The name 'Cambodia' comes from 'Cambodge', which is the French name.
The term 'Khmer' is used to encompass the people as well as the
It is believed that the Khmers have lived in the region from the
2nd century AD but there are some contentious issues such as their
place of origin.
They are possibly a mixture of Mongol and Melanesian stock. Total
population is approximately 9 million. Cambodians compromise a veriety
of people who are commonly called Khmer and they constitute 90 to
95 % of the population.
The population also includes a diversity of ethnic background: Chinese,
Vietnamese, Chams(Khmer Islam) and Hilltribes, called Khmer Loeu.
The largest single ethnic minority in the country are the Cham-Malays.
Today they can be found mainly along the Mekong north of Phnom Penh
and have a spiritual centre in Chul Chnagvra near the capital. Their
numbers were also drastically reduced during the Pol Pot years.
By tradition, they are cattle-traders, butchers and silk-weavers.
The Cambodian language is called Khmer and is part of the Mon Khmer
family, and has influenced both spoken and written Thai. It has
23 vowels ,33 consonents ,24 dependant vowels , 12 independent vowels
and several diacritics.
Given the French protectorate presence, many older,
educated Khmers speak and read French.In recent years the trend
among younger Cambodians has been to study English as a second language
such as that one readily finds Cambodians who speak English.
The official religion of Cambodia is Theravadu Buddhism, which is
also practiced in neighboring Laos, Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka.
Theravadu Buddhism was introduced into Cambodia in the 12th century
by King Jayavarman VII.
The sight of saffron-robbed monks is common throughout the Kingdom
and almost every village has a Buddhist temple as a dominant feature
of daily life. There are also around 500,00 Muslims in Cambodia
and just over 60,000 Christians.