Cambodia's people must be some of the most resilient on the earth. Having experienced tortuous war years, poverty and horror, they still are courteous, friendly and welcoming. You will love the constant array of smiling gentle faces and the best compliment to pay your hosts is to remain cool tempered, calm and ready for a laugh.
Cambodia's official language is Khmer, and this is spoken by the majority of the population. However, Vietnamese and several Chinese dialects can also be heard. Unlike the languages of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and China, Khmer is non-tonal and has also picked up and adapted many words from Sanskrit and Pali.
Khmer has also borrowed many terms from Chinese and European languages, particularly French.
The roots of written Khmer derive from a South Indian alphabet. It uses thirty-three consonants, twenty-four dependent vowels, twelve independent vowels, and diacritic markers. Vowels may be written before, after, over, or under a consonant symbol. 50% of the population is literate.
Population and People
Cambodia's population stands at 12 million, of which the Khmer make up 90%. Other groups include Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and Burmese and various ethnic hill tribes, many of the latter living in the mountainous regions to the north and southwest.
The Khmer account for 80 percent of agricultural workers, while the Vietnamese and Chinese dominate the business sector.
The state religion of Theravada Buddhism was first introduced to Cambodia during the days of the great Angkor kingdom and prospered. For centuries, monks were the only literate people residing in rural communities, and filled the important role of teachers.
However, in 1975, the Khmer Rouge massacred the majority of them and destroyed most of their temples and it was not until after the Vietnamese invasion that Buddhism was once again openly practiced.