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—  Khmer Empire

The Khmer empire was a powerful state in South East Asia, formed by people of the same name, lasting from 802 CE to 1431 CE. At its peak, the empire covered much of what today is Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and southern Vietnam.

By the 7th century CE, Khmer people inhabited territories along the Mekong river -the world’s seventh longest river - from the delta to roughly the modern Cambodia-Laos border, plus the region between that river and the great Tonle Sap lake to the west and the area running along the Tonle Sap river (which runs from the lake to the sea, joining the Mekong in the delta). There were several kingdoms at constant waragainst each other, with art and culture heavily influenced by India due to long established sea trade routes with that subcontinent.

Hinduism mostly, but Buddhism as well, were important religions in the region, mixed with animist and traditional cults. Important cities from that time include Angkor Borei, Sambor Prei Kuk, Banteay Prei Nokor and Wat Phu. A man called Jayavarman II, who is said to have come from a place named Java - which may or may not be the island we call Java in Southeast Asia, led a series of successful military campaigns, subjugating most of these petty kingdoms, that resulted in the founding of a large territorial state. In 802 CE he took the title chakravartin, “universal ruler”, and that date is used to signal the start of the empire.


Using the city of Angkor as capital, for the next centuries the Khmer empire expanded its territorial base, mostly to the north (entering the Khorat plateau) and the west, to the Chao Phraya basin and beyond. To the east outcomes were different: several times the Khmer fought wars against two neighboring peoples with powerful kingdoms, the Cham (in today’s central Vietnam) and the Vietnamese (in today’s northern Vietnam). Despite some victories, as in 1145 CE, when Cham’s capital Vijaya was taken, the empire was never able to annex those lands. Conversely, Chams and Vietnamese enjoyed some victories of their own, the most spectacular of which was Cham’s humiliating revenge, looting Angkor (1177 CE) and pushing the empire to the edge of destruction.

Throughout the empire’s history, Khmer’s court was repeatedly concerned with putting down rebellions initiated by ambitious nobles trying to achieve independence, or fighting conspiracies against the king. This was particularly true each time a king died, as successions were usually contested.

The Khmer were great builders, filling the landscape with monumental temples, huge reservoirs (called baray) and canals, and laying an extensive road network with all sorts of bridges -the main highways are 800 km long. The most stunning temple, Angkor Wat, is a microcosm of the Hindu universe and defies imagination as the world’s largest religious complex - covering 200 hectares; nowadays it is crowded with tourists amazed with ruins that until recently were covered by the jungle. Its construction took some 30 years and was started by one of the greatest kings, Suryavarman II, around 1122 CE.

The empire’s greatest king was Jayavarman VII (r. 1181 CE - 1215 CE). He expelled the Chams who took Angkor, restoring the realm from anarchy, and then invaded Champa (Cham’s kingdom). The scale of his construction programme was unprecedented: he built temples, monuments, highways, a hundred hospitals, and the spectacular Angkor Thom complex - a city within a city in Angkor. Jayavarman also expanded the empire’s territorial control to its zenith.

Angkor’s original name was Yashodharapura (“Glory-bearing city”), and at its apogee it was the biggest city in the world, covering an area of a thousand square kilometres, close to that of modern Los Angeles in the USA. Its population is much harder to estimate, but a figure of aproximately one million is acceptable.

The Khmer were festive people, with many celebrations all the year round. Wrestling, horse races, cock fights, fireworks, music and dances were an integral part of their culture. Most of the realm’s commerce was apparently in the hands of women.The king and the elite were transported on palanquins, and used umbrellas to cover from the sun. There were several religious beliefs present, with Hinduism being favoured (yet not exclusively) by the the kings at first, and Buddhism later. The state was divided into approximately 23 provinces, with a sophisticated administration and extensive personnel going down even to the village level. Censuses were carried out periodically. Although key to the empire’s prosperity, the high officers of this bureaucracy were also part of the plots that plagued the court’s history.

The empire’s decline and final collapse is deeply connected with the great Thai migration of the 12th-14th centuries CE. They inhabitated an area to the north of the empire, roughly where China ends and Southeast Asia begins; the Yunnan. It is a mountainous, harsh land, where a Thai kingdom called Nanchao existed. For unknown reasons, Thai populations started migrating south, in small groups at first. Thais first appear in records as as hired mercenaries for the empire, and their numbers rose as they began to establish themselves as settlers in marginal areas. The migration intensified when Mongol campaigns shook China, and when the Mongols took Yunnan in 1253 CE, further pressure for Thai migration ensued. Eventually the Thai created their own small kingdoms, the most important of them in the western side of the empire. As these kingdoms grew in power, they started to attack and annex imperial territories. The empire’s economy by this time may also have been deteriorated by increased silting of the massive water works that the Khmer core area depended on. The Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya took Angkor in 1431 CE, which constitutes the end of the Khmer empire.

The origin of the Khmers

Cambodia came into being, so the legend says, through the union of a princess and a foreigner. The foreigner was an Indian Brahman named Kaundinya and the princess was the daughter of a dragon king who ruled over a watery land. One day, as Kaundinya sailed by, the princess paddled out in a boat to greet him. Kaundinya shot an arrow from his magic bow into her boat, causing the fearful princess to agree to marriage. In need of a dowry, her father drank up the waters of his land and presented them to Kaundinya to rule over. The new kingdom was named Kambuja.

Like many legends, this one is historically opaque, but it does say something about the cultural forces that brought Cambodia into existence, in particular its relationship with its great subcontinental neighbour, India. Cambodia’s religious, royal and written traditions stemmed from India and began to coalesce as a cultural entity in their own right between the 1st and 5th centuries.

Very little is known about prehistoric Cambodia. Much of the southeast was a vast, shallow gulf that was progressively silted up by the mouths of the Mekong, leaving pancake-flat, mineral-rich land ideal for farming. Evidence of cave-dwellers has been found in the northwest of Cambodia. Carbon dating on ceramic pots found in the area shows that they were made around 4200 BC, but it is hard to say whether there is a direct relationship between these cave-dwelling pot makers and contemporary Khmers. Examinations of bones dating back to around 1500 BC, however, suggest that the people living in Cambodia at that time resembled the Cambodians of today. Early Chinese records report that the Cambodians were ‘ugly’ and ‘dark’ and went about naked. However, a healthy dose of scepticism is always required when reading the culturally chauvinistic reports of imperial China concerning its ‘barbarian’ neighbours.

The early Cambodian kingdoms

Cambodian might didn’t begin and end with Angkor. There were a number of powerful kingdoms present in this area before the 9th century.

From the 1st century, the Indianisation of Cambodia occurred through trading settlements that sprang up on the coastline of what is now southern Vietnam, but was then inhabited by the Khmers. These settlements were important ports of call for boats following the trading route from the Bay of Bengal to the southern provinces ofChina. The largest of these nascent kingdoms was known as Funan by the Chinese, and may have existed across an area between Ba Phnom in Prey Veng Province, a site only worth visiting for the archaeologically obsessed today, and Oc-Eo in Kien Giang Province in southern Vietnam. Funan would have been a contemporary ofChampasak in southern Laos (then known as Kuruksetra) and other lesser fiefdoms in the region.

Funan is a Chinese name, and it may be a transliteration of the ancient Khmer wordbnam (mountain). Although very little is known about Funan, much has been made of its importance as an early Southeast Asian centre of power.

It is most likely that between the 1st and 8th centuries, Cambodia was a collection of small states, each with its own elites that often strategically intermarried and often went to war with one another. Funan was no doubt one of these states, and as a major sea port would have been pivotal in the transmission of Indian culture into the interior of Cambodia.

The little that historians do know about Funan has mostly been gleaned from Chinese sources. These report that Funan-period Cambodia (1st to 6th centuries AD) embraced the worship of the Hindu deities Shiva and Vishnu and, at the same time, Buddhism. The linga (phallic totem) appears to have been the focus of ritual and an emblem of kingly might, a feature that was to evolve further in the Angkorian cult of the god-king. The people practised primitive irrigation, which enabled successful cultivation of rice, and traded raw commodities such as spices with China and India.

From the 6th century, Cambodia’s population gradually concentrated along the Mekong and Tonlé Sap Rivers, where the majority remains today. The move may have been related to the development of wet-rice agriculture. From the 6th to 8th centuries it was likely that Cambodia was a collection of competing kingdoms, ruled by autocratic kings who legitimised their absolute rule through hierarchical caste concepts borrowed from India.

This era is generally referred to as the Chenla period. Again, like Funan, it is a Chinese term and there is little to support the idea that Chenla was a unified kingdom that held sway over all of Cambodia. Indeed, the Chinese themselves referred to ‘water Chenla’ and ‘land Chenla’. Water Chenla was located around Angkor Borei and the temple mount of Phnom Da, near the present-day provincial capital of Takeo, and land Chenla in the upper reaches of the Mekong River and east of Tonlé Sap Lake, around Sambor Prei Kuk, an essential stop on a chronological jaunt through Cambodia’s history.

