The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. It became part of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by communist forces under Ho Chi MINH. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the communist North and anti-communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies, the persecution and mass exodus of individuals – many of them successful South Vietnamese merchants – and growing international isolation. However, since the enactment of Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The communist leaders, however, maintain control on political expression and have resisted outside calls to improve human rights. The country continues to experience small-scale protests from various groups – the vast majority connected to land-use issues, calls for increased political space, and the lack of equitable mechanisms for resolving disputes. Various ethnic minorities, such as the Montagnards of the Central Highlands and the Khmer Krom in the southern delta region, have also held protests.


Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, between Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos


Total: 181,035 sq km


Tropical; rainy, monsoon season (May to November); dry season (December to April); little seasonal temperature variation

Ethnic groups:

Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1%, other 4%


Khmer (official) 95%, French, English


Buddhist (official) 96.4%, Muslim 2.1%, other 1.3%, unspecified 0.2% (1998 census)


15,205,539 (July 2013 est.).
country comparison to the world: 68

Age structure:

0-14 years: 31.7% (male 2,428,507/female 2,397,327)
15-24 years: 21.2% (male 1,597,990/female 1,627,161)
25-54 years: 38.2% (male 2,828,752/female 2,985,226)
55-64 years: 4.9% (male 287,073/female 464,991)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 221,356/female 367,156) (2013 est.)

Government type:

Multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy


Phnom Penh

Time difference:

UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


9 November 1953 (from France)

Economy – overview:

Since 2004, garments, construction, agriculture, and tourism have driven Cambodia’s growth. GDP climbed more than 6% per year between 2010 and 2012. The garment industry currently employs more about 400,000 people and accounts for about 70% of Cambodia’s total exports. In 2005, exploitable 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 and reaching over 3 million visitors in 2012. Cambodia, nevertheless, remains one of the poorest countries in Asia and long-term economic development remains a daunting challenge, inhibited by endemic 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. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the impoverished countryside, which also lacks basic infrastructure.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$37.25 billion (2012 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):

$2,400 (2012 est.)


CIA World Factbook