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Country information: Cambodia



181 040 square kilometres


14,49 million (July 2009)

Capital city

Phnom Penh (2 million inhabitants 2006)

Official Language

Khmer (other languages: English and French)

Gross national product per capita

US$ 2 000 (2008)

Population growth

1.77% (2009)

Life expectancy

62,1 years (2009)

Infant mortality

54,8 per 1 000 live births (2009)

Rate of illiteracy

26,4 %(2004)




Tourism plays a minor but rapidly growing role in the Cambodian economy. According to UNWTO in 2005, approximately one million guests visited the country and brought 675 million Euro into the country. A large number of foreign visitors only came to the country at the beginning of the 1990s in connection with the UNTAC Mission (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia). 


Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism

The opening of the country since 1992, with international observers, UN soldiers, managers and consultants, brought new problems to the country. Consumer desires were aroused which few were able to satisfy given their persistent poverty. Prostitution has increased very much and with it the rate of HIV-infection. According to realistic assessments, Phnom Penh alone has 15 000 prostitutes, one-third of which have been brought in from China and Vietnam. A third are below the age of 18 and half are HIV-positive.

Together with prostitution there has also been an increase of trafficking in humans, although the abduction of children for prostitution in Cambodia can be punished with prison sentences of up to 20 years. Cases are increasingly frequent in which poor families sell their daughters to people promising to provide them with good jobs in the city. But this is rarely done due to a lack of scruples, but rather out of ignorance and necessity.


The countries of Southeast Asia have a very high number of victims of child prostitution. According to UNICEF approximately one million children are forced to prostitution.


The widespread belief that sexual intercourse with children can have a rejuvenating and vitalising effect results in increasing numbers of increasingly young children being forced into prostitution. This development is also related to the widely-believed myth that children are less easily infected with HIV. Of course this is not the case. Children whose immune systems are often weakened by poverty have a particularly high risk of becoming infected with HIV, since forced sexual intercourse with adults frequently leads to serious physical injury, in addition to any mental harm that may result.


Cambodia on 15 October 1992 ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has undertaken to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.


HIV / Aids

The spread of prostitution also gives rise to fears of an increased spread of HIV and AIDS. According to estimates by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization published in 2007, some 75.000 Cambodians were infected with HIV, including 20.000 women. How many children were infected, could not be estimated. Thus the rate of infected person (0,5 per cent of the population) is with Thailand one of the highest in Asia. In the same year, 6.900 Cambodians died following HIV infection.


Local Contacts



Terre des Hommes Germany - Co-ordination office Cambodia

Mr. Tou Vantha

# 23, Street 348, Boeung Keng Kang 3, Chamcarmon,

Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA

Phone +855 23 222553



Hagar Cambodia

#53D Street 242

Sangkat Veal Vong, Khan 7 Makara

P.O. Box 1521

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phone: +855 23 219 045

Fax: +855 23 213 375



UNICEF - Cambodia

PO Box 176

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phone: +855 23 426 214/5

Fax: +855 23 426 284



Cambodian Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights

PO Box 2487

Phnom Penh 3, Cambodia

Phone/Fax: +855 23 363 316



ECPAT - Cambodia

(End Child Prostitution Abuse and Trafficking in Cambodia)

Mr. Chin Chanveasna

#36, St. 99, Sangkat Boeung Trabek

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phone : +855 23 213 021

Fax : +855 12 923 254



AFESIP Cambodia

Administration, Human Resource and Communication Department

#62CE0, Street 598, Boeung Kak 2

Toul Kork, Phnom Penh


Phone/Fax: +855 023 884 123





State and society

Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy. Head of state is a king, who is elected by the council and is head of the armed forces but has no executive powers. Political power lies with the prime minister and the government. In addition to a National Assembly there is now also a Senate.

After the government and the Khmer Rouge reached a peace agreement in Paris in1991, the first democratic elections were held in 1993, and Cambodia is no longer in a state of civil war. Nevertheless the weapons are not yet silent in many regions of the country. The Khmer Rouge continues to terrorise and plunder the population.

One indicator that the war is not a thing of the past is the minefields. Cambodia has the highest percentage of amputees in the world. Because of the threats of landmines, large areas of the land cannot be farmed. But the economy is not the only thing to suffer from the effects of civil war. Society in general is affected by bureaucracy, corrupt police, and an unmotivated legal system. For a long time, people had to go without schooling, and today some two-thirds of Cambodians cannot read. Cambodia has the highest rate of illiteracy in the world.

The population of Cambodia now consists of 85 per cent of Khmer, with the remainder mostly Vietnamese. There are also small numbers of Chinese and Moslem Chams. During the reign of terror of Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979 more than 1 million Cambodians lost their lives. Ethnic minorities were exterminated, forced to emigrate, or were displaced.

Before 1975, some 90 per cent of the population were followers of Buddhism. The Khmer Rouge suppressed all religion, and it has only been since the beginning of the 1990s that religious activity in Cambodia has picked up again to some extent, as reflected by the numbers of newly erected monasteries.


The people of Cambodia have lived for two decades in a state of violence and under authoritarian regimes. Human rights violations were daily occurrences. These traumatic experiences have led to a brutalisation of many aspects of society. Together with the problems of poverty and lack of opportunities, this has lead to a vicious circle affecting in particular children and women. Many husbands, fathers and brothers have turned to alcohol to drown their frustration, and women and children suffer from domestic violence, beatings and rape. War and displacement have disrupted many families. More and more children live as orphans on the streets of Phnom Penh, where they meet with violence and criminality on a daily basis. 



The government is trying to modernise the agricultural sector, with the aim of supplying the population with rice, maize, vegetables and meat. Fishing, forestry and industrial production have all declined sharply.