Cambodia today is mostly comprised of people who are identified as ethnic “Cambodian” or “Khmer”, which averaging between 90- 95% of its population.
Geographically, it is a country of Southeast Asia- as Thailand borders Cambodia to its West while Vietnam is to its East. The citizens are primarily devoted to devoted to Buddhism; which is also influenced by the the ancient Hinduism from the Angkor period.
However, they are also known in relation to Muslim Cham, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Ideally, the Cambodians strongly identify with their ethnic identity and religious beliefs. More so, in Cambodia today, the citizens are involved in small business, crop, and vegetables.
The People of Cambodia
Believe it or not, in 2004, this country had an estimated population of 13 million people. And, Cambodia actually owns one of the highest population growth rates in Asia.
Khmer makes up 90% of the total population. The largest minority group, at about 5% is the Vietnamese. The Chinese make up another 1%. The population estimates take into account the effects of increased mortality in Cambodia.
Specifically, there is an excess mortality rate due to AIDS; which ultimately compromises life expectancy for infants as well as adults. So, of course, this caused a change in distribution of population by age and sex.
The Life of Cambodia
In rural Cambodia today, agriculture accounts for 90% of the gross domestic product or income; representing the traditional mainstay of the Cambodian economy. However, rice has always been the principle commodity. As a matter-of- fact, rice is a vital economic factor in Cambodia’s agrarian society. Secondary crops that contribute to Cambodia’s economy is maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, soy beans, sesame seeds, ground nuts, dry beans, and rubber.
Second to rice, the primary commodity is the commercial crop, rubber. Rubber is one of the country’s few sources of foreign exchange. The exploration of rubber began in the mid 1980’s. The Soviet Union was and continues to be a major customer. Other commercial crops after that,included sugar cane, cotton, and tobacco.
The Cambodians or Khmers also raised livestock as an essential part of their economic life. For example, water buffalo and oxen played a crucial role in the preparation of rice fields. Cambodians generally ate freshwater fish as it provided a major source of protein.
Differences in the City Life and Rural Living
Unfortunately, as a result of the Khmer Rouge regime rule that occurred during the 1970s, many residents were forced to move out of the cities. Therefore, most of the population resides in the rural areas. Only about 10% of the citizens of Cambodia live in urban areas. During the Khmer Rouge period, families were separated and killed. The period also dictated the overall dynamics of the country.
For Cambodians that reside in the rural lands, poverty and farming is the only life they know. Although, poverty also exists in the urban lands, there is immense opportunity for economic growth and power.
The urban life of Cambodia today is supported by its business community. Urban Cambodia consists of banks, restaurants, schools, and factories. However, the business leaders as well as the well- being of the families are basically controlled by the government.
The urban poor have no political voice. Yet, the business leaders bravely delivered demands upon the politicians; requesting that the government recognize the citizen’s right to live in homes without the fear of eviction, to be guaranteed job opportunities, and the development of the poor to become the government’s top priority, to name a few.
So in short…
Rather rural or urban, the country faces many challenges as it is a rapidly changing society.
In Cambodia today, the majority lives in rural areas- living below poverty level, while a distinguished majority enjoys immense wealth. However, it is a country that is made up of an array of cultures; different ethnic groups, speak different languages, and follow different belief systems. Most of them do have one thing in common: poverty.
Where would you like to go next?
Here’s a quick read for what’s appropriate and not while in you’re visiting the country. Since the concept of face and respect is still highly followed, it’s good to know that you don’t offend the locals while you’re there. They won’t hold you to the same standard as the locals, but still knowing a little bit can make your trip much friendlier and pleasanter.
What do the local folks wear? What should you wear? Here’s a quick look into the Khmer’s traditional dresses and also a simple dress code for travelers.
The locals are a big fan of karaoke. But apart from the pop songs, there are other kinds too. The classical Cambodian music is deeply valued by the people.