parliamentary elections. EU monitors say the vote fell short of international standards.
  34. 2008 July - Cambodia and Thailand move troops to disputed land near ancient Preah Vihear temple after decision to list it as UN World Heritage Site fans nationalist emotions on both sides. Officials from both states start talks to resolve standoff.
  35. (BBC News 2008)

This part would focus on the Khmer Rouge, because it has affected the educational system in Cambodia. On 17 April 1975, after five years of civil war, Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh fell to the forces of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), popularly known as the Khmer Rouge (Linton). Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge. “The country was cut off from the outside world, its cities emptied, its economy militarized, and its Buddhist and folk cultures destroyed. The leadership’s ‘vision’ of a better Cambodia led to extraordinary horrors on Cambodian people, who had to endure the forced movement of their urban populations, starvation, unlawful killings, forced labor, torture, and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and persecution on a massive scale”(Linton). Mao-think that Pol Pot studied in China, the ethnocentric policy, and anti-Vietnam policy became the theoretical support which created the regime of terror by the Khmer Rouge (Miyamoto). Pol Pot sanctioned the use of massive violence because he believed it was the only “practical” way to achieve and protect his utopian vision for a better society in Cambodia (Valentino). By the hands of the Khmer Rouge, mainly educated people (such as teachers and respected local leaders and so on) had been killed, since they were likely to be rebel groups. Furthermore, the Khmer Rouge had denied the value of education at all points. Therefore, it can be said that Cambodia had experienced a systematic destruction of education by the Khmer Rouge, until Heng Samrin robbed the Khmer Rouge of its power in 1979. According to Linton, an estimated 20% of the 1975’s population of 7.7million people lost their lives. After the Khmer Rouge was over, the United Nations peacekeeping force, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), began monitoring Cambodia in 1992. “The goal of UNTAC was disarmament of the troops, and national elections for a constituent assembly which took place in 1993. (…) Contrary to the fears of many, the elections were peaceful. Over 90 percent of the registered voters went to the polls in Cambodian freest, fairest, and most secret election since the colonial era. (…) For the first time in Cambodian history, a majority of Cambodians had voted against an armed government such as the Khmer Rouge” (Chandler). Therefore it can be said: Cambodia was able to gradually recover from many years of violence by the Khmer Rouge regime, in the wake of those elections, although not all problems were solved.

Educational development strategy and challenge in Cambodia

Although all educational systems of Cambodia were abolished under the regime of terror by the Khmer Rouge, according to the World Bank, there have been significant improvements in the past five years in the education sector in Cambodia, particularly in terms of primary net enrollment gains (it’s because the government of Cambodia has put more efforts on the primary education, according to Komai), the introduction of program based-budgeting and the development of a sound pro-poor policy framework. But in Cambodia, several challenges remain. For example, most Cambodian children attend some schooling, but a large share complete only a few grades-with 85 percent of 15 to 19 year olds completing just grade 1, while only 27 percent complete grade 7 (The World Bank). It is partly because parents (especially those in rural areas) are blind to the importance of education. There are also disparities in education participation rates by different regions. Moreover, inefficiency and poor quality in education service delivery at primary, secondary and tertiary levels are other major challenges. For instance, the number and the quality of teachers in Cambodia are insufficient. It is because almost all of experienced old teachers had been killed under the regime of the Khmer Rouge. In fact, one thirds of teachers in the primary school have not finished even lower secondary education (Komai). And the budget for education is extremely restricted, compared to neighboring nations (Komai). Thus, the salary of teachers is too low, which causes teachers’ corrupt practices. And the time for studying in the school is 15 hours per week, which is extremely insufficient, too (Komai). Another challenge is related to child prostitution. “In Cambodia, child prostitution has become a worsening problem since 1990’s. Many Cambodian children have been deceived by words that there are “good” sources of employment in urban areas and have left their home, and have been forced to work in the house of prostitution. In Cambodia, there are more than 8.000~15.000 children who had been damaged by child prostitution” (Social Ecoo). Furthermore, expanding of child prostitution causes spread of HIV/AIDS among Cambodian children. HIV/AIDS is one of educational challenge, since children who are infected with the HIV virus cannot get an education well.

The external actor involved in Cambodian educational development

Cambodia has been aided by a number of more developed nations like France, West-Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States, and Japan. The United States has contributed up to $5 million through international relief agencies to children within Cambodia (Sutter). As for Japan, many Japanese organizations such as JICA have supported Cambodian educational development. For example JICA has tried to revive Cambodian educational system, by forming projects including “the project for improvement of science and mathematics education (2000-2004)”, which is aimed to enable teachers engaged in science and mathematics education to acquire skills more than cheap tricks. In addition, The World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and some NGOs (such as World Vision in the United States, Save the Children in the UK, and so on) have also supported educational development in Cambodia. Among interesting projects formed by those organizations is the World Bank’s “Education Quality Improvement Project (1999 - 2004)”. This project aimed to develop and put into practice a participatory approach to school quality improvement and performance-based resource management. The goal was to have participating schools eventually show improvements in student enrollment, attendance and achievement (The World Bank). The result was that Students in more than 1,000 participating schools in Cambodia achieved higher test scores in literacy, had lower drop-out and higher promotion rates. In addition, this project could show that health and vocational training was the important factor in reducing student drop-out, and in improving promotion rates.

Works Cited

BBC News. 2008. “Timeline: Cambodia” <>

“Cambodian Information Center”. 2008. <>

Chandler, David. 2008. “A History of Cambodia”. Westview Press: Colorado, America.

“Japan International Cooperation Agency”. 1995. <>

Kennsuke, Miyamoto. 1993. “Tounan Asia no Gennzai”. 〔The Present of Southeast Asia〕. Horupu Publication: Tokyo, Japan.

Komai, Hiroshi. 2001. “Shinnsei Cambodia”. 〔New Birth of Cambodia〕. Akashi Publication: Tokyo, Japan.

Linton, Suzannah. 2004. “Reconciliation in Cambodia”. Documentation Center of Cambodia: Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“Social Ecoo”. 2007. <>

Sutter, Robert G. 1991. “The Cambodian Crisis and U.S. Policy Dilemmas”. Westview Press: Colorado, America.

The World Bank Group. 2008. “The World Bank”. <>

Valentino, Benjamin A. 2004. “Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century”. Cornell University Press: New York, America.