The ancient Kingdom of Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia on the Gulf of Thailand. Once a mighty empire, it is just beginning to recover from a long history of brutality and violence, largely on the strength of its tourist appeal.

Cambodia was once the home of the great Khmer Empire, the largest in Southeast Asian history. This impressive state was a major cultural and military power, spreading Chinese and Indian influences to its neighbors through conquest and trade. Its legacy includes Angkor, the largest preindustrial city on the planet, and its fabulous temple Angkor Wat, a national symbol and one of the largest religious monuments ever built. The Empire went into decline during the 13th century, and for the next several hundred years was subject to the political domination of Thailand, Vietnam, and eventually France, from whom the country declared independence in 1953. Under King Sihanouk Cambodia attempted to maintain a policy of Cold War neutrality, but soon found itself subject to competing foreign interests once more; as the Vietnam War raged along the country’s borders, Sihanouk was ousted by a US-backed republican coup in 1970, which itself fell to the communist Khmer Rouge five years later. Under their infamous leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge ran one of the most murderous regimes in history; Cambodia became notorious for summary executions and a complete absence of human rights, and much of the country’s infrastructure and culture, including the entirety of its financial system, was systematically decimated. The Khmer Rouge were toppled in 1978 by an invasion from Vietnam, but still maintained military power in some remote areas as late as 1999. Cambodia held its first free elections in 1993, which saw the restoration of its king as head of state.

The Khmer Rouge’s three-year rule left long scars across Cambodia, in which light, despite still being highly underdeveloped, its modern history is a tremendous success story. Although continuing fears about the country’s political stability have hampered the inflow of foreign aid, particularly after a brief 1997 coup, its economy is being rebuilt on the foundation of the garment and tourism industries, and has seen high growth. Aside from its many architectural and archaeological offerings, several Cambodian cities, including Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh, are becoming better known for more conventional tourist attractions, including cheap shopping, sunny beaches, and nightlife.

Cambodia is a great place for EFL teachers, and foreigners who are native English teachers should have no trouble finding paid work. Teachers in general are in high demand, and several NGOs in the country can offer voluntary positions throughout the country. A variety of social problems, including low-quality medical care and an astonishing rate of deforestation, may offer opportunities as well. Generally speaking, with a low unemployment rate and a lot of reconstruction to be done, jobs shouldn’t be too hard to find–just remember not to expect wages comparable to Western countries.

Khmer is the country’s official language; the specifically Cambodian dialect of French was once the primary second language, although it is rapidly losing ground to English and Japanese. Cambodia is home to numerous minority communities, whose languages include Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cham.

Links

Country Info:
Wikipedia: Cambodia
CIA World Factbook Entry

Language:
Wikipedia: Khmer Language

Relocation Resources:
Cambodia at Wikitravel
Eastern Explorer: Living in Cambodia
Khmer440: Cambodia From the Inside
Bong Thom dot Com: Jobs and Classifieds in Cambodia