Kampuchea is part of the official name of Cambodia. Kampuchea is actually referred to as Preahreachanachak Kampuchea in legal documents or state addresses. Kampuchea is located in Southeast Asia, and lies between Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The country has been marked by unrest, extreme poverty and starvation. The Ankgor Wat Temple remains one of the last symbols that Kampuchea was once an advanced civilization with extraordinary power.
It is difficult to believe that Kampuchea once held extraordinary power in Southeast Asia as part of the Khmer Dynasty. Wars with its border countries, beginning in the 16th century, particularly with Thailand and Vietnam, eventually significantly weakened the dynasty. In fact, for 300 years, Cambodia was subject to invasions by one or the other of these two countries.
Kampuchea pleaded with France for an alliance that would afford the Cambodians better protection in the East. In the mid 19th century, the French agreed to protect Cambodia, through occupation. This protection lasted until World War II, when Kampuchea finally became independent of France. This did not, however, end the turmoil.
Kampuchea was re-established as a monarchy with a constitution in 1953. It sought neutrality during the US war in its neighbor country Vietnam. However, civil unrest, in addition to bombing runs by the US during the war led to destabilization of the country and subsequent takeover by the dictator, Pol Pot.
Tension between Vietnam and Kampuchea was extremely high, especially since the country began an ethnic cleansing of Vietnamese who had fled to Cambodia during the war. Pol Pot also ordered the execution of over a million Cambodians who had association with the previous government. Death estimates during this time range from over one million to three million Cambodians. Vietnam attempted to stop Cambodian raids and the further deaths of more Vietnamese by invading Cambodia in the late 1970s.
The United Nations was finally able to reach a cease-fire agreement in 1991 between Vietnam and Kampuchea. However, this was after over ten years of warfare between the countries. The former great nation of the Khmer Dynasty was left with few signs of their origins. Starvation had claimed the lives of many Cambodians and regaining political stability and any type of prosperity has been very difficult.
Political analysts suggest that though Kampuchea currently operates under democratic principals, it is still marked by corruption. This is particularly evident when donations made to help the Cambodian poor rarely reach their destination, but are instead pocketed by government officials.