Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand,
between Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos
Geographic coordinates: 13 00 N, 105 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
total: 181,040 sq km
land: 176,520 sq km
water: 4,520 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Oklahoma
total: 2,572 km
border countries: Laos 541 km, Thailand 803 km, Vietnam 1,228
Coastline: 443 km
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; rainy, monsoon season (May to November);
dry season (December to April); little seasonal temperature variation
Terrain: mostly low, flat plains; mountains in southwest
lowest point: Gulf of Thailand 0 m
highest point: Phnum Aoral 1,810 m
Natural resources: timber, gemstones, some iron ore, manganese,
phosphates, hydropower potential
arable land: 13%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 11%
forests and woodland: 66%
other: 10% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 920 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: monsoonal rains (June to November); flooding;
Environment - current issues: illegal logging activities
throughout the country and strip mining for gems in the western
region along the border with Thailand have resulted in habitat loss
and declining biodiversity (in particular, destruction of mangrove
swamps threatens natural fisheries); soil erosion; in rural areas,
a majority of the population does not have access to potable water;
toxic waste delivery from Taiwan sparked unrest in Kampong Saom
(Sihanoukville) in December 1998
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification,
Endangered Species, Marine Life Conservation, Ship Pollution, Tropical
Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping
Geography - note: a land of paddies and forests dominated
by the Mekong River and Tonle Sap
The kingdom of Cambodia is bordered to the North by Thailand and
Laos, to the East and the South by Vietnam, and to the South and
West by the Gulf of Siam and Thailand. Cambodia compromises of 181,035
The cities includes Phnom Penh, the capital has an approximately
1 million. Other major cities are Battambang, the second largest
city, Siam Republic, Sihanouk vile, Kampong Cham, Kandal, Prey Veng,
Takeo. Kampung Thom, Svay Rieng and Kampong Speu.
Situated in the tropical zone, Cambodia benefits from a great amount
of sun year round. Each season has its own beauty and refreshing
changes in weather. The average temperature is 27 degrees C.
The minimum temperature is about 16 degrees. There are two seasons:
monsoon season and dry season. The humid, rainy season lasts from
April to October due to southwestern monsoon. Temperature range
from 25 degrees, with humidity up to 90 %.
The hottest month is April when the temperature can reach up to
38 degrees C. The cool, dry season lasts from November to March
with temperatures ranging from 17 to 27 degrees, night and day.
December to January is the coolest period.
Cambodia is a Southeast Asian country that borders on Thailand,
Laos, and Vietnam. The country is sometimes known as Kampuchea.
Most Cambodians live on the fertile plains created by the floodwaters
of the Mekong River, or near the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and Tonle
Sap River northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital.
Following a five-year struggle, communist Khmer Rouge forces captured
Phnom Penh in 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and
towns; over 1 million displaced people died from execution or enforced
A 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside
and touched off 13 years of fighting. UN-sponsored elections in
1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy, as did the rapid
diminishment of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1990s.
A coalition government, formed after national elections in 1998,
brought renewed political stability and the surrender of remaining
Khmer Rouge forces.
Size: Total area 181,040 square kilometers, about
size of Missouri; country shares 800-kilometer border with Thailand
on north and west, 541-kilometer border with Laos on northeast,
1,228- kilometer border with Vietnam on east and southeast; coastline
along Gulf of Thailand about 443 kilometers.
Topography: Most salient topographical feature
lacustrine plain formed by inundations of Tonle Sap (Great Lake),
measuring about 2,590 square kilometers during dry season to about
24,605 square kilometers during rainy season. This densely populated
plain devoted to wet rice cultivation constitutes heartland of Cambodia.
Most (about 75 percent) of country lies at elevations of less than
100 meters above sea level, except for Cardamon Mountains (highest
elevation 1,771 meters), their north-south extension to the east,
Elephant Range (elevation range 500-1,000 meters) and steep escarpment
of Dangrek Mountains (average elevation 500 meters) along northern
border with Thailand.
Climate: Temperatures range from 10°C to 38°C.
