In 2019, Cambodia had an average population density of 90
residents per km2. The most densely populated
areas are the lowlands around the Lower Mekong east of Phnom
Penh and the area along Tonle Sap and on to the Thai border.
In 1977, the country's population was estimated to be 6.8
million residents. After that, however, as a result of war,
famine and emigration (see History), it decreased by 2.5
percent per year until 1980. From the beginning of the
1980s, the population grew faster (3.5 percent, 1984), but
then the rate and the trend continued during the 1990s.
During the period 2000-05, the population increase was just
over 1.5 per cent per year and for the period 2005-10 it is
estimated to be 1.65 per cent per year.
Countryaah, the population of the larger localities has fluctuated
strongly since 1970. Phnom Penh then had around 2.5 million
residents in the metropolitan area. Eight years later, only
20,000 lived there, as the Pol Pot regime had moved most of
the city residents to the countryside. During the 1980s,
cities were re-populated and trade resumed, and by the end
of the 1990s, urban populations accounted for over 20
percent of Cambodia's population. Phnom Penh then had almost
2 million residents. It is the country's most dominant city
with ten times larger population than the next, Bātdāmbāng
and Siem Reap in the northwest and Sihanoukville on the
The majority of the population (about 90 percent) belongs
to the Khmer people, who during the Angkor period (802-1432)
ruled Southeast Asia's most powerful empire. Most Khmer are
traditionally wet rice growers and keep pets (buffalo, pigs
and chickens), but many also feed on vegetable cultivation,
fishing and crafts.
The turbulent years that followed after 1975 led to
genocide and population relocation which affected the
demographic situation in Cambodia. Large crowds fled to
Thailand and other countries.
Cambodia is also home to several minorities, some of whom
have historical immigrant backgrounds. The minorities were
persecuted during the Red Khmer 1975-79, and many were
killed or expelled. Many Chinese, which until then were the
largest minority in the country and were a prominent feature
of the urban population through trade, had their lives
destroyed during the difficult years of the 1970s and went
into exile or were killed. During this time, the Chinese
language and religious practices were forbidden. In 1984,
there were only 61,400 Chinese left (compared to over
400,000 in the early 1970s). From the 1990s, the conditions
for the Chinese have gradually improved; the language has
been re-used, religious practices have to be observed and it
is again possible to conduct business. In 2009, the Chinese
were estimated to be 1 percent of the population.
The number of Vietnamese people is considered to be
between 1 and 5 percent. During the Lon Nol regime 1970-75
and during the Red Khmer, the Vietnamese were subjected to
persecution and many left the country. Others were murdered
or banished. During the Vietnamese occupation, some
returned, but as late as the early 1990s, Vietnamese were
murdered in isolated fishing villages. Vietnamese
discrimination still exists in the country.
Cham (300,000-500,000), who live in about 400 villages in
the province of Kampong Cham, is a Muslim population
minority originating in southern Vietnam, where some still
live. Their language belongs to the Austronesian language
family. Cham comes from the people who created the Champar
Empire in southern and central Vietnam during the 600s and
who later, like the Malays, took an active part in the
long-distance trade between India and China. The majority of
cham fled to Angkor (in present-day Cambodia) during the
1470s, since the Empire was conquered by the Vietnamese.
After the flight, the cham restored relations with the
Malays, and Islam became the dominant religion among them.
Their interpretation of Islam is heterodox and contains many
Most chams live along the Mekong River north and east of
Phnom Penh, where they mainly grow salmon crops (cotton,
indigo, sesame and vegetables) and are engaged in fishing
and river transport. Under the rule of the Red Khmer, many
representatives of the Cham people were murdered; according
to some estimates up to half of the population. In addition,
many mosques were destroyed.
Along the border with Vietnam there are mountain tribes
commonly called Khmer Loeu ('mountain people', in Western
literature often referred to as Montagnards). They are
estimated at a total of over 100,000 and feed on burning. As
a rule, they have maintained their traditional tribal
religions. Among the most important groups are jarai and
rhad谷, who speak Austronesian languages, as well as the
monkhmere-speaking paths in the southeast.
In the southwest, along the border with Thailand, there
are small Monkhmic-speaking tribal pears, who are believed
to be descendants of the area's original Negrit population.
In the north, along the border with Thailand, a large area
is inhabited by the monkhum-speaking kui (15,500), who were
formerly Swede farmers and lived in longhouses, but who
nowadays predominantly feed on wetland cultivation and
trade. Traditionally, kui had a special position in the
Khmer kingdom; as manufacturers and suppliers of iron and
silk to the king, they were exempt from tax. In the
northeast is the tampon (25,000). Illegal logging, dam
construction and land thefts threaten the people's lives.
