5 Most Common Misconceptions about Cambodia
Since I left my home country, I have noticed a few misconceptions about Cambodia that most people have. Cambodia doesn’t appear much in the news, so it is completely understandable that people don’t know much about it. Even when I meet people who have heard of the country, what they know is outdated, and this blog post should clarify that. It will not, however, address specific misconceptions relating to poverty or investments, yet.
1. The official language is Cambodian
I know it is tempting to say we speak Cambodian, but unfortunately Cambodian isn’t a language. We speak Khmer; and it’s only spoken in Cambodia. Just as Hindi, and not Indian, is the language in India, Khmer is the language in Cambodia. Khmer is influenced by Sanskrit and Pali, so occasionally some words overlap with words in languages that are also influenced by Sanskrit, such as Thai.
2. Cambodia is a communist country
In order to explain this misconception, we need to back up a little bit.
King Norodom Sihanouk led Cambodia after our independence from France in 1953 until 1970 when Prime Minister Lon Nol ousted him. In 1975, Pol Pot took over the country, and Cambodia entered a new era, officially called “Democratic Kampuchea”; it is, however, widely known as Khmer Rouge. I have noticed that if people happen to hear about Cambodia at all, it is either through the song “Holiday in Cambodia” or Khmer Rouge. The era was practically communist; everybody had equal properties (i.e. a pair of black pants, a black shirt, and a red scarf), and educated individuals were killed, because that would not create an equal society. In the end, about 2 million Cambodians were killed.
In 1979, Cambodia entered another era called “People’s Republic of Kampuchea” which implies that Cambodia was a communist country. Only in 1993 did Cambodia had its first election, and to make the story short, there were two Prime Ministers, one of which was Hun Sen. Since then, Hun Sen has been the PM.
While the current Prime Minister Hun Sen has been officially in position since 1993 when Cambodia had its first election, Cambodia is legally a democratic country, with an established election process and multiple parties.
3. Khmer Rouge is still happening
Nope, it’s all gone; it’s been gone for 36 years. There’s no more killing or death penalty for stealing, nor is there curfew. It is definitely safe enough to visit. I believe the reason a lot of people think Khmer Rouge still exists is because it is pretty much the only matter that shows up in the news.
4. Cambodia is part of Vietnam
Cambodia is bordered by Vietnam, and we are two different countries, with our own government. It is true that Prime Minister Hun Sen has a good relationship with the Vietnamese government, but as of now, Cambodia is not part of Vietnam. The reason there is the misconception could be because when tourists (especially Asian tourists) go on a guided tour to Vietnam, they are also taken to Angkor Wat, which is in Cambodia.
5. Angkor Wat was built by Indians
Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple, which is probably why many Indians I have talked to said Indian people built it. I have also learnt from a few Indian friends that ancient Cambodians visited India to study architecture and literature, and return to Cambodia to build the temple complex.