Almost all Cambodians who belong to the majority people of Khmer (about nine out of ten residents) profess theravada Buddhism, which is state religion. Small groups of Mahayana Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and supporters of natural religions exist in the country.
Theravada Buddhism is also practiced by the majority of people in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Sri Lanka. In every Cambodian village there is a Buddhist temple around which a large part of life revolves. Most traditional feasts are associated with Buddhism.
Believers were subjected to severe abuses under the rule of the Red Khmer when all religious activity was banned, but after the Vietnamese invasion of 1979, respect for the religion was restored. In 1989, Buddhism became state religion. Thousands of temples and monasteries have been rebuilt in recent years.
Many Chinese and Vietnamese in the country profess to Mahayana Buddhism. The Cham people are Sunni Muslims. Natural religions live among Khmer loeu (Highland Khmer). There are also small groups of Catholics and Protestants.
Freedom of religion prevails according to the constitution. Theravada Buddhists are free to practice their religion, but there is discrimination against religious minorities. During the first year of the 2000s, the government banned some foreign-supported Islamic schools for fear that militant Islamism would take root in the country.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Cambodia, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
Political prisoners are released on bail
Just over 70 political prisoners are released on bail by Prime Minister Hun Sen. This is done after pressure from the EU, which is an important trading partner. Among those released are CNRP politicians as well as activists who were arrested during the police strike in connection with Sam Rainsy’s failed attempt to return to Cambodia on Independence Day.
Kem Sokha is released
Kem Sokha, one of the banned opposition party CNRP’s founder and leader, is released just over two years after he was arrested on suspicion of overthrowing activities. Kem Sokha was arrested in 2017 and sent to an isolated prison. Later, he was placed under house arrest and banned from speaking to the media. Kem Sokha is released for health reasons but may not leave the country or be politically active.
Opposition leaders in exile are stopped at the border
The government stops the fugitive opposition leader Sam Rainsy and three other former CNRP politicians from returning to Cambodia on Independence Day on November 9. Opposition leaders have for some time planned to travel home to Cambodia on this day to show the supporters that the exiles have not given up. However, Rainsy is stopped on November 7 from boarding an aircraft in Paris, but can fly to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia the following day. Prohibited CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua is arrested at Kuala Lumpur Airport when she arrives on November 6. When Mu Sochua is released the following day, she says that she intends to enter the Cambodia country road via Thailand instead, but the Thai authorities do not give her permission. A few days earlier, two other former CNRP politicians were arrested in Malaysia when they tried to fly to Thailand. They are released shortly thereafter. Prime Minister Hun Sen has sought support from neighboring countries to prevent exiles from returning. He says it is a “coup attempt”. Mu Sochua accuses the government of breaking the constitution when it closes the border to stop opposition from entering the country. Dozens of people have been arrested in Cambodia in recent weeks, accused of saying the government should overthrow when Sam Rainsy returns on Independence Day. Mu Sochua accuses the government of breaking the constitution when it closes the border to stop opposition from entering the country. Dozens of people have been arrested in Cambodia in recent weeks, accused of saying the government should overthrow when Sam Rainsy returns on Independence Day.
Nuon Chea dead
Nuon Chea, who was one of the Red Khmer’s highest leaders, dies at the age of 93. He was sentenced in 2018 to life imprisonment for genocide. Nuon Chea was ranked as “brother number two”, second only to the left-wing regime’s supreme leader Pol Pot (see Political system).
Big arms purchases from China
Cambodia will buy weapons for around $ 40 million from China in 2019, announces Prime Minister Hun Sen. Previously, the country has purchased weapons from China for a total of $ 290 million. China and Cambodia have also increased the number of joint military exercises. However, Hun Sen denies that Cambodia would have plans to give China access to the naval base in Sihanoukville.
More money from China
On a visit to Beijing, Prime Minister Hun Sen receives a promise from China of $ 588 million in aid to Cambodia. The aid will be paid out over a three-year period starting in 2019. China has made major investments in Cambodia and has written off some debts that Phnom Penh had to Beijing. China also promises to buy 400,000 tonnes of rice from Cambodia and increase bilateral trade to $ 10 billion by 2023. At the same time, an agreement is signed on increased cooperation in China’s infrastructure project New Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative, BRI).