Despite preconditions for improving minority rights,
including Through the introduction of bilingual
administration in their areas, little has happened yet, and
the UNHCR has repeatedly criticized the country's failure in
The official language is Khmer, which is spoken by almost
90% of the population. The Austronesian language cham has
about 300,000 speakers. The number of Vietnamese and Chinese
is uncertain. As a result of the country's colonial past,
French is the most widely used European language.
The religious situation can be documented from the period
Funan (from about 100 century to 550). Then a non-sectarian
Hinduism dominated, but there was also a, Sanskrit mediated,
Buddhism. The development of religion was under continuous
influence from India and Thailand.
During the period Zhenla (Chenla, 550-802), sectarian
Hindu traditions emerged (Vishnuism and Shivaism), but
Buddhism existed as an undercurrent that entered the day
during the next period, the time of the Angkor kingdom
(802-1431). Then Hindu sectarian traditions alternated with
Buddhist, who had unambiguous features of Mahayana. During
the conflict with Thailand that began in the 13th century,
Hinayana Buddhism (in the form of theravada, traditionally
Pali) spread from Thailand to Cambodia. After the defeat of
Cambodia in 1432, theravada became increasingly dominant and
was fortified at the court during the 17th century. Until
1975, Buddhism was state religion.
Hinduism and Buddhism have played a major role as ruler
ideologies in Cambodia's history. The rulers assumed roles
such as Hindu avatars or Buddhist bodhisattas; Prince
Sihanouk acted in the latter property as late as the 1960s.
His goal was to make the Buddhist state religion a "Buddhist
socialism" that would lead to a welfare state, led by a
Under the rule of the Red Khmer in 1975-79, Buddhism
(like other religions in the country) was suppressed,
declared a reactionary and banned. Monasteries were
destroyed and monks were forbidden to wear monk clothes,
were forced to marry and do heavy work. It is estimated that
over 60 percent of all monks were murdered during the
After Vietnam invaded Cambodia and defeated the Red
Khmer, the new government under Heng Samrin allowed Buddhism
to be restored, albeit in a strictly controlled form that
suited the government's purposes. The period 1981-88 allowed
only those who were over 50 to become members of sangha.
From the mid-1980s, a liberalization and a gradual
democratization of Cambodia began. This also meant a
revitalization of Buddhism, which was reintroduced in 1989
as Cambodia's state religion, through an addition to the
constitution. Many of the monasteries and cult sites
destroyed by the Red Khmer were restored. Two important
monuments in the country are Angkor Vat and Angkor Thom.
Today (2012), it is estimated that just over 90 percent
of the population are Theravada Buddhists and that they have
just over 4,000 pagodas in the country. Being a Buddhist is
an obvious part of the Khmer ethnic and cultural identity.
Mahayana Buddhism is represented in the country with about
150,000 confessors and 63 temples.
Up to five percent of the population are Muslims. Most of
these belong to the cham group, which mainly live in cities
and in fishing villages. Almost all Muslims are Sunni and 90
percent belong to the Shafi'ite law school and just over 6
percent are Salafists, by the Han Balitic law school. There
are also smaller groups of Ahmadiyya Muslims and supporters
of the indigenous Muslim group Imam san. In the
country there are more than 240 mosques and more than 300
surav mosques, which are small buildings that lack
minbar. These mosques are mainly in the countryside and are
used by all Muslims except those who profess to Imam san.
Around 100 Christian communities operate in the country.
Most churches are Protestant and the Christian share of the
population is estimated at about 2 percent.
In addition to Buddhists, Muslims and Christians, there
are also small groups in the country who profess Bahai,
Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Chinese universalism and
Cao đai. Furthermore, almost 5 percent of the population is
estimated to practice indigenous traditional religion.
Today, religious freedom is guaranteed in the
constitution, provided it does not interfere with public
order. The government promotes Buddhist feasts, teaches
Buddhism and promotes publishing of material around Buddhist
traditions. Teaching in other religions is also allowed if
it is run by private institutions.
According to the government, the following religious days
are national holidays: Chaul Chnam Thmey (Khmer New
Year), Pchum Ben (Ancestors Day), Visak Bochea
(Vesak Fest) and Meak Bochea (Magha Puja)
celebrated at the full moon in February in memory of