•       Angkor History

The Angkor Wat temple was constructed by king Suryavarman II, in the beginning of 12th century in the year of 1113 AD. Suryavarman II was one of the most conquering kings of the Khmer empire, who reigned in 1112-1152. The king could live and see his state temple of Angkor Wat at least 5 years before he died, The Angkor Wat is also considering as one of the largest religious Hindu temples in the world, and considering as the most using stone temple in the world as well. Angkor Wat estimated to use the sandstone and laterite approximately 300,000 millions tones and took to build about 35years.

Angkor Wat was originally served as a Hindu temple, which dedicated to honor of Vishnu (The Protector). It is only temple in the Angkorarea, which built facing to the west. Normally, all the religious temples built facing to the east.

The reason that Angkor Wat facing west, because due to this monument constructed to honor of God Vishnu, rather than the reason that this monument served as a funeral temple. However, we can notice that, most of the monumental temples built in stone at the Angkor period that remained today, those always served as funeral temples either facing east or facing west.

For example it served as temple when the king who built still alive, and became ashis tomb when the king died. Thus, the Angkor Wat was a tomb of Suryavarman II to embody with his god Vishnu when he just passed away from earth. This reason, because Vishnu associated to the west side of the universe,

SuryavarmanII took Lord Vishnu as his God, and when he died they cremated his body and then collected some his ashes to keep in a golden urn to burry underneath of a golden Vishnu statue riding on Garuda, that originally installed in a central chamber of the main tower of the Angkor Wat. This concept was the same concept to all the Khmer kings in the Angkor period. Because kings as gods, if he was a god he must has his posthumous name due to the name of god whom he believed, liked Suryavaman II had his posthumous name as Parama Vishnu Loka.

Angkor Wat took time to build approximately between 30 to 35 years, and saying that they used 4000 elephants including people suggested one person each family in around the kingdom, come to carry the sandstone from a quarry of Phnom (mountain ) Kulen which its distend about 55 km to northeast from Angkor.

Angkor Wat means City of Monastery, which came from the Sanskrit word of Nagara. Angkor Wat became as Buddhist temple in 16th to 19th century. When the capital of Angkor abandoned by the royal court after Thais sacked and destroyed.

Angkor Wat temple has a moat, which measured of 1300m by 1500m, and about 5.5 km surrounding its compound. The moat also has 190m cross and has water all yearround. As the same as any temple, Angkor Wat has a wall built of laterite. This wall is still very good condition and has a measure of 800m by 1000m.

Surrounding the wall of Angkor Wat, there are four entrances, but the three located on the north (Ta Leuk), on the east (Ta Ku) and on the south (Ta Pich) designed smaller and simpler with only one door way. While the western entrance (Ta Reach) built so elaborate with 200m long and designed with five doorways.  These five doorways at the main entrance of Angkor Wat, we know that, one is in the middle for the king, royalty and his Brahmins using, while two other were people and king entourages using and the two more entrances located at the end of the gateway structure were used for transportation due to these gates have no stair, and they are just flat.

To cross the moat for going to the main entrance, there is a stone causeway, measured of 250m long, From the east side its causeway just built of dirt and very simple one. The causeway is symbolic of Rainbow Bridge,for making a connection from one world to another. While the moat surrounding the temple is symbolic of the ocean, and enclosing laterite wall is symbolic of mountains range at the edge of the universe, which represented to protect Mt. Meru. It was a mythical mountain to serve as a home for the Hindu Gods, and locatedin the center of the universe. Thus, Angkor Wat and all the Khmer temples in the Angkor period symbolized of Mt Meru a home for Hindu Gods living.

From that reason, Khmer temple has so fancy decorated detail carving every where from the bottom to the top of its structure. Because for the gods, they must live so fancy and sophisticated decoration. Besides, the temples are so beautiful ornamentation, its measurement, its scale and its proportion so on, built in a good harmonious symmetry with connected to sophisticated astrological concept as well.

The reason for this, that is why Angkor Wat constructed so perfect angle of the four directions, which facing in perfect condition to the east, west, north and south. Especially, when the time of equinox sunrise and sunset are perfect in the middle of its door frames and on the top of its towers.

When you visit to the Khmer temples, you may see a lion statues at the first sight. According to the Hindu myths, Brahma God of Creator took lion as his palace's doorway guardian. When Khmers build temples, and as their temples were symbolized of Mt Meru, (Home of the Hindu Gods),  that is why they put the lion statues for guarding at the front of their temples in order to follow a concept of a lion was guarding to the home of the Gods.

The lion statue of Angkor Wat made with a single piece of sandstone, its tail believed to have as metal material. It had been already destroyed by Siamese in the 14th to 15th century, but took to restore by the French in 1920 to1970.

Behind the lion statues, they put the naga statues to serve as the balustrade always along the causeway on the both sides. The naga is a mythical snake and according to the Hindu myth, the naga was a god of the underworld. A Naga balustrade had been destroyed by the Siamese at the same time as lion statues as well, but has been restored by the French again in 1960. To hold the naga balustrades at the first causeway section, they put 108 magnificent stone round pillars from its foundation of the moat. Those unique stone pillars remained just a few.

We notice that the Naga of Angkor Wat designed liked a fan form and appearing with seven heads.  This only head of Naga in the first causeway is still good intact. The seven headed naga is symbolic of the seven days of week, and seven colors of rainbow. By the way, to have number seven is standing on the theory with the odd number, because the odd number is lucky number. 

About the causeway pavement, has restored in 1960 at the south side. At that time,French had an idea to restore only one side while they keep another side to the north in its natural fates.

In this section, also we can notice to the three towers of the main entrancestructure as well. These three towers originally were not flat condition liked we are seeing, but they were taller and had a conical shape as the same as themain towers with seven tiers. But those towers were destroyed as a part to attempt of reduce the Khmer power by enemy  during they occupied Cambodia between 1352 to 1432.

On the walls (niches) of the entry tower decorated with very beautiful motifs. Among of those intricate carving in this section, the Apsaras are the most highlight and interesting motifs, they carved it all over temple complex there are approximately 1800, The artisan carved in to many different designed like headdresses belts and others , By the way, the Apsaras style in Angkor Wat are so easily to tell, since they are slim with sexy big breasts, their diadem with a tall pointed shape towers, some headdresses are intricate civilized design and wearing very thin skirt till we see the shape of their long legs, and an addition their feet putting to the side rather than putting in a natural position.

The causeway is leading to the main temple sanctuary is known as the second causeway for Angkor Wat temple, it is measuring of 350m long from the entrance to the main temple building. The naga balustrades are flanking on the both side are still good condition. That is why we can see them always long. These balustrades had been already knocked over one time when Siamese occupied Angkor in the 14th -15th century, but French in the Angkor Conservation fixed back.

By the way, you can view only three towers appearing from the main temple sanctuary, while they designed in total with five towers. The reason for that, since two more towers are at the back row hidden behind with the two at the front row. The three towers that we are viewing the one in the middle is not appearing inrow, it’s actually stands at the back further about at least 30m from the two on the side. As you know the Angkor Wat is an architectural masterpiece built so perfect in a good harmonious proportion and balance, that is why it is so gorgeous.

Angkor Wat occupies with 80 hectares land area, which about 250 acre. In 250 acre of the Angkor Wat compound, originally was a beautiful garden; never had any resident for the people liked Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Preah Khan at all. 

Two buildings located along the causeway between entrance and main structure, were libraries. It must appear in pair. Because when the people came to worship, they had to pray and learn the theory of the temple before they inter to the shrines. The function of two libraries is one the right for using during the full moon time, while another one on the left for using during the new moon time.

As the same as all Khmer temple-mountain, Angkor Wat temple designed with three levels with its 65m height. The first level of Angkor Wat known as the gallery of teaching or the gallery of the bas-reliefs. This level has its structure measure of 180m by 250m. Also represented to the underworld of the universe. The second level known as the gallery of meditation. In addition, represent to the world. While the third level is represent to paradises and to serve as a place for the king and royalty and high priests came to worship to god Vishnu. Not allow the public came to this level. The public had their own spot for their religious activities at the second level.

About the bas-reliefs in this part of the temple are mostly depictions the Hindu myths. As this section of the Angkor Wat temple served as the gallery of teaching, that is why they carved the story-relief about 2000sqm. This 2000sqm story-relief carved so fine and so complicated one. When temple itself open to the pilgrims for twice a month (based on full moon, and new moon time), the Hindu followers must walk after the Brahmins in order to learn the religious myths at these galleries before they move to the second level for their meditation or for their religious activities. Otherwise, all the doors would close. Originally, in each doorway of the Angkor Wat temple used to have a wooden door to close and open, and used to have wooden ceiling on the roof as well. Some original wooden door beams remained, as a part to prove its wooden doors.

