Is the Kingdom of Funan a Khmer nation?


Predecessor Funan - a prosperous kingdom

It is not certain when the area of ​​Cambodia, which largely consists of fertile plains, was settled. The earliest evidence of settlement in the tropical region is found in a cave in the northeast of the country. These date from around 4200 BC.

What is certain, however, is that there was a prosperous kingdom in what is now Cambodia: Funan. Historians put its heyday in the fifth century after Christ.

At the end of the seventh century, Funan was conquered by its northern neighbor, the Kingdom of Chenla. Both empires were inhabited by the Khmer, the national people of what is now Cambodia. Chenla extended his sphere of influence to what is now Thailand and Laos. Due to its size, the state soon became ungovernable and partly came under the control of Java.

Angkor - highly civilized and deeply religious

Jayavarman II, who ruled from 802 to 850, is considered the founder of the first joint Khmer state. Jayavarman II founded a new capital: Angkor. He built the first temple of what is now the world's largest collection of sacred buildings. In the heyday of the Angkor Empire, around a million Khmer lived in the greater vicinity of the temples.

The Angkor Empire was characterized by an incomparable high civilization in all areas of public life. It had the greatest expansion under Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181 to around 1218. He had hospitals built and the road system completed. This religion spread among the staunch Buddhist. Most Cambodians today are Theravada Buddhists.

Jayavarman's madness to build more and more temples as well as numerous wars brought the Angkor Empire into financial difficulties and heralded its downfall.

Loss of sovereignty

The empire was finally conquered by the Thai in 1430/31 and greatly reduced in size. After the fall of Angkor, the capital was relocated for the first time in 1434 to the place of today's Phnom Penh on the Mekong. In 1597 Thailand installed its own king, and the following monarchs were also dependent on the favor of the Thais and the Vietnamese.

Thailand and Vietnam fought fiercely for supremacy in Cambodia in the 19th century and agreed on a joint administration in 1841. From then on, Cambodia was no longer sovereign.

In order not to be completely taken over by Thailand and Vietnam, the Cambodian king Norodom agreed to a treaty with France in 1863, which placed the country under its protection and gave the French the right to use the mineral resources and forests. But France soon realized that the exploitation of Cambodia was not bringing in as much as hoped and only did what was absolutely necessary for the development of the country.

Despite the difficult situation for most Cambodians, there was little resistance to the colonial power until the late 1930s. This changed in 1941: the Japanese determined the fate of Cambodia for five years, but withdrew again in 1946 and the French returned. From then on they granted the Cambodians the right to their own constitution and political parties.

From resistance to reign of terror

It was not until the early 1950s that Cambodia's struggle for independence began. At the same time, a Marxist circle of Cambodian students was formed in Paris, including the later leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

Cambodia finally became sovereign on November 9, 1953. Subsequently, King Sihanouk ruled for almost 16 years as President and King of Cambodia, which at that time was one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia. A coup during a trip to Sihanouk in 1970 meant that he could not return to the country. The previous Prime Minister Lon Nol abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the Khmer Republic. But Lon Nol was unable to solve the country's problems.

From Beijing, the overthrown Sihanouk organized all of Lon Nol's opponents, paving the way for the Khmer Rouge to come to power under Pol Pot. From 1973 they fought in a civil war against the government in Phnom Penh.

Pol Pot's troops finally took the capital on April 17, 1975 - which began the worst time in Cambodian history, when between 20 and 30 percent of the population were killed, directly or indirectly, by the Khmer Rouge - estimates range between one and two Millions of victims.

Reconstruction by the UN

After an attack on Vietnam, the Vietnamese troops struck back and occupied Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. The Khmer Rouge, however, was not finally crushed: They fled and in the following years were largely responsible for the civil war in the provinces, in which they and two other guerrilla armies fought against the Vietnamese occupiers. However, the Vietnamese were able to hold their own.

Only after lengthy peace negotiations did the Vietnamese troops withdraw in autumn 1989. A final peace treaty between the four civil war parties and another 18 nations was finally signed on October 23, 1991. The United Nations (UN) assumed responsibility for rebuilding a functioning state.

To stop the peace process, the Khmer Rouge carried out attacks on the Vietnamese minority in the country and attacked UN soldiers.

Despite the intimidation, from May 23-28, 1993, nearly 90 percent of registered Cambodians voted. Initially, the elected parties found it difficult to work together. Former King Sihanouk resolved the difficult situation by making himself king again and the two adversaries Hun Sen and Ranariddh his prime ministers.

Conflicts in the political leadership

The people were happy to have their old king back again. But even he was unable to resolve the conflict between his two prime ministers. This even intensified when the Khmer Rouge split in 1996 and both Hun Sen and Ranariddh sought to integrate the Khmer Rouge group loyal to the government into their respective parties. Both prime ministers built highly armed private armies.

The atmosphere prior to the July 26, 1998 election was marked by mistrust. The result - Hun Sens's party won the election - was challenged by the losers, and rioting resulted in the dead. Finally, Hun Sen and Ranariddh agreed on a coalition agreement.

The biggest problem: corruption

Coming to terms with the past is still difficult: Hardly any leading politician in the democratic constitutional monarchy can claim to have never worked with the mass murderers of Pol Pot. After the national elections of 2003 there were again problems with the formation of a government; this time the coalition negotiations lasted almost a year, but were peaceful.

Cambodia's economy is still mainly agricultural. In the past few years tourism has become an important source of income. Overall, however, a large part of Cambodia's economic output is supported by development aid.

The biggest problem: corruption. It is more widespread than in almost any other Southeast Asian country and is held responsible for the fact that foreign funds in the order of magnitude of around 300 million US dollars a year are virtually vanishing into thin air.