The defense is formally based on general military duty, which, however, has not been used since 1993. It comprises (2008) about 124,000 men, of which 50,000 men have been grouped over large areas outside the provinces. The defense is organized in an army of 75,000 men with 22 small divisions. The Navy comprises 2,000 men with 10 patrol boats. The Air Force comprises 1,500 men with 25 fighter aircraft. Semi-military police units amount to 67,000 men. The material is outdated and of Soviet and Chinese origin. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that KHM stands for Cambodia.
Defense spending decreased in 1996-2006 from 5.7% to 1.7% of GDP. The Armed Opposition, the Red Khmer, has ceased to be a political force. Cambodia participates in the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan (UNMIS).
1864 France makes its entrance
For more than 400 years, the kingdom was alternately conquered by Thais and Vietnamese until the Cambodian King Norodom in 1864 accepted that the country become a French protectorate, in anticipation that the French would protect it from Siam (Thailand) and Vietnam. But the French could not prevent the Thais from conquering for some time some of the country’s western areas – including the city of Battambang. By clinging to the French authority, King Norodom, in any case, avoided splitting the land between Thais and Vietnamese. In previous centuries, Vietnam had conquered vast areas of the then Cambodian territory. For example. had the Mekong Delta – ie. all of present-day South Vietnam – inhabited by Khmer until the 18th century.
But in King Norodom’s favor, Cambodia’s status in 1884 changed from protectorate to colony. France’s influence increased and Cambodia, together with Vietnam and Laos, was transformed into the Indochinese Union. In the following decades, the colonial government installed a European administration in Cambodia and developed the country’s infrastructure. In any case, the economic development of Indochina under French rule did not reach the same level as in Myanmar or India under the English.
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There was a great difference between the situation of Cambodia and Vietnam within the Indochinese Union. Cambodia had voluntarily entered into an alliance with France to preserve its cultural and national autonomy against the pressure from Thailand and Vietnam. Until the Second World War, only a minor revolt took place in Cambodia against the colonial power. Different with Vietnam that had been colonized against its will. Here the whole colonial period was marked by constant rebellion against the colonial power.
The tension between Cambodia and Vietnam is also a conflict between two different civilizations. While Vietnam is characterized by Chinese civilization and the struggle against Chinese supremacy, Cambodia’s history is characterized by Indian civilization and the struggle against Vietnamese and Thai supremacy.
During the colonial period, the French imported Vietnamese workers to the rubber plantations in Cambodia. The Vietnamese immigrants also got positions in the lower colonial administration. The post-war Vietnamese population therefore reached about half a million. At the same time, considerable Chinese immigration also took place. The Chinese and Vietnamese population made up the majority in the cities. In this way, contradictions were developed between not only the Khmer population and Chinese and Vietnamese, but also between city and country. Cambodia has never had a truly upper class of landlords. Most of the land was owned by small farmers, but the farmers felt the benefits of the cities, where the Chinese and Vietnamese dominated the trade.
After Germany invaded France at the start of World War II, in September 1940, Japanese forces occupied Indochina without encountering resistance. In official terms, the agreement was that Japan could use the military installations for its troops, against the French being allowed to maintain administrative control. At the same time, Thai forces invaded a number of the country’s western provinces. Thus, during World War II, Cambodia suffered far less damage than, for example. the Pacific islands, which were the scene of fierce fighting between the parties of war.