Cambodia is four times larger than The Netherlands and has a monarchy that goes back to the time of the glorious Angkor Wat temples (700−1300 AC). History shows that Siam (Thai), Vietnamese, Chinese and Khmer (Cambodians) leaders searched for power. In 1863 France annexed Cambodia together with Vietnam and Laos into Indochina. Agriculture was and is still very important to Cambodia. In the 1950-ish Cambodia was called the rice-barn of Asia.
In the early 1970’s the Vietnam War spilled over the border into Cambodia leading to a bloody coup which deposed Sihanouk, then prime minister. Following a five-year struggle, communist Khmer Rouge forces captured the capital Phnom Penh in 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns; over 1 million displaced people died from execution or enforced hardships causing almost the total annihilation of educated people including engineers, teachers and doctors. In 1979 the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and sparked off almost 20 years of fighting. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normality, as did the rapid diminishment of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1990s. A coalition government, formed after national elections in 1998, brought renewed political stability and death of Pol Pot resulted in the surrender of remaining Khmer Rouge forces in the same year.
From 2004 to 2008, the economy grew about 10% per year, driven largely by an expansion in the garment sector, construction, agriculture, and tourism. GDP contracted slightly in 2009 as a result of the global economic slowdown but climbed more than 6% in 2010 and 6.7 in 2011, driven by tourism and renewed exports.
Gross National Income per capita is according to the UN US$615 (2009) and the country is placed 185 out of 229 countries worldwide with a GDP of $2,300 (2011 est.) The CIA fact book notes that 31% of Cambodians live under the poverty line of US$1.25 pp/day.
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. More than 50% of the population is less than 25 years old. These motivated youngsters are filling the classrooms at universities, technical and other vocational training schools, for who can afford it. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.