Cambodia is full of history and conflict, according to Muy (pronounced moy) our guide. He told us that his country had always been stuck in the middle of conflicts and diplomatic pressures, with a wish by the people to just be neutral.
Any conflicts in the region would mean that Cambodias neighbours looked for their support.
Even during the more recent times when there was civil war with the Khmer Rouge and even the Vietnam war .. the Cambodian people were the ones that suffered.
The evil Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, was heavily influenced by the Vietnamese People’s army of the North and the Viet Cong. The Khmer Rouge overthrew the military and installed their own government the Democratic Kampuchea Government, imposing an inhumane social engineering program.
It was between 1975 and 1979 that this evil regime brought the killing fields, a period of genocide, where some two million people were systematically murdered.
This was the start of the Cambodian Vietnamese war, and even after the war ended, followed by years of guerilla warfare until 1994 the people of this country continued to suffer.
Today the north is riddled with land mines left by the Khmer Rouge as they retreated north, and those mutilated by these lethal weapons refuse to feel undignified by begging.
The young people of the country are delightful, warm and friendly and offer so much hope to the country which is predominantly Buddhist, ruled by a communist and corrupt regime.
The older generation still shows signs of trauma and suspicion… but this will change.
The monarchy which once ruled long ago and subsequently exiled returned in 1993 to be restored, the country renamed to the ‘Kingdom of Cambodia’, but our guide tells us that the king can only do and see what the communist Prime Minister tells him.
800 years ago the Khmer people were deeply religious people ruled by many kings.
There were conflicts between Buddhists and Hindus at that time, however Hinduism triumphed eventually.
In contrast with the twentieth century past, the Hindu religion too, believed that man was in the middle of a conflict between good and evil.
The people of this time believed that in order to beat evil they must first climb mountains, pass over the oceans and ascend to the temple mountain, the highest of all mountains in the universe called Meru to reach the Gods.
Hindu mythology believed that Meru was located at the centre of the universe surrounded by four mountains.
The kings at this time were able to show their power and authority by building a temple that connnected with their Gods.
Our guide explained, had they simply used a previous temple built by a past king, the people would have considered him weak.
The temples that they built
800 plus years ago were surrounded by Siam (Thailand), Vietnam and Laos. At this time Cambodia was huge, Vietnam was tiny and Siam despised.
During the 1860’s the French arrived in Cambodia, Vietnam and Asia looking for gold, silver, minerals and raw materials and explored everywhere.
It was during such exploration that they discovered in the thick jungles of Cambodia the most magnificent temples known as Angkor Wat and others. Angkor meaning city.
But the discovery by the French of these temples, the most famous of which is Angkor Wat brings over four million tourists to Siem Reap annually…
Who knows, now that money is rolling into the country from the West, perhaps Cambodia will change.
Meanwhile UNESCO recognises Angkor Wat as one of the worlds greatest cultural treasures.