Tropical monsoons: southwest monsoon blowing inland in northeasterly
direction brings moisture-laden winds from Gulf of Thailand/Indian
Ocean from May to October with period of heaviest precipitation
September-October; northeast monsoon blowing in southwesterly direction
toward coast ushers in dry season, November to March, with period
of least rainfall January-February.
Data as of December 1987
Cambodia covers 181,040 square kilometers in the southwestern part
of the Indochina peninsula. It lies completely within the tropics;
its southernmost points are only slightly more than 10° above
the equator. Roughly square in shape, the country is bounded on
the north by Thailand and by Laos, on the east and southeast by
Vietnam, and on the west by the Gulf of Thailand and by Thailand.
Much of the country's area consists of rolling plains. Dominant
features are the large, almost centrally located, Tonle Sap (Great
Lake) and the Mekong River, which traverses the country from north
The climate is monsoonal and has marked wet and dry seasons of
relatively equal length. Both temperature and humidity generally
are high throughout the year. Forest covers about two-thirds of
the country, but it has been somewhat degraded in the more readily
accessible areas by burning (a method called slash-and-burn agriculture),
and by shifting agriculture.
Data as of December 1987
Cambodia falls within several well-defined geographic regions.
The largest part of the country--about 75 percent of the total--
consists of the Tonle Sap Basin and the Mekong Lowlands. To the
southeast of this great basin is the Mekong Delta, which extends
through Vietnam to the South China Sea. The basin and delta regions
are rimmed with mountain ranges to the southwest (the Cardamom Mountains
the Elephant Range) and to the north (Dangrek Mountains). Higher
land to the northeast and to the east merges into the Central Highlands
of southern Vietnam .
The Tonle Sap Basin-Mekong Lowlands region consists chiefly of
plains with elevations generally of less than 100 meters. As the
elevation increases, the terrain becomes more rolling and dissected.
The Cardamom Mountains in the southwest, oriented generally in
a northwest-southeast direction, rise to more than 1,500 meters.
The highest mountain in Cambodia--Phnom Aural, at 1,771 meters--is
in the eastern part of this range. The Elephant Range, an extension
running toward the south and the southeast from the Cardamom Mountains,
rises to elevations of between 500 and 1,000 meters. These two ranges
are bordered on the west by a narrow coastal plain that contains
Kampong Saom Bay, which faces the Gulf of Thailand. This area was
largely isolated until the opening of the port of Kampong Saom (formerly
called Sihanoukville) and the construction of a road and railroad
connecting Kampong Saom, Kampot, Takev, and Phnom Penh in the 1960s.
The Dangrek Mountains at the northern rim of the Tonle Sap Basin
consist of a steep escarpment with an average elevation of about
500 meters, the highest points of which reach more than 700 meters.
The escarpment faces southward and is the southern edge of the Korat
Plateau in Thailand. The watershed along the escarpment marks the
boundary between Thailand and Cambodia. The main road through a
pass in the Dangrek Mountains at O Smach connects northwestern Cambodia
with Thailand. Despite this road and those running through a few
other passes, in general the escarpment impedes easy communication
between the two countries. Between the western part of the Dangrek
and the northern part of the Cardamom ranges, however, lies an extension
of the Tonle Sap Basin that merges into lowlands in Thailand, which
allows easy access from the border to Bangkok.
The Mekong Valley, which offers a communication route between Cambodia
and Laos, separates the eastern end of the Dangrek Mountains and
the northeastern highlands. To the southeast, the basin joins the
Mekong Delta, which, extending into Vietnam, provides both water
and land communications between the two countries.
Data as of December 1987
Cambodia's climate--like that of the rest of Southeast Asia--is
dominated by the monsoons, which are known as tropical wet and dry
because of the distinctly marked seasonal differences. The monsoonal
airflows are caused by annual alternating high pressure and low
pressure over the Central Asian landmass. In summer, moisture-laden
air--the southwest monsoon--is drawn landward from the Indian Ocean.
The flow is reversed during the winter, and the northeast monsoon
sends back dry air. The southwest monsoon brings the rainy season
from mid-May to mid-September or to early October, and the northeast
monsoon flow of drier and cooler air lasts from early November to
March. The southern third of the country has a two-month dry season;
the northern two-thirds, a four-month one. Short transitional periods,
which are marked by some difference in humidity but by little change
in temperature, intervene between the alternating seasons. Temperatures
are fairly uniform throughout the Tonle Sap Basin area, with only
small variations from the average annual mean of around 25°C.