(W-N) its bas-reliefs depicting a popular Hindu myth under the subject of Ramayana. Ramayana was an epic of Hinduism which promoted Rama as its hero, and who was a number seven of Vishnu's incarnation. His role was to preserve the Hindu teachings from the demon king Ravana. Because Ravana was jealous the teachings of Hindu. According to the myth, Ravana a demon king who ruled in Lanka and who wanted to kidnap Sita the Rama's wife. Since negotiation to release Sita from Lanka, Rama sent monkey troops to invade Lanka for liberation his wife, and as a part to remove Ravana from the destruction of Hindu teachings as well. 

(W-S) its relief depicting another Hindu epic under the subject of Mahabaratta. Mahabaratta was an old myth, written by Indian Brahmins for about 4000 years before Christ. This mythology is a very long and very complicated one like Ramayana as well. But Mahabaratta took Krisna as a hero of its mythology. According to the myth, Krisna was the eighth Vishnu's reincarnation. He came to the earth at an area located near New Dehli known as Kurushatra for removing the tyrants away from this area. Therefore, the role of Krisna promoted the good virtues and fight against the tyrants, restore the peace and the mercy for the innocence people on earth.

(S-W) gallery of Angkor Wat has its bas-reliefs depicting the real history of king Suryavarman II, his wives, his Brahmins, his astrologists, his courts, his army, his attendants and his concubines so on. The purpose of making these carvings because the king wished to tell people in the next generation to know and to understand how advanced progress of the country at that time and how energy powers of his army under his leadership as the king himself embodying divine powers of the god (Lord Visnu) in his period.

There are group of Brahmins processing along side with the soldiers as well. In the relief, we see a Brahmin’s chief who also served as the king’s spiritual Guru and the king’s astrologer is being carried in a hammock and whom also carrying a holy text book in his hands, while at the front of him there is an another group of Brahmins being carried the Agni’s secred shrine. To have this kind of shrine is for arranging a holy ceremony for making the soldiers got good luck in the battle field, because the sacred flame ritual ceremony were believed as a holy spiritual at that time.

The damage scars on the wall of this panel, happening by the artillery shrapnel fired by Lon Nol soldiers in 1972. There were three artillery shells hit Angkor Wat compound at that time. Because Angkor Wat was taken to control by Viet Kong and Khmer Rouge as their heavens during the war 1970-1975, when Pol Pot struggled to get power from General Lon Nol.

At the front row of the army matching, there is a group of Siamese, the mercenary soldiers. We can tell them by their uniform are much different from the Khmers, an addition their behavior are a little bit disorganized, not as good discipline. While the Khmer soldiers who walking behind the Siamese are so organized and good discipline troops. Siamese was living within the territory of the Khmer Empire.

In the relief of this panel, we see there are excellent carving of trees at the background as well. Those tree images are so beautiful carved. To have trees in the relief at the background  is meaning the soldiers are matching across the jungle to Diet Viet border, which located near Hanoi today.

(S-E) has its relief depicting the life in the 36 heavens and the life of 32 hells. In the reliefs saying that,  the life in the heavens are so happy and people who living there were so dedicated of the Dharma. They are living in the floating castles in the sky, their castles also are holding, supporting, and guarding by Garudas and Kalahas (flying lion). They do not worry about suffering and illness at all, because they have received fortunes and merits from their good Dharma of their dedication in their previous life or their incarnations, as they had never been doing any bad Kharma against the religion, or did a crime, or made any violence to anyone. Their life are so gorgeous, even they do not concern how to find foods to fill up their stomachs. When they feel hungry, they just smell adivine flower, and they do know the time to die. Heavens are not liked the Nirvana or Mt. Meru, they are still died, but they know the time to go.

But at the below tiers, the relief are showing us with completely different life.  We can see, the men and women are so skinny and suffering. Those people are the prisoners and getting a punish in the hells. That is why the relief depicting so terrific and so scare on us.They are the sinners by doing very bad things in their life when they had born on earth. They were the kind of persons doing a bad Kharma and when they died, Yama God of Judge sent them to the hells, for punishment, for making torture and for treat them badly back due to their sin commitments as they did when they reincarnated in the earth before they came to hells. 

The bas-reliefs depicted the 36 different ways of tortures to the sinners in the hells scenes , the demands punish them depending on their sins or their fates from their previous life. Those include people who deal with abortion, commitadultery, commit suicide, cheating money from someone, treating animals badly, abusing parents, insulting monks, priests, nun and elders, the stingy men, the murder, raping woman, temples vandalism, gossiping people and do a toilet to the religious monuments so on.

In the middle of this panel, we can see Yama Lord of Judge riding on Water Buffalo and appearing with 18 arms. In each arm of Lord Yama carrying justice stick. A justice stick is using for an order to his assistants to act a punishment to a new sinner who just had arrived in his palace. That is why at down below of Yama's vehicle water buffalo we see there are many his assistants sitting quietly for waiting the orders from Lord Yama.

If you move further east from Yama, then you will see many prisoners or sinners are being through down to the hells after Yama and his assistants find out their sins and their flaws, after that they get no mercy and terrible tortures by Yama’s assistants.

The half of this panel structure to the east had collapsed in 1930. That is the reason to see the relief are not good condition, causing them broken apart and getting the scar of cement binding between the pieces of each stone block. But the French experts and the local workers did an excellent jobs for the restoration works. it completed by the Angkor Conservatory Department in 1940, The reason for causing this structure collapsed because the wall of this panel was leaning not standing up straight.

After the restoration, they decided to build a concrete ceiling on the roof. This ceiling had copied from its original one which made by mahogany woods. To have the concrete ceiling is very good idea, because it helps to reinforce the structure of this gallery stronger, and also to show how its original ceiling liked.

We continue to see the relief at the eastern corner of this panel further on. The relief is showing us to the terrible tortures over the four men, each man is getting nailing all over their bodies, and hanging very heavy weight of pieces of the rock at the legs, these tortures looks so painful, because those men had been cheating money from someone. Next to these men there are group of midwives and pregnant women who deal with the abortion, then the punishment is burning them alive. When we visited these scenes in the hells, sometimes, made some people imagined to the prisons in the Pol Pot regime, especially in Toul Sleng or S-21, that in this prison the Khmer Rouge soldiers did  crime violence to the innocent people looked like the relief in the hells scene as well.

( E S ) The gallery bas-relief of Angkor Wat is depicting the very famous Hindu’s mythology . This myth is known as of the Churning of the Sea of the Milk. This story is to promote Vishnu's reincarnation "Kurma Turtle". Kurma or Turtle was the second reincarnation of Vishnu ,the gods and demon were joining together for churning the ocean the sea of milk the main purpose to get the elixir of immortality, Devas and Asuras were churning the sea of milk for thousands and thousands years , now both teams were enjoyed to obtain the treasures include precious stones, Apsaras, Aravata the horses with many heads, the sacred elephant and most important treasure of elixir of immortality .

( E-N ) This gallery which depicting the war scene of the Hindu epic. The subject of this story is "The Victory of Vishnu over Demons". In the relief, we can see Lord Vishnu is leading his army from the north to south. While his enemy Demon soldiers are marching south to north. Both teams are confronted to each other in the middle scene of the panel.

We can tell Lord Vishnu who is always riding on the Garuda, and he was so often appearing with four arms, which in each arm holds Conch Shell, Ball, Disc and a Sword or Club or Lotus. In Khmer art, Lord Vishnu mentioned as a young and good-looking man. He was very strong, and he likes to teach his enemy with abad lesson, but he is so gentle with the innocence people because he promoted the virtue into the universe.

We notice that the relief in this panel is so attractive, not so fine sculptures, because the relief of the E-N gallery was carved in the 16th century by king Ang Chan. King Suryavarman II did not have time to complete the relief in this gallery. The reason for that, it was probably king Suryavarman II himself had died or otherwise his master of architect died.

In this paragraph I am very please to add some history of the king who was completed the E-N gallery , King Ang Chan was considering as great king of Cambodian in the middle era for Cambodia history. He liberated Cambodia from Sdach Kanand found a powerful capital city of Lovek. He made a series war to fight against Siamese, and Laos. The victory over Laos under his reign that is why there are Laotians now living in Cambodia at Monkol Borei.

He saw Angkor Wat temple by an accident when he came to hunt wild elephants for training them into the domestic one. He was a king who so skillful with elephant hunter. Since he saw the temples in Angkor, he decided to stay at Angkor for a while in order to help for restoration the temple structures.

During his stay in Angkor, the king took some restoration works at Angkor Wat temple, he cleared the forest away from the temple structures, he installed many Buddha statues at the ancient Hindu temples, especially he installed hundreds of Buddha statues in Angkor Wat where has known today as "Thousands Buddha Hall". Then King Ang Chan ordered the artisans to carve the story relief in Hindu beliefs for the two galleries in Angkor Wat temple, however king himself was a very Buddhist one.  

