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Formerly the leading empire in Southeast Asia, Cambodia's civilization has both a long and culturally rich historical background. Today, Cambodia occupies only a small corner of the Khmer Empire that extended over a large power and feats of construction, notably the many great temples, including Angkor Wat built by King Suryavarman II and the Bayon Temple by King Jayavarman VII. After that glorious period of unrivaled achievement, indications are that the irrigation network was overworked and the country was the victim of repeated invasions from its neighbors, which cast this great empire into a period of decline from which it never fully recovered. The country became a French protectorate in 1864 and was also occupied by the Japanese for a short while. In 1953, it once again became an independent country. Cambodia was greatly influenced by the French during the colonial period, as were its neighbors in Indochina. As a result, the country has been left with a legacy of many interesting building of distinctive architecture, an attraction for many visitors.
Cambodia has a surface area of 181035 square kilometers, and its population is reaching the figure of 12 million inhabitants, 90 percent of whom are Khmer, the remaning 10 percent being Cham (Khmer Muslim), hill tribes, Chinese and Vietnamese. Ninety-five percent of the people of Cambodia adhere to Thervada Buddhism, which is the official religion of the country. Besides its stunning stone temples, Cambodia is a country of beautiful scenery. The tropical climate and rich alluvial soil are good for the agricultural potential of the country, and its dense rain forests are the home of elephants, tigers and many other wild animals. Its lakes, rivers and many other attractions make Cambodia a full-fledged tourist destination.
Despite the hard times that have confronted the Cambodian people, they are very happy to welcome visitors with warm, heartfelt smile. For good reason Cambodia is known as the "land of million smiles
Edit by: Nancy