History & Politics

Phnom Penh in 1870
Cambodia’s rich cultural history can be traced back thousands of years, with radiocarbon dating of a cave in the northwestern...

Norodom Sihanouk, a key figure in Cambodian politics after World War IIUnlike Vietnam, Cambodian nationalism was politically quiet at the beginning of the 20th century.

This was probably so because of the reigning monarch and the way the French handled the monarchy. Khmer villages who were used to abuse of power believed that if the monarch was on the throne, Cambodia was fine as it was.

At the same time, low literacy rates in Cambodia, which the French were reluctant to improve, stopped nationalist currents to spread.

Mythical Naga

Little is known about prehistoric Cambodia and the origin of the Khmers. Probably they came from the north, down the Mekong river. They migrated into Southeast Asia, being pushed down by invading Sino-Tibetans from the north.

In a Cambodian legend, the naga were a reptilian race of beings who possessed a large kingdom in the Pacific Ocean. The Naga King's daughter married an Indian Brahmana named Kaundinya, and from their union sprang the Cambodian people.

Therefore still Cambodians say that they are "Born from the Naga".