TERRITORY: HUMAN GEOGRAPHY
The population of Cambodia has been assuming, from the very beginning, a very strong and unique character of ethnic-linguistic homogeneity in the SE Asia: 85.2% of it is made up, in fact, of Khmer, who came down, starting from the century. III a. C., in the plains of the Mekong and Tonle Sap, up to the coastal areas. They progressively assimilated the Mon, settled on the Annamite reliefs and representing the oldest substratum of the country, while the small minority of the Cham, Islamized and settled along the course of the Mekong, derives from the oldest immigration from Viet Nam, followed by others during the century. XVII and the French colonial period. From the century XVIII there were also contributions from the Chinese population, dedicated – as in many other areas – mainly to commercial activities. The recent and profound changes undergone by the human geography of Cambodia make it difficult also to evaluate the current consistency of minority groups: however, the Chinese should be around 6.4% and the Vietnamese (apart from the period of military occupation) around 3% of the total. As for the total population, the first official census (1911) counted 1.6 million residents; in 1962, it was almost four times as much, under the impetus of a particularly lively natural movement. The strong demographic pressure induced, in the 1960s, to open pioneer fronts in the peripheral and border areas, particularly in the NW, transferring army veterans and peasants from the densest areas, without however substantially changing the distribution of the population. This, in fact, remained for the most part concentrated in the area of ancient Khmer settlement, that is around the Tonle Sap and in the lower Mekong valley. In the seventies, the fall of the monarchy, the repercussions of the Vietnamese conflict and, above all, the civil war that saw the Khmer Rouge occupy, in 1975, the capital Phnom Penh (where they had massed, due to the continuous influx of refugees, about 2 millions of people) upset the anthropic framework of the country. The enormous human losses and the forced mass transfers of the urban population to the countryside, to be used for agricultural work and maintenance of the irrigation network, made the residual demographic consistency incalculable. The occupation by the Vietnamese troops (1979) led to a massive exodus to other countries, mainly the United States, France and Australia, and started a process of re-urbanization that led it to recover, in a few years, about half a million people. Meanwhile, the 1981 census saw the Cambodian population return to growth at a decidedly fast pace. The forced transfer of most of the urban population to the countryside and, in particular, the forced emptying of the capital, carried out by the Khmer government, has, however, deprives an already very weak urban network of its main point of reference. Because the natural process of urbanization has been so drastically nipped in the bud, the main movement of the population consists of centrifugal displacements from urban centers to the countryside. About 80% of this population remains settled in the dense plot of villages, which retain their traditional character, with houses on stilts to protect against seasonal floods, lined up on the banks of rivers and along the roads, preferably in the areas not floodable, on the reliefs of the land (phnom). Despite the peace process started in Cambodia since 1989, and the multiple efforts made by the international community to help the government recreate conditions of political stability in the country, the situation is not yet completely normalized and the main demographic indicators show a serious state backwardness. The population is constantly growing but life expectancy at birth is rather low; the birth rate is high (22.9 ‰) and 30.8% of the population is under 15 years old. The average density of the population is not very high (88.7 residents / km²), although there are areas with very high concentration, such as the districts including the fertile areas along the Mekong, and practically uninhabited provinces such as those of the NE. Over half of the reintegrated urban population lives in Phnom Penh, a city that developed in colonial times, given that urbanism in the modern sense has never existed in Cambodia, where the city was only the seat of the ruler and the site of temples, as evidenced by Angkor Wat. Phnom Penh has risen, like all colonial centers, in a happy place for trade with the outside world: it communicates with the sea through the terminal course of the Mekong and occupies a central position with respect to the country. The other centers have only local functions, mostly administrative and commercial; a certain importance Batdâmbâng, the main center of the rice, Siem Réab, located on the Tonle Sap not far from the site of Angkor, and Sihanoukville, in the municipality of Krong Preah Sihanouk port city and seaside tourism destination on the Gulf of Siam.
The climate, humid and rainy on the whole, with characters that bring it closer to the equatorial one, is reflected in the dense forest vegetation that cloaks especially the Cardamom Mountains, rich in precious essences; over large areas, however, the forest has been degraded by man and in its place there are savannah expanses. In the depression, mostly occupied by rice fields, the forest survives in more or less extended strips along the waterways. Cambodia is home to a rich fauna including elephants, leopards, tigers, crocodiles, snakes; the Tonle Sap, in addition to being rich in fish, is also the habitat of various species of birds. The country’s symbolic animal is the kouprey, a wild bovid typical of the region. With regard to environmental problems, the issues that the country has to face are different: on the one hand, deforestation, which is particularly incisive also due to the presence in the territory of a decidedly conspicuous forest heritage that supplies precious woods such as teak.; on the other hand, pollution due to the use of defoliants, frequent during the war but also linked to extraction activities, especially in the areas bordering Thailand; on the other still the poisoning of the waters with the consequent compromise of the fish heritage. Environmental legislation has, however, established the creation of protected areas, divided into four types: national parks, wildlife oases, protected landscapes and multi-purpose areas, which ensure the conservation of about a quarter of the entire Cambodian territory (21, 9%). There are 8 national parks in Cambodia: Bokor, Botum-Sakor, Kep, Kirirom, Phonm Kulen, Preah Monivong, Ream and Virachey parks. Visit ezinesports.com for Cambodia travel plan.