Cambodia , a south-east Asian country opened on the Gulf of Thailand and having a surface area of 181 000 km 2 and a population of 12 500 000 inhabitants (in 2004), has experienced varying fortunes in the course of her long history.
A powerful kingdom in the days of the Roman Empire , she was split up into principalities