Ang Chan was a brilliant monarch of the Khmer in the middle era for Cambodian history, after he died his two sons took Cambodian throne, but Cambodia went down into a civil war and getting bad decline.

The gallery of ( N-E ) has its relief which still depicting the Hindu myth. Despite, this relief carved under the reign of King Ang Chan in the 16th century. The relief of this panel is the same styleas the relief in the panel of E-N as well. Because done by King Ang Chan while King Suryavarman II did not complete the relief in gallery.

The subject of this myth is "Victory of Lord Vishnu over Demon King Bana". The story starts from the east corner of the panel, where at the beginning (eastern corner side) you see a garuda is putting off the fire, because he had got this order from his boss Lord Vishnu.

Then you see Agni God of Fire riding on a rhino that is manifesting to create fire in order to stop Lord Vishnu and his army from being chased Bana king of demon and his men. Agni was doing this action because Lord Shiva ordered him to do. Since Lord Shiva promised to protect Bana and his men from Lord Vishnu.

Finally, Garuda was able to convince Agni. That is why we see Lord Vishnu riding on Garuda who appearing with many arms in an action of chasing Bana and his men. Lord Vishnu is appearing several times in an action of a ride on the shoulders of Garuda and appearing with many arms as well

At the middle part of the panel, we see Bana king of demon is confronting with Lord Vishnu. Bana who is appearing on a chariot which pulling by tigers and whom is appearing so many arms and facing east. While Lord Vishnu himself is riding on his Garuda and appearing just with four arms and who is facing to the west.

The end (to the west corner ) of the scene, we see Lord Shiva who has a long beard and who is sitting in his palace in Kalasa with his two sons Kanesa and Skanda and also Agni who carrying an axe in his hand. Then you see Bana who has many faces and many arms and who is praying to Shiva and behind Bana is Lord Vishnu and his Garuda also appeared in this scene as well.

Shiva said to Lord Visnu that "Oh! Your Gracious Lord, I am so happy and so encouraged from you that you forgiven to Bana. Now Bana is not our enemy any more, but he is the one of our side and he will retire and will go to meditate in Himalaya to subject himself into apath of a right virtue. We cannot claim his life while someone has been confessed and trying hard to build up himself in a good Dharma to the future."

Vishnu gave wishes to Bana for his life as an ascetic successfully and then he moved away to his realm with his garuda. Then Lord Shiva granted a holy trident to Bana as the gift. At down below of the scene, there are ascetics meditating incaves.

The war end and Lord Vishnu moved to relax "Cosmic Sleep"  on a Naga in the ocean of milk with his consort Laksmei doing massage at his legs for him. But the Lord will return for his mission again when the worlds facing a problems from the evil spirits.

The N-W gallery has its relief, which depicted the Hindu mythology as well. This relief is the original relief, which carved in the 12th century since the temple built. As it was the relief carved in the original period that is why we can see its relief are so fine and very completed one.

This relief story has its subject of " The Battle between 21 Gods to Demons". According to the myth, it was almost the time that Lord Brahma the Creator almost woke up from his sleep for about 14 million years of human. Also to make the universe before Lord Shiva destroyed are enjoyed with the good virtues and also to make sure all of the life dedicated to Dharma, in order to allow Lord Brahma created the worlds full of joys to the new creature being who supposed to control their new worlds without evil combination in their fates.

That is why, Mt Meru sent 21 Hindu Gods who we can tell some depending on their animals which they riding on to declare a war against Asuras. Because Asuras were so evil spirits which could be so dangerous to a new creation of Lord Brahma.

Those Gods can tell liked Vishnu on Garuda, Brahma on Sacred goose, Shiva on Bull Nandin, Indra on three headed elephant Aratawata, Surya on a chariot pulling by the horses, Kobura riding on the Ghost, Viruna riding on Naga so on.

The Hindu Gods and their army marching from east to west, and they are wearing aconical shape headdress, while their enemy Asura marching from west to the eastand their army wearing a flat shape headdress.

There are colored on the relief of this panel as well. This color was painting mostly by the Buddhist monks who living in Angkor Wat as their monastery.  Since the capital city of Angkor abandoned to Phnom Penh after the Thais sacked. We have learned that they painted in golden color or put gold leaves on the most important images, otherwise they just pained with red color. Red color made from the tree bark fixed with the red soil clay so on.

So called "One Thousand Buddha Hall" is a building located between the first level gallery to the second level gallery building. The One Thousand Buddha

Hall is also located in the middle point of whole Angkor Wat compound . Buddha statues are in this hall, had installed in the 15th to the 19th century. Then Angkor Wat became as Buddhist temple from Hindu temple. The reason for that, when the royal court abandoned the Angkor city to some areas near to Phnom Penh today in the 15th century. Then the Buddhist monks came to live in the Angkor Wat until the French suggested them to move in 1910.

An addition, the word "Wat" was coming behind the word "Angkor" since the time that Angkor Wat became the Buddhist temple, because "Wat" is meaning the Buddhist monastery.  In Khmer Rouge Regime, about 60% of the Buddha statues had been removed away, and the rest about 40% in 1985 government moved to preserve in the national Museum in Phnom Penh. Otherwise, there were full of five rows of Buddha statues in these halls. That is why the reason people called this place of Angkor Wat as "One Thousand Buddha Hall".

Inscriptions carved on the pillars in these halls, are mentioned about the group of pilgrims brought their statues to install in these halls during the 15th to 19th century only, not come from the 12th century.

In this place, also have four pools. One of these pools located in each side between the cruciform gallery buildings. When you are standing in the middle point of the cruciform galleries, you will be so surprised to see its perfect lines running up to four direction of the temple. In addition, this point considered as the center point of the universe as well. It is good to concentrate in this center point for seconds in order to absorb the energy power, which will come from the four direction of the universe. Sometimes, you can feel the energy power.

Those four pools of One Thousand Buddha Hall had been used for cleansing and for purification with the holy water for the pilgrims before they moved up themselves to meditate at the second level galleries. The pilgrims had to know their element sign first, so that they could use those pools for washing their sin, because in each pool represented to different element, which include the earth, water, air and fire element.

if we keep moving straight , In this section also has an "Echo Chamber". Local people believed that when you go in this chamber and lean your back against the wall, then use your right hand beats to heart for seven times then they believed the "worries or tensions will be gone".

The third level structure of Angkor Wat was represented of Heavens, and where at that time was served as a place for only king, royalty and high Brahmins use for their ritual ceremony. Not for the common people, common people had their own spot at the second level. The third level structure of Angkor Wat designed with square shape and there are twelve stairways for going to the top.

The twelve stairways at the third level of Angkor Wat are represented the twelve year of the animal zodiac. When the royalty and high Brahmins claimed to the top, they had to know which stairway was good march with their astrology of the animal zodiac. To know which stairway to go up, they had to count from the king animal zodiac year at the central stairway and move to the stairway on their right hand side until the stair which standing for their year was, then they climbed to meet the Gods. You cannot just climb without to follow the rule of the temple or the astrological concept. Otherwise, it would not have any meaning in your life.

To reach up there, you will have the four pools as the same as the Hall of the Thousand Buddha as well. These pools are located surrounding the central tower, and had used as the sane purpose as the pools at the down stair too. At the central tower used to install a golden statue of Vishnu in an action of riding on Garuda's shoulders. But so far this holy statue had stolen for a long time ago. Today, where the golden statue of Vishnu was now has a deep hole about four meters. The hole was digging by French in 1935. To dig the hole in the central tower, because French wanted to research the treasure and wanted to study the temple's foundation as well.

French dug the central tower's foundation for about 25 to 27 mm deep till reaching to the ground level. At ground level French saw two pieces of big sandstone comesin a cross shape. An addition, in the middle of cross shape sandstone, they found an artifact of gold leave. This gold leave has a decoration with eight petals of the lotus flower. French took this artifact to preserve in Paris.

Also at the doors of the central tower had closed by Buddhist monks at between the15th to 16th centuries. Then they engraved Buddha statue on these doors. Thereas on they closed these doors because at the central most chamber where was the place for golden Vishnu comprising so many bats living and dropping theurine and dang, that causing not good for them to worship. That is why they to close and made Buddha statues so that they just prayed from outside. The third level section of the Angkor Wat is getting damage more than any parts of Angkor Wat. Especially its stones are getting worn away, since in this area used to have millions bats living and their dropping are so bad acidic.

For those who have plenty of time, suggested to come to the third level of AngkorWat, is a very nice one. To have a sit at a quiet doorway and facing to ever green densely jungle, then imagine to an excellent inspiration of the Khmers who created such a fabulous architecture on earth. In addition, imagine how powerful to the Khmers who could carry stones from dozens kilometers away in order to build such a wonderful temple on planet. One more thing, to make us feel so mysterious and so magic to the Khmer Kings who left for us such a considerable value legacy which now here on earth can compare. Then when the sunset time,  this masterpiece building turns to a gold color,   then making our heart bloom of proud for being as a Khmer.

