Cambodia Economy and Culture

By | September 29, 2021


Cambodia’s industries and infrastructure suffered severe destruction during the events of the 1970s. At the end of the nineties the manufacturing sector was slowly recovering, and benefited from the process of international relocation of modern plants with low added value, which found an element of competitiveness in the Cambodian workforce. Since 2005, in the face of competition from other Asian countries in this sector, Cambodia has initiated, especially at the request of foreign buyers, a policy of improving working conditions, although these are still lacking. The development of Cambodian industry is also hampered by the difficulty in exploiting mineral and energy resources: neither the production of hydroelectric energy in the NE regions nor the exploration of the oil and natural gas deposits discovered in the early 2000s in the territorial waters are adequately developed, also due to the opposition of neighboring countries. The industries include chemical, mechanical (vehicle assembly) and textile plants, a cement factory, some tobacconists and breweries, a tire plant, paper mills, rice and fish processing plants, an oil refinery. A hydroelectric power plant is active on the Se San river. With Chinese capital, a special economic zone has been created in Sihanoukville (textile, mechanical, wood industries). Visit weddinginfashion for Economy of Southeastern Asia.


The tertiary sector is growing, thanks to cultural tourism (the main destination is the site of Angkor) and ecotourism. The traditional financial system, which is underdeveloped, has been joined by microcredit. The investment of foreign capital, especially Thai, is mainly speculative. As for communications, the Mekong is the great route for internal traffic, also given the precariousness of roads and railways; main sea outlet is Sihanoukville. Phnom Penh instead it hosts the major river port and the airport; other airports are located in Siěm Réab, Bătdâmbâng, Kâmpóng Cham, Kâmpôt and Krâchéh. The exchanges, both internal and foreign, are very modest; the latter concern the import of various industrial products, especially chemical, textile and mechanical products, and the export of rice, rubber, soy, corn, sesame, fish, clothing and timber. Commercial trafficking occurs mainly with other Asian countries (China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan); exports are instead directed to the United States and the European Union, in particular Germany and the United Kingdom. The contribution of tourism is growing strongly (5.6 million arrivals in 2017), especially from China, which feeds construction activities mainly on the southern coast.


The cultural history of Cambodia has its roots in the dictates of two of the great religions born and spread in Asia, Hinduism and Buddhism, superimposed, in many cases, on the pre-existing and widespread animist practices in Indochina; elements of Sanskrit culture were then inserted on this substratum, helping to define the characteristics of the Khmer style, the result of a combination halfway between the sacred and the pagan. Effects and works of this process were revealed in literature, sculpture and dance, the most common and popular art forms in Cambodia. Throughout the Middle Ages and the modern era other influences then contributed to clarify the traditions and productions of the country: in particular, thanks to trade and demographic flows, influences of Chinese, Thai and Javanese cultures penetrated. A substantial part of Cambodian artistic and cultural heritage was eliminated or damaged during the Pol Pot regime and in the following years marked by the civil war (from the second half of the 1970s to the beginning of the nineties of the twentieth century), as an expression of traditions and historical values, rejected by the ideology of the Khmer Rouge. However, since 1991 the protection of works and the practice of the arts have come back to life, essentially thanks to musicians, sculptors, writers and dancers, who somehow survived the exterminations and returned home, where they were able to resume their activities. Among these, a new generation of artists is trying, especially in the figurative arts, to give life to hybrid forms and languages, which combine “ancestral memories” and contemporary suggestions, often borrowed from the West. A modern Khmer art, in essence, which explores the new also in techniques (photography, collages) and materials (metals, clay). Among the most appreciated exponents Phy Chan Than (b. 1962) and Chhan Dina. UNESCO has included the site of Angkor, a fortified city and symbol of the Khmer civilization, which escaped destruction, on the World Heritage List. Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Preah Vihear Temple (2008) and Sambor Prei Kuk Temple (2017). The effects of the cultural annihilation work of Pol Pot’s rule also affected the education system. The oldest university in the country, the Royal School of Arts in Phnom Penh, founded in 1918 and transformed into the Royal University of Fine Arts in 1965, it was closed and was able to resume its courses (including dance, music, acting and fine arts) only from 1980. In addition to the historic institute, the Royal Palace, the Genocide Museum, the Pagoda d ‘Silver. The recent past has seen Cambodia gain recognition in the field of cinema as well. In 1985 Haing Ngor (1940-1996) received an Oscar for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ in the film Screams of Silence. In 1994, director Rithy Panh (b. 1964) presented Neak sre (“People of the paddy field”) at Cannes, the first Cambodian film hosted at the French festival, and in 2003 he amazed audiences and critics with S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine (“S21: Khmer Rossi’s death machine”). In 2013 her documentary The missing picture won the Un certain regard award at the Cannes Film Festival 2013. With the same film, Rithy Panh was nominated for the 2014 Academy Awards in the category of “Best Foreign Film”, the first Cambodian film to be nominated to the Oscar.

Cambodia Economy and Culture