Forgotten world (72): Cambodia

Cambodia gained full independence from the French in 1953. Following a five-year civil war in which the Americans backed General Lol Non, the Communist Khmer Rouge took power in 1975 and, over the next 3 years 8 months and 20 days, a massive collectivisation programme resulted in the death of maybe 2.5 million of the 7 million population through forced labour, starvation and massacre (another million are believed to have fled abroad).
The Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown by the intervention of Vietnamese troops with UN-sponsored elections following in 1993. However, Vietnamese still have a right of entry to Cambodia and there is much resentment by Cambodians about Vietnam’s influence in the country. The Khmer Rouge period is still raw in people’s minds and indeed the current Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen is a former Khmer Rouge commander who subsequently went on to oppose them. The population is up from a mere 3.5M in 1979 to over 13M today.
The country remains one of the world’s poorest with GDP per head barely $300 (£154). The economy is mainly agrarian and more than 30% of the people live below the poverty line. Average government spending on health services annually is just £1-£2 per person.
I made a visit to to the country in March 2006.