The French in Cambodia

The era of yo-yoing between Thai and Vietnamese masters came to a close in 1864, when French gunboats intimidated King Norodom I (r 1860–1904) into signing a treaty of protectorate. Ironically, it really was a protectorate, as Cambodia was in danger of going the way of Champa and vanishing from the map. French control of Cambodia developed as a sideshow to their interests in Vietnam, uncannily similar to the American experience a century later, and initially involved little direct interference in Cambodia’s affairs. The French presence also helped keep Norodom on the throne despite the ambitions of his rebellious half-brothers.

By the 1870s French officials in Cambodia began pressing for greater control over internal affairs. In 1884 Norodom was forced into signing a treaty that turned his country into a virtual colony, sparking a two-year rebellion that constituted the only major uprising in Cambodia until WWII. The rebellion only ended when the king was persuaded to call upon the rebel fighters to lay down their weapons in exchange for a return to the status quo.

During the following decades senior Cambodian officials opened the door to direct French control over the day-to-day administration of the country, as they saw certain advantages in acquiescing to French power. The French maintained Norodom’s court in a splendour unseen since the heyday of Angkor, helping to enhance the symbolic position of the monarchy. In 1907 the French were able to pressure Thailand into returning the northwest provinces of BattambangSiem Reap and Sisophon in return for concessions of Lao territory to the Thais. This meant Angkor came under Cambodian control for the first time in more than a century.

King Norodom I was succeeded by King Sisowath (r 1904–27), who was succeeded by King Monivong (r 1927–41). Upon King Monivong’s death, the French governor general of Japanese-occupied Indochina, Admiral Jean Decoux, placed 19-year-old Prince Norodom Sihanouk on the Cambodian throne. The French authorities assumed young Sihanouk would prove pliable, but this proved to be a major miscalculation.

During WWII, Japanese forces occupied much of Asia, and Cambodia was no exception. However, with many in France collaborating with the occupying Germans, the Japanese were happy to let their new French allies control affairs in Cambodia. The price was conceding to Thailand (a Japanese ally of sorts) much of Battambangand Siem Reap Provinces once again, areas that weren’t returned until 1947. However, with the fall of Paris in 1944 and French policy in disarray, the Japanese were forced to take direct control of the territory by early 1945. After WWII, the French returned, making Cambodia an autonomous state within the French Union, but retaining de facto control. The immediate postwar years were marked by strife among the country’s various political factions, a situation made more unstable by the Franco-Viet Minh War then raging in Vietnam and Laos, which spilled over into Cambodia. The Vietnamese, as they were also to do 20 years later in the war against Lon Nol and the Americans, trained and fought with bands of Khmer Issarak (Free Khmer) against the French authorities.

The Sihanouk years

The post-independence period was one of peace and great prosperity, Cambodia’s golden years, a time of creativity and optimism. Phnom Penh grew in size and stature, the temples of Angkor were the leading tourist destination in Southeast Asia and Sihanouk played host to a succession of influential leaders from across the globe. However, dark clouds were circling, as the American war in Vietnam became a black hole, sucking in neighbouring countries.

In late 1952 King Sihanouk dissolved the fledgling parliament, declared martial law and embarked on his ‘royal crusade’: his travelling campaign to drum up international support for his country’s independence. Independence was proclaimed on 9 November 1953 and recognised by the Geneva Conference of May 1954, which ended French control of Indochina. In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated, afraid of being marginalised amid the pomp of royal ceremony. The ‘royal crusader’ became ‘citizen Sihanouk’. He vowed never again to return to the throne. Meanwhile his father became king. It was a masterstroke that offered Sihanouk both royal authority and supreme political power. His newly established party, Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People’s Socialist Community), won every seat in parliament in the September 1955 elections and Sihanouk was to dominate Cambodian politics for the next 15 years.

Although he feared the Vietnamese communists, Sihanouk considered SouthVietnam and Thailand, both allies of the mistrusted USA, the greatest threats to Cambodia’s security, even survival. In an attempt to fend off these many dangers, he declared Cambodia neutral and refused to accept further US aid, which had accounted for a substantial chunk of the country’s military budget. He also nationalised many industries, including the rice trade. In 1965 Sihanouk, convinced that the USA had been plotting against him and his family, broke diplomatic relations with Washington and veered towards the North Vietnamese and China. In addition, he agreed to let the communists use Cambodian territory in their battle against SouthVietnam and the USA. Sihanouk was taking sides, a dangerous position in a volatile region.

These moves and his socialist economic policies alienated conservative elements in Cambodian society, including the army brass and the urban elite. At the same time, left-wing Cambodians, many of them educated abroad, deeply resented his domestic policies, which stifled political debate. Compounding Sihanouk’s problems was the fact that all classes were fed up with the pervasive corruption in government ranks, some of it uncomfortably close to the royal family. Although most peasants revered Sihanouk as a semidivine figure, in 1967 a rural-based rebellion broke out in Samlot,Battambang, leading him to conclude that the greatest threat to his regime came from the left. Bowing to pressure from the army, he implemented a policy of harsh repression against left-wingers.

By 1969 the conflict between the army and leftist rebels had become more serious, as the Vietnamese sought sanctuary deeper in Cambodia. Sihanouk’s political position had also decidedly deteriorated – due in no small part to his obsession with film-making, which was leading him to neglect affairs of state. In March 1970, while Sihanouk was on a trip to France, General Lon Nol and Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, Sihanouk’s cousin, deposed him as chief of state, apparently with tacit US consent. Sihanouk took up residence in Beijing, where he set up a government-in-exile in alliance with an indigenous Cambodian revolutionary movement that Sihanouk had nicknamed the Khmer Rouge. This was a definitive moment in contemporary Cambodian history, as the Khmer Rouge exploited its partnership with Sihanouk to draw new recruits into their small organisation. Talk to many former Khmer Rouge fighters and they all say that they ‘went to the hills’ (a euphemism for joining the Khmer Rouge) to fight for their king and knew nothing of Mao or Marxism.

Descent into civil war

The lines were drawn for a bloody era of civil war. Sihanouk was condemned to deathin absentia, an excessive move on the part of the new government that effectively ruled out any hint of compromise for the next five years. Lon Nol gave communist Vietnamese forces an ultimatum to withdraw their forces within one week, which amounted to a virtual declaration of war, as no Vietnamese fighters wanted to return to the homeland to face the Americans.

On 30 April 1970, US and South Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia in an effort to flush out thousands of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops who were using Cambodian bases in their war to overthrow the South Vietnamese government. As a result of the invasion, the Vietnamese communists withdrew deeper into Cambodia, further destabilising the Lon Nol government. Cambodia’s tiny army never stood a chance and within the space of a few months, Vietnamese forces and their Khmer Rouge allies overran almost half the country. The ultimate humiliation came in July 1970 when the Vietnamese occupied the temples of Angkor.

In 1969 the USA had begun a secret programme of bombing suspected communist base camps in Cambodia. For the next four years, until bombing was halted by the US Congress in August 1973, huge areas of the eastern half of the country were carpet-bombed by US B-52s, killing what is believed to be many thousands of civilians and turning hundreds of thousands more into refugees. Undoubtedly, the bombing campaign helped the Khmer Rouge in their recruitment drive, as more and more peasants were losing family members to the aerial assaults. While the final, heaviest bombing in the first half of 1973 may have saved Phnom Penh from a premature fall, its ferocity also helped to harden the attitude of many Khmer Rouge cadres and may have contributed to the later brutality that characterised their rule.

Savage fighting engulfed the country, bringing misery to millions of Cambodians; many fled rural areas for the relative safety of Phnom Penh and provincial capitals. Between 1970 and 1975 several hundred thousand people died in the fighting. During these years the Khmer Rouge came to play a dominant role in trying to overthrow the Lon Nol regime, strengthened by the support of the Vietnamese, although the Khmer Rouge leadership would vehemently deny this from 1975 onwards.

The leadership of the Khmer Rouge, including Paris-educated Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, had fled into the countryside in the 1960s to escape the summary justice then being meted out to suspected leftists by Sihanouk’s security forces. They consolidated control over the movement and began to move against opponents before they tookPhnom Penh. Many of the Vietnamese-trained Cambodian communists who had been based in Hanoi since the 1954 Geneva Accords returned down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to join their ‘allies’ in the Khmer Rouge in 1973. Many were dead by 1975, executed on orders of the anti-Vietnamese Pol Pot faction. Likewise, many moderate Sihanouk supporters who had joined the Khmer Rouge as a show of loyalty to their fallen leader rather than a show of ideology to the radicals were victims of purges before the regime took power. This set a precedent for internal purges and mass executions that were to eventually bring the downfall of the Khmer Rouge.

