Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, and is home to roughly 14 million people. The capital city, Phnom Penh, is situated on the banks of the Mekong River and was once known as the “Pearl of Asia,” esteemed among the major cities of French Indochina for its’ great beauty.
In many respects, the nation still bears the scars that remain from the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) that was led by Pol Pot. Committed to a communist ideal of a pure Maoist agrarian society, they systematically executed all military and public service personnel, intellectuals, educated professionals, perceived political enemies and religious leaders, leading to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million people, or about 1 out every 7 Cambodians. As a result, roughly 50% of the population is under the age of 25, with a median age of 23.
In the aftermath of the war and oppression, many are open to the gospel. But the infant churches need much support and prayer. All the leaders are young and most lack adequate biblical training. There are therefore many extremes of teaching due to a dearth of biblical understanding. There is a lack of unity, with many divisions between congregations. Christian Khmer literature is in desperately short supply.
Cambodia: Fast Facts
- Cambodia remains one of the poorest nations in the world, with over one-third of the population living on less than 45 cents a day.
- Corruption is a significant obstacle to progress, with Cambodia ranking 151 of 163 countries studied in a 2008 report publilshed by global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.
- Only roughly 37% of the population is functionally literate.
- The United Nations reports only 16 physicians for every 100,000 people, which is one of the lowest ratios in the world.
- Buddhism is the dominant religion and is practiced by 96% of the population. Christians comprise roughly 1% of the population. Virtually all Christian leaders were killed in the genocide, and by 1979, only three known pastors and a few hundred Christians remained in Phnom Penh.
- Cambodia is a major source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation. There are 80,000-100,000 commercial sex workers in Cambodia, with 30% being under the age 18. Nearly 60% of sex-workers claim they were sold into prostitution. Much hopeful work is being done in this area by organizations such as Hagar International and Chab Dai.
To learn even more about Cambodia, you can check out the CIA World Factbook, or for current events, The Phnom Penh Post. Finally, another excellent resource is The Peoples of Cambodia, which can be downloaded in PDF format (highly recommended).