The maximum mean is about 28°C; the minimum mean, about 22°C.
Maximum temperatures of higher than 32°C, however, are common
and, just before the start of the rainy season, they may rise to
more than 38°C. Minimum temperatures rarely fall below 10°C.
January is the coldest month, and April is the warmest. Typhoons--tropical
cyclones--that often devastate coastal Vietnam rarely cause damage
in Cambodia (see fig. 5).
The total annual rainfall average is between 100 and 150 centimeters,
and the heaviest amounts fall in the southeast. Rainfall from April
to September in the Tonle Sap Basin-Mekong Lowlands area averages
130 to 190 centimeters annually, but the amount varies considerably
from year to year. Rainfall around the basin increases with elevation.
It is heaviest in the mountains along the coast in the southwest,
which receive from 250 to more than 500 centimeters of precipitation
annually as the southwest monsoon reaches the coast. This area of
greatest rainfall, however, drains mostly to the sea; only a small
quantity goes into the rivers flowing into the basin. The relative
humidity is high at night throughout the year; usually it exceeds
90 percent. During the daytime in the dry season, humidity averages
about 50 percent or slightly lower, but it may remain about 60 percent
in the rainy period.
Data as of December 1987
Except for the smaller rivers in the southeast, most of the major
rivers and river systems in Cambodia drain into the Tonle Sap or
into the Mekong River. The Cardamom Mountains and Elephant Range
form a separate drainage divide. To the east the rivers flow into
the Tonle Sap, while on the west they flow into the Gulf of Thailand.
Toward the southern end of the Elephant Mountains, however, because
of the topography, some small rivers flow southward on the eastern
side of the divide.
The Mekong River in Cambodia flows southward from the CambodiaLaos
border to a point below Kracheh city, where it turns west for about
50 kilometers and then turns southwest to Phnom Penh. Extensive
rapids run above Kracheh city. From Kampong Cham the gradient slopes
very gently, and inundation of areas along the river occurs at flood
stage--June through November--through breaks in the natural levees
that have built up along its course. At Phnom Penh four major water
courses meet at a point called the Chattomukh (Four Faces). The
Mekong River flows in from the northeast and the Tonle Sab--a river
emanating from the Tonle Sap--flows in from the northwest. They
divide into two parallel channels, the Mekong River proper and the
Basak River, and flow independently through the delta areas of Cambodia
and Vietnam to the South China Sea.
The flow of water into the Tonle Sab is seasonal. In September
or in October, the flow of the Mekong River, fed by monsoon rains,
increases to a point where its outlets through the delta cannot
handle the enormous volume of water. At this point, the water pushes
northward up the Tonle Sab and empties into the Tonle Sap, thereby
increasing the size of the lake from about 2,590 square kilometers
to about 24,605 square kilometers at the height of the flooding
(see fig. 6). After the Mekong's
waters crest--when its downstream channels can handle the volume
of water--the flow reverses, and water flows out of the engorged
As the level of the Tonle Sap retreats, it deposits a new layer
of sediment. The annual flooding, combined with poor drainage immediately
around the lake, transforms the surrounding area into marshlands
unusable for agricultural purposes during the dry season. The sediment
deposited into the lake during the Mekong's flood stage appears
to be greater than the quantity carried away later by the Tonle
Sab River. Gradual silting of the lake would seem to be occurring;
during low-water level, it is only about 1.5 meters deep, while
at flood stage it is between 10 and 15 meters deep.
Data as of December 1987
Cambodia's boundaries in 1987 were for the most part based upon
those recognized by France and by neighboring countries during the
colonial period. The 800-kilometer boundary with Thailand, coincides
with a natural feature, the watershed of the Dangrek Mountains,
only in its northern sector. The 541-kilometer border with Laos
and the 1,228-kilometer border with Vietnam result largely from
French administrative decisions and do not follow major natural
features. Border disputes have broken out in the past between Cambodia
and Thailand as well as between, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Data as of December 1987