It didn’t take long for the Lon Nol government to become very unpopular as a result of unprecedented greed and corruption in its ranks. As the USA bankrolled the war, government and military personnel found lucrative means to make a fortune, such as inventing ‘phantom soldiers’ and pocketing their pay, or selling weapons to the enemy. Lon Nol was widely perceived as an ineffectual leader, obsessed by superstition, fortune tellers and mystical crusades. This perception increased with his stroke in March 1971 and for the next four years his grip on reality seemed to weaken as his brother Lon Non’s power grew.

Despite massive US military and economic aid, Lon Nol never succeeded in gaining the initiative against the Khmer Rouge. Large parts of the countryside fell to the rebels and many provincial capitals were cut off from Phnom Penh. Lon Nol fled the country in early April 1975, leaving Sirik Matak in charge, who refused evacuation to the end. ‘I cannot alas leave in such a cowardly fashion…I have committed only one mistake, that of believing in you, the Americans’ were the words Sirik Matak poignantly penned to US ambassador John Gunther Dean. On 17 April 1975 – two weeks before the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) – Phnom Penh surrendered to the Khmer Rouge.

The Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot)

Upon taking Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge implemented one of the most radical and brutal restructurings of a society ever attempted; its goal was a pure revolution, untainted by those that had gone before, to transform Cambodia into a peasant-dominated agrarian cooperative. Within days of coming to power the entire population of Phnom Penh and provincial towns, including the sick, elderly and infirm, was forced to march into the countryside and work as slaves for 12 to 15 hours a day. Disobedience of any sort often brought immediate execution. The advent of Khmer Rouge rule was proclaimed Year Zero. Currency was abolished and postal services were halted. The country cut itself off from the outside world.

In the eyes of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge was not a unified movement, but a series of factions that needed to be cleansed. This process had already begun with attacks on Vietnamese-trained Khmer Rouge and Sihanouk’s supporters, but Pol Pot’s initial fury upon seizing power was directed against the former regime. All of the senior government and military figures who had been associated with Lon Nol were executed within days of the takeover. Then the centre shifted its attention to the outer regions, which had been separated into geographic zones. The loyalist Southwestern Zone forces under the control of one-legged general Ta Mok were sent into region after region to purify the population, and thousands perished.

The cleansing reached grotesque heights in the final and bloodiest purge against the powerful and independent Eastern Zone. Generally considered more moderate than other Khmer Rouge factions, the Eastern Zone was ideologically, as well as geographically, closer to Vietnam. The Pol Pot faction consolidated the rest of the country before moving against the east from 1977 onwards. Hundreds of leaders were executed before open rebellion broke out, sparking a civil war in the east. Many Eastern Zone leaders fled to Vietnam, forming the nucleus of the government installed by the Vietnamese in January 1979. The people were defenceless and distrusted – ‘Cambodian bodies with Vietnamese minds’ or ‘duck’s arses with chicken’s heads’ – and were deported to the northwest with new, blue kramas(scarves). Had it not been for the Vietnamese invasion, all would have perished, as the blue krama was a secret party sign indicating an eastern enemy of the revolution.

It is still not known exactly how many Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge during the three years, eight months and 20 days of their rule. The Vietnamese claimed three million deaths, while foreign experts long considered the number closer to one million. Yale University researchers undertaking ongoing investigations estimated that the figure was close to two million.

Hundreds of thousands of people were executed by the Khmer Rouge leadership, while hundreds of thousands more died of famine and disease. Meals consisted of little more than watery rice porridge twice a day, meant to sustain men, women and children through a back-breaking day in the fields. Disease stalked the work camps, malaria and dysentery striking down whole families; death was a relief for many from the horrors of life. Some zones were better than others, some leaders fairer than others, but life for the majority was one of unending misery and suffering in this ‘prison without walls’.

As the centre eliminated more and more moderates, Angkar (the organisation) became the only family people needed and those who did not agree were sought out and destroyed. The Khmer Rouge detached the Cambodian people from all they held dear: their families, their food, their fields and their faith. Even the peasants who had supported the revolution could no longer blindly follow such madness. Nobody cared for the Khmer Rouge by 1978, but nobody had an ounce of strength to do anything about it…except the Vietnamese.

Enter the Vietnamese

Relations between Cambodia and Vietnam have historically been tense, as the Vietnamese have slowly but steadily expanded southwards, encroaching on Cambodian territory. Despite the fact the two communist parties had fought together as brothers-in-arms, old tensions soon came to the fore.

From 1976 to 1978, the Khmer Rouge instigated a series of border clashes withVietnam, and claimed the Mekong Delta, once part of the Khmer empire. Incursions into Vietnamese border provinces left hundreds of Vietnamese civilians dead. On 25 December 1978 Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion of Cambodia, toppling the Pol Pot government two weeks later. As Vietnamese tanks neared Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge fled westward with as many civilians as it could seize, taking refuge in the jungles and mountains along the Thai border. The Vietnamese installed a new government led by several former Khmer Rouge officers, including current Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had defected to Vietnam in 1977. The Khmer Rouge’s patrons, the Chinese communists, launched a massive reprisal raid across Vietnam’s northernmost border in early 1979 in an attempt to buy their allies time. It failed, and after 17 days the Chinese withdrew, their fingers badly burnt by their Vietnamese enemies. The Vietnamese then staged a show trial in which Pol Pot and Ieng Sary were condemned to death for their genocidal acts.

A traumatised population took to the road in search of surviving family members. Millions had been uprooted and had to walk hundreds of kilometres across the country. Rice stocks were destroyed, the harvest left to wither and little rice planted, sowing the seeds for a widespread famine in 1979 and 1980.

As the conflict in Cambodia raged, Sihanouk agreed, under pressure from China, to head a military and political front opposed to the Phnom Penh government. The Sihanouk-led resistance coalition brought together – on paper, at least – Funcinpec (the French acronym for the National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia), which comprised a royalist group loyal to Sihanouk; the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, a noncommunist grouping formed by former prime minister Son Sann; and the Khmer Rouge, officially known as the Party of Democratic Kampuchea and by far the most powerful of the three. The heinous crimes of the Khmer Rouge were swept aside to ensure a compromise that suited the great powers.

During the mid-1980s the British government dispatched the Special Air Service (SAS) to a Malaysian jungle camp to train guerrilla fighters in land mine–laying techniques. Although officially assisting the smaller factions, it is certain the Khmer Rouge benefited from this experience. It then used these new-found skills to intimidate and terrorise the Cambodian people. The USA gave more than US$15 million a year in aid to the noncommunist factions of the Khmer Rouge-dominated coalition.

For much of the 1980s Cambodia remained closed to the Western world, save for the presence of some humanitarian aid groups. Government policy was effectively under the control of the Vietnamese, so Cambodia found itself very much in the Eastern-bloc camp. The economy was in tatters for much of this period, as Cambodia, likeVietnam, suffered from the effects of a US-sponsored embargo.

In 1984 the Vietnamese overran all the major rebel camps inside Cambodia, forcing the Khmer Rouge and its allies to retreat into Thailand. From this time the Khmer Rouge and its allies engaged in guerrilla warfare aimed at demoralising their opponents. Tactics used by the Khmer Rouge included shelling government-controlled garrison towns, planting thousands of mines in rural areas, attacking road transport, blowing up bridges, kidnapping village chiefs and targeting civilians. The Khmer Rouge also forced thousands of men, women and children living in the refugee camps it controlled to work as porters, ferrying ammunition and other supplies into Cambodia across heavily mined sections of the border. The Vietnamese for their part laid the world’s longest minefield, known as K-5 and stretching from the Gulf of Thailand to the Lao border, in an attempt to seal out the guerrillas. They also sent Cambodians into the forests to cut down trees on remote sections of road to prevent ambushes. Thousands died of disease and from injuries sustained from land mines. The Khmer Rouge was no longer in power, but for many the 1980s was almost as tough as the 1970s, one long struggle to survive.

The UN comes to town

As the Cold War came to a close, peace began to break out all over the globe, and Cambodia was not immune to the new spirit of reconciliation. In September 1989Vietnam, its economy in tatters and eager to end its international isolation, announced the withdrawal of all of its troops from Cambodia. With the Vietnamese gone, the opposition coalition, still domin­ated by the Khmer Rouge, launched a series of offensives, forcing the now-vulnerable government to the negotiating table.

Diplomatic efforts to end the civil war began to bear fruit in September 1990, when a peace plan was accepted by both the Phnom Penh government and the three factions of the resistance coalition. According to the plan, the Supreme National Council (SNC), a coalition of all factions, would be formed under the presidency of Sihanouk. Meanwhile the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (Untac) would supervise the administration of the country for two years with the goal of free and fair elections.

Untac undoubtedly achieved some successes, but for all of these, it is the failures that were to cost Cambodia dearly in the ‘democratic’ era. Untac was successful in pushing through many international human-rights covenants; it opened the door to a significant number of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) who have helped build civil society; and, most importantly, on 25 May 1993, elections were held with an 89.6% turnout. However, the results were far from decisive. Funcinpec, led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, took 58 seats in the National Assembly, while the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which represented the previous communist government, took 51 seats. The CPP had lost the election, but senior leaders threatened a secession of the eastern provinces of the country. As a result, Cambodia ended up with two prime ministers: Norodom Ranariddh as first prime minister, and Hun Sen as second prime minister.

