Cambodia Human and Economic Geography
HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Despite the many efforts made by the Cambodian government, by the countries of the Indochinese region and by the international community that supports it, the situation of Cambodia at the end of the nineties is still far from being considered normalized. However, many aspects in recent years have shown a progressive and sometimes rapid improvement, so much so that the country was admitted (1997) to ASEAN, the regional association of Southeast Asian countries, while the EU signed with Cambodia a cooperation agreement.
According to Liuxers.com, the Cambodian population (10,716,000 residents In 1998), after a regression that occurred in the seventies (when they were killed, according to the most recent and reliable calculations, about 1, 7 millions of people) and only partially recovered in the following decade, has resumed showing a very lively trend towards growth and normal conditions of territorial mobility have been recreated. This phenomenon particularly affects cities, starting with the capital, where some industrial activity has been resumed alongside administrative and commercial functions, and where even a certain tourist influx has been possible. The population of Phnom Penh, however, is still about half of the total reached before the expulsion of its residents.
The economic conditions, even though they are no longer precarious and typical of a state of war, are still of a very low level. The per capita GDP is among the weakest on Earth (300 US dollars in 1997), and only the availability of food products (rice, corn) allows the population to subsist, together with international aid.
A timid development (notable in percentage terms, but modest in absolute values) is beginning to manifest itself in the industrial sector, to some extent affected by the international relocation of modern activities with low added value, which find an element of strong competitiveness in the Cambodian workforce and which they are added to the traditional activities, carried out on an artisanal basis. At the bottom, however, there remain the problems of both the lack of infrastructures and, above all, the reconstitution of the intermediate, technical and administrative cadres, teachers and specialized personnel, which continue to be underpowered. The country’s dependence on financial aid (among other things, the trade balance is permanently in deficit) and on technical cooperation from therefore remains the actual situation of Cambodia. The relative normalization of relations with surrounding countries (with the exception of Thailand, which also led to border skirmishes in the 1995) and the general liberalization of the economy seem to create conditions such as to allow regional collaboration to take the lead in a development operation which is, however, very complex. But it should be remembered that other countries (Japan, France, Australia, United States), albeit outside the region, exert considerable influence thanks to the aid granted during the nineties and, as in the case of Japan, also by virtue of direct productive investments.
The oldest documents of this literature, written in Khmer language, are the Angkor stone inscriptions (9th-14th century), historically valuable and echoing Indian and Sanskrit influences. At the fall of the kingdom of Angkor the Buddhist literary influence replaced the Brahmanic one. The Royal Chronicles are from this period describing, among other things, the foundation of the current capital Phnom Penh, and the translations of the Buddhist Canon from the Pāli language. Among the Buddhist texts the J ā taka had particular success. The secular literature of Cambodia is represented above all by the didactic, epic, dramatic and narrative genres. Among the didactic and technical works – which deal with the most varied disciplines – the divinatory books and the so-called chb ā p, codes of morals and good conduct, which are mostly adhesives and difficult to date, are worthy of note. In Cambodia, as indeed in all of Southeast Asia, the theater is closely connected with the epic as it derives its most popular texts which are mimed and danced. The epic stories are mostly of Indian inspiration and among them the Khmer version of Vālmīki ‘s R ā m ā ya ṇ a, entitled R ām Ker. Although modern theater tends to be inspired by situations of everyday life, with a marked preference for the comic theme, the dancers who mimic the stories of divine beings and heroes of the past still enjoy the favor of the audiences. As far as fictional literature is concerned, we should remember the versified novels of the classical era – such as the story of Vorvong and Saurivong, or that of Rothisen – in which the taste for the marvelous and the legendary predominates. The contemporary novels like Kla – Han Rim Kin, flower bloomed, withered flower Yeng Say, Vanna Chay Choum, etc. instead they are inspired by everyday reality.