Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Brief History


Most Cambodians consider themselves to be Khmers, whose Angkor Empire extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its zenith between the 10th and 13th centuries. Subsequently, attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day Vietnam) weakened the empire ushering in a long period of decline. In 1863, the king of Cambodia placed the country under French protection; it became part of French Indochina in 1887. Following Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia became independent within the French Union in 1949 and fully independent in 1953. After a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in April 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns; at least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, enforced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under POL POT. A December 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside, led to a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, which was not fully respected by the Khmer Rouge. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy and the final elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999. Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability. The July 2003 elections were relatively peaceful, but it took one year of negotiations between contending political parties before a coalition government was formed. Nation-wide local elections are scheduled for 2007 and national elections for 2008.

Geography :
total: 181,040 sq km ; land: 176,520 sq km ; water: 4,520 sq km

Natural resources :

oil and gas, timber, gemstones, some iron ore, manganese, phosphates, hydropower potential


Ethnic groups: Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1%, other 4%
Religions: Theravada Buddhist 95%, other 5%
Languages: Khmer (official) 95%, French, English


In the early 1920s missionaries from the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) brought the Gospel to Cambodia. Later during 1973 75, they were joined by Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF). Even as these servants of God worked hard to gather the harvest before the fall of Phnom Penh in April 1975, there were only about 5,000 believers then. During Pol Pot's rule, many of these precious ones were killed or starved to death. By 1990, there were less than 600 believers in the country.

The turning point came in the 1990s. According to Mr. David Robinson (Field Director, OMF), "The church of Cambodia has surprised everyone by continuing to grow at the rate of about 30% per year for the last 10 years, with the 1000 believers of 1992 becoming the 100,000 of 2002. The people still seem to be open to the Gospel message, travel up country is safer and easier, and there is still liberty to bring practical and spiritual ministry to the people."

At the beginning of this new millennium, there are more than twelve million people living in Cambodia. Less than one percent of these twelve million are Christians and most have come to know Jesus Christ only in the last ten years. Therefore Cambodia is still a country largely unreached by the Gospel and the Cambodian Church is still in its infancy. Someone described the Cambodian Church as "a mile wide but an inch deep." It is also afflicted with divisiveness.

Prayer points : Pray for the Pastors and leaders that they will grow in Godliness and spiritual maturity. Pray for the huge task of nurturing the thousands of new believers. Pray against the divisive schemes of the evil one.


Choul, an ex Khmer Rouge soldier, still carries a gun but it is for hunting tigers, deer and boars. He has learnt to walk through the jungle of Cambodia in the night without losing his way. He knows the jungle well and fears nothing except the "Yeay Mao."

Choul and all his fellow hunters share a strong belief in the "Yeay Mao the Spirit of the mountain and jungle. Before every hunting trip, hunters like Choul would worship and ask for her permission to hunt. The hunters and the villagers believe that the "Yeay Mao' keeps the forest in balance and the mountain safe for them. She is believed to send only old, sick or bad animals to be killed by the hunters who ask her. But if they do something offensive, they must quickly make an offering and pray to her for forgiveness. Some were said to have lost their lives in the jungle because they did not beg her for mercy.

While the Yeay Mao reign supreme in the jungle, it is the "Neak Ta" who is worshipped by every household in this country. He is believed to reside in the "spirit houses” that come in many shapes and sizes. In the ancient temples, he inhabits the stone replicas of human genital. Elsewhere, the spirit house could be a piece of stone under a tree or a

simple bamboo pole split at the top to receive offerings. In the city, you could purchase an elaborate concrete edifice painted in gold for $5,000!

Whether it is a fifty cents bamboo affair or a $5,000 assembly, it is the "cure¬-all" for the Khmer. The "Neak Ta" is believed to have power over the weather, cures diseases, and finds lost objects. He even acts as the "Judge" for conflicts. Many, believe that telling a lie in front of the 'Neak Ta" will get your neck broken.

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