Even today, Untac is heralded as one of the UN’s success stories. The other perspective is that it was an ill-conceived and poorly executed peace because so many of the powers involved in brokering the deal had their own agendas to advance. To many Cambodians, it must have seemed a cruel joke that the Khmer Rouge was allowed to play a part in the process.

The UN’s disarmament programme took weapons away from rural militias who for so long provided the backbone of the government’s provincial defence network against the Khmer Rouge. This left communities throughout the country vulnerable to attack, while the Khmer Rouge used the veil of legitimacy conferred upon it by the peace process to re-establish a guerrilla network throughout Cambodia. By 1994, when it was finally outlawed by the government, the Khmer Rouge was probably a greater threat to the stability of Cambodia than at any time since 1979.

Untac’s main goals had been to ‘restore and maintain peace’ and ‘promote national reconciliation’ and in the short term it achieved neither. It did oversee free and fair elections, but these were later annulled by the actions of Cambodia’s politicians. Little was done during the UN period to try to dismantle the communist apparatus of state set up by the CPP, a well-oiled machine that continues to ensure that former communists control the civil service, judiciary, army and police today.

The slow birth of peace

When the Vietnamese toppled the Pol Pot government in 1979, the Khmer Rouge disappeared into the jungle. The guerrillas eventually boycotted the 1993 elections and later rejected peace talks aimed at creating a ceasefire. The defection of some 2000 troops from the Khmer Rouge army in the months after the elections offered some hope that the long-running insurrection would fizzle out. However, government-sponsored amnesty programmes initially turned out to be ill-conceived: the policy of reconscripting Khmer Rouge troops and forcing them to fight their former comrades provided little incentive to desert.

In 1994 the Khmer Rouge resorted to a new tactic of targeting tourists, with horrendous results for a number of foreigners in Cambodia. During 1994 three people were taken from a taxi on the road to Sihanoukville and subsequently shot. A few months later another three foreigners were seized from a train bound forSihanoukville and in the ransom drama that followed they were executed as the army closed in.

The government changed course during the mid-1990s, opting for more carrot and less stick in a bid to end the war. The breakthrough came in 1996 when Ieng Sary, Brother No 3 in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy and foreign minister during its rule, was denounced by Pol Pot for corruption. He subsequently led a mass defection of fighters and their dependants from the Pailin area, and this effectively sealed the fate of the remaining Khmer Rouge. Pailin, rich in gems and timber, had long been the economic crutch which kept the Khmer Rouge hobbling along. The severing of this income, coupled with the fact that government forces now had only one front on which to concentrate their resources, suggested the days of civil war were numbered.

By 1997 cracks were appearing in the coalition and the fledgling democracy once again found itself under siege. But it was the Khmer Rouge that again grabbed the headlines. Pol Pot ordered the execution of Son Sen, defence minister during the Khmer Rouge regime, and many of his family members. This provoked a putsch within the Khmer Rouge leadership, and the one-legged hardline general Ta Mok seized control, putting Pol Pot on ‘trial’. Rumours flew about Phnom Penh that Pol Pot would be brought there to face international justice, but events dramatically shifted back to the capital.

A lengthy courting period ensued in which both Funcinpec and the CPP attempted to win the trust of the remaining Khmer Rouge hard-liners in northern Cambodia. Ranariddh was close to forging a deal with the jungle fighters and was keen to get it sewn up before Cambodia’s accession to Asean, as nothing would provide a better entry fanfare than the ending of Cambodia’s long civil war. He was outflanked and subsequently outgunned by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. On 5 July 1997 fighting again erupted on the streets of Phnom Penh as troops loyal to the CPP clashed with those loyal to Funcinpec. The heaviest exchanges were around the airport and key government buildings, but before long the dust had settled and the CPP once again controlled Cambodia. The strongman had finally flexed his muscles and there was no doubt as to which party was running the show.

Following the coup, the remnants of Funcinpec forces on the Thai border around O Smach formed an alliance with the last of the Khmer Rouge under Ta Mok’s control. The fighting may have ended, but the deaths did not stop there: several prominent Funcinpec politicians and military leaders were victims of extrajudicial executions, and even today no-one has been brought to justice for these crimes. Many of Funcinpec’s leading politicians fled abroad, while the senior generals led the resistance struggle on the ground.

As 1998 began, the CPP announced an all-out offensive against its enemies in the north. By April it was closing in on the Khmer Rouge strongholds of Anlong Veng and Preah Vihear, and amid this heavy fighting Pol Pot evaded justice by dying a sorry death on 15 April in the Khmer Rouge’s captivity. The fall of Anlong Veng in April was followed by the fall of Preah Vihear in May, and the big three, Ta Mok, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, were forced to flee into the jungle near the Thai border with their remaining troops.

The 1998 election result reinforced the reality that the CPP was now the dominant force in the Cambodian political system and on 25 December Hun Sen received the Christmas present he had been waiting for: Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were defecting to the government side. The international community began to pile on the pressure for the establishment of some sort of war-crimes tribunal to try the remaining Khmer Rouge leadership. After lengthy negotiations, agreement was finally reached on the composition of a court to try the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. The CPP was suspicious of a UN-administered trial as the UN had sided with the Khmer Rouge–dominated coalition against the government in Phnom Penh and the ruling party wanted a major say in who was to be tried for what. The UN for its part doubted that the judiciary in Cambodia was sophisticated or impartial enough to fairly oversee such a major trial. A compromise solution – a mixed tribunal of three international and four Cambodian judges requiring a super majority of two plus three for a verdict – was eventually agreed upon.

Early 2002 saw Cambodia’s first ever local elections to select village and commune level representatives, an important step in bringing grassroots democracy to the country. Despite national elections since 1993, the CPP continued to monopolise political power at local and regional levels and only with commune elections would this grip be loosened. The national elections of July 2003 saw a shift in the balance of power, as the CPP consolidated their grip on Cambodia and the Sam Rainsy Party overhauled Funcinpec as the second party. After nearly a year of negotiating, Funcinpec ditched the Sam Rainsy Party once again and put their heads in the trough with the CPP for another term.

History Phnom Penh

The Killing Field Museum

Between 1975 and 1978,aabout 17,000 men, women, children and infants (including nine westerners), detained and tortured at S-21 prison (now Tuol Sleng Museum), were transported to the extermination to death to avoid wasting precious bullets.The remains of 8985 people, many of whom were bound and blindfolded, were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves in this one-time long an orchard; 43 of the 129 communal graves here have been left untouched. Fragment of Human bone and bits of cloth are scattered around the disinterred pits. Over 8000 skulls, arranged by sex, are visible behind the clear glass panels of the Memoral Stupa, which was erected in 1988.The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are 15 km from Central Phnom Penh. To get there, take Monireth Blvd south-westward out of the city from the Dang Kor Market bus depot. The site is 8.5 km from the bridge near 271 St. A memorial ceremony is held annually at Choeung Ek on 9 May.

Killing Fields of Cheung Ek is situated 15 kilometers south-west of Phnom Penh and made famous by the film of the same name "Killing Field". it was a place where more than 17,000 civilians were killed and buried in mass graves; many of them transported here after detention and torture in Toul Sleng. This place is a chilling reminder of the brutalities of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. In the center of the area is a 17 story glass stupa which houses 8000 skulls exhumed from mass graves. Open daily.Note: Both Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing Fields exhibits may be disturbing for some and aren't suitable for younger children and adults who are easily shocked.

The Cheung Ek genocide museum is located in Cheung Ek commune, Dankoar district, about 15 km from the centre of Phnom Penh. This is the location where the Khmer Rouge took their prisoners for execution. The prisoners were made to wait here for 24 hours before they were killed by a blow to the head after which their throats were slit. Babies were killed by bashing their heads against a tree. There were separate graves for men, for women and for children. Former friends of Pol Pot who were executed here had separate graves too.Visitors can walk along 86 mass graves from which the remainders of 8,985 men, women and children were unearthed after the liberation of the Khmers Rouges. Some of those skulls, bones and pieces of clothing are now kept in the nearby massive stupa.

There were killing fields all over the country, but Cheung Ek was believed to be the largest every year on the 20th of May a ceremony is held around the stupa to bring peace to the spirits of the deceased.Sightseeing in Phnom Penh gives the tourists ample opportunity to visit the numerous places in and around the city. Cheung Ek Killing Field in Phnom Penh is a very important place in the city as it has a long history attached to it. The place is really fascinating for all those coming to visit the city. The place has a long history behind it and reminds one of the horrifying times that the people of Cambodia have gone through during the reign of Khmer and after. 

The Cheung Ek Killing Field at Phnom Penh is one of the most prolific and historic place in Phnom Penh and stands a cruel reminder of the atrocities inflicted upon the masses of Cambodia. The place has become very popular now as it is the center of all killings which took place in the city and later got christened as the famous Killing Field. The place is really popular as tourists from all over the world come here. The place has really direct links with the horrific past of Cambodia and Phnom Penh.

There are many things to see while visiting the Cheung Ek Killing Field in Phnom Penh. The place has been most aptly been named as the Killing Field in Phnom Penh. The place is actually a mass grave where almost 17,000 innocents were slaughtered mercilessly for no fault of theirs. The place is really frightening and sends a shiver down the spine as one recalls how the place had been transformed into a grave. There is actually a stupa which stands in the middle of the area and it is this stupa which has become the place for housing the 8,000 skulls taken out from the mass graves. Cheung Ek Killing Field of Phnom Penh is open daily. All are welcome though it is advised by the authorities that children should be advised and properly guided before they come here. Cheung Ek Killing Field in Phnom Penh is located at a distance of 15 kilometers away from the south -western frontiers of Phnom Penh.

The Democratic of Kampuchea was led by Pol Pot, a former schoolteacher. The killing machine of S-21 was a secret prison for torturing, interrogating, and depriving those who were accused of illegal activities and accused of being traitors. The Khmer Rouge acted like savage animals with no conscience as they preyed upon the innocent and naive citizens. The Khmer Rouge had turned the peaceful and beautiful Cheung Ek village into the infamous and miserable killing fields. The Pol Pot regime slaughtered people in the thousands without mercy and buried them in mass graves. No matter how much visitors have read or been told about the Khmer Rouge brutality and the number of people killed all visitors shall understand the full process of how the tens of thousands prisoners were executed here. More importantly, visitors can learn about the chain of command established by Pol Pot. 

Given the way that the Ultra Khmer Rouge Regime was organized, a decision for murder was most likely ordered by ?Brother Number 01 himself, Pol Pot. Everything had to meet with his approval, even thoughthere is no written proof. However, Son Sen, who was responsible for National Security and Defense and Ducha commandant at S-21, were directly responsible for killing the prisoners at S-21 and Cheung Ek Killing Field and written proof is available. At S-21 there were many documents routed to the party center and they all passed through Son Sen?s hands. Dozens of memoranda addressed to him by Duch have survived. Duch?s queries and annotations have appeared on the prisoners? confessions, often in red ink. More often, Duch denigrated what the prisoners confessed and suggested beatings and tortures to unearth truth that he thought the prisoners were hiding. These documents display how the Upper Brothers, Son Sen and Duch, were responsible for the thousands of prisoners' murders at S-21 and Cheung Ek.

After getting an instruction to kill from the Central Committee of the regime through Son Sen, Duch ordered his deputy, Hor, to produce a "must smash" list .Taking orders from Hor, and Suon Thy who were in charge of the documentary unit, the list was prepared. The list was submitted to Duch for his signature. Then, the signed list was sent to Peng, the head of Defense unit, who seems to have been demoted in 1978 when his duties were taken by Hyu. Peng had the keys to all of the cells in the S-21 prison. Based on the list, Peng ordered the guards to remove the "must smash" prisoners to be killed.

The Important and special prisoners like Keo Meas ( a veteran revolutionary), Ney Saran ( Secretary of Agriculture), Hu Nim ( Minister of Information), Kuy Thuon ( Secretary of Northern Zone), Cheng An (Deputy Minister of Industry), Von Veth ( Deputy prime Minister), and foreigners were killed and buried at the S-21 prison. As for foreigners including Canadians, Americans, Australians and British, guards were ordered to kill them and to burn their dead bodies so that no bones were left (Nic Dunlop 2005:275). 

The majority of the victims were trucked out to Choeung Ek, at about 8 or 9 o?clock PM, to be killed. The guards took the prisoners from their cells to the main gate where a large truck waited and told them that they were being transferred to another place. This lie was created to prevent the prisoners from crying, refusing to go or from escaping. In order to be well prepared for execution, a messenger from the defense unit was sent to the Choeung Ek Killing Field in advance to inform a permanent team about the number of the prisoners to be killed that day. Usually, the messenger went to the Killing Field by motorcycle in the mornings. To ensure that a top secret was kept and also that the execution was carried out properly, Duch, Peng, and Huy were requested to attend by Son Sen, the Minister in charge of defense and security. Often times, Duch sat smoking on a mat near the pit to supervise the executions and to insure their murderous plans. 

The number of prisoners executed at Choeung Ek on a daily basis varied from a few dozen to over three hundred. The latter figure was recorded in May, 1978 at the height of the pursuits in the Eastern Zone. On a monthly basis two or three trucks would go from S-21 to Choeung Ek. Each truck held three or four guards and twenty to thirty frightened, silent prisoners. When the trucks arrived at the site, two guards seated with prisoners jumped from the canvas and took prisoners down, shoved them into a small building. The building was constructed from wood with a galvanized steel roof and its walls were built with two layers of flat wood to darken the room and also to prevent prisoners seeing each other. Then, with the electricity light supplied by a generator , Peng or Huy the heads of capturers subunit, verified prisoners? names against a "must-smash" list prepared by the head of documentation unit, Suos Thy. This list ensured that no one prisoner was missed. Prisoners were led in small groups to ditches and pits that were dug in advance by another team stationed permanently at the site.

They were told to kneel down and then they were clubbed on the neck with tools such as cart axle, hoe, stick, wooden club or whatever else served as a weapon of death. They were sometimes stabbed with knives or swords to save using bullets, which were deemed to be too expensive. Duch said: ?We had instructions from the party on how to kill them, but we didn?t use bullets and usually, we slit their throats. We killed them like chickens? ( Dunlop 2005:273)Him Huy, who took the prisoners to be killed at Choeung Ek recalled,?They were ordered to kneel down at the edge of the hole. Their hands were tied behind them. They were beaten on the neck with an iron ox-cart axle, sometimes with one blow, sometimes with two... ? (David Chandler 1999:140).

Soon after prisoners were executed, the head of inspectors made sure that no one was alive. According to a witness who came to Cheung Ek just 2 days after liberation day, January 7th, 1979, said that at the site there was a small hut with chemical substances. He guessed that executioners scattered these substances over the dead bodies of the victims after execution. This action might have served two purposes: first, to eliminate the stench from the dead bodies which could potentially raise suspicion among people working near the Killing Fields and secondly, the chemicals would have killed off victims who were buried alive. Unfortunately, these poisonous substances were lost in 1979. 

Kong San, an ex-Khmer Rouge soldier of 703 division, recalled at that time he had grown rice near Cheung Ek and when the wind blew strongly sometimes he smelt a stench. He thought the smell was just the stench of decomposing dead pets. But after the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled, he found out that Choeung Ek was a Killing Field (From winner to self- destruction 2000: 142).At the end, when the execution was completely finished, the killers washed their body and killing tools in a ditch near the site. The list at Choeung Ek was submitted to Suos Thy, to double-check that no prisoners was missed.

Toul Sleng Museum

In 1975,Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot's security force and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21) It soon became the largest such centre of detention and torture in the country. Over 17,000 people held at S-21 were taken to the extermination camp at Choeung Ek to be executed; detainees who die during torture were buried in mass graves in the prison grounds.

S-21 has been turned into the Tuol Sleng Museum, which serves as a testament to the crimes of the Khmer Rough. The museum's entrance is on the western side of 113 St just north of 350 St, and it is open daily from 7 to 11.30 am and from 2 to 5.30 pm; entry is US$2.

Like the Nazis, the Khmer Rough was meticulous in keeping records of their barbarism. Each prisoner who passed through S-21 was photographed, sometimes before and after being tortured. The museum displays include room after room in which such photographs of men, women and children cover the walls from floor to ceiling; virtually all the people pictured were later killed. You can tell in what year a picture was taken by the style of number board that appears on the prisoner's chest. Several foreigners from Australia, France and the USA were held here before being murdered. Their documents are on display.

Tuol Sleng Musuem

As the Khmer 'revolution' reached ever-greater heights of insanity, it began devouring its own children. Generations of tortures and executioners and were in turn killed by those who took their places. During the first part of 1977, S-21 claimed an average of 100 victims a day. When Phnom Penh was liberated by the Vietnamese army in early 1979, they found only seven prisoners alive at S-21. Fourteen others had been tortured to death as Vietnamese forces were closing in on the city. Photographs of their decomposing corpses were found. Their graves are nearby in the courtyard.

Altogether, a visit to Tuol Sleng is a profoundly depressing experience. There is something about the sheer ordinariness of the place that make it even more horrific; the suburban setting, the plain school buildings, the grassy playing area where several children kick around a ball, rusted beds, instruments of torture and wall after wall of harrowing black-and-white portraits conjure up images of humanity at its worst. Tuol Sleng is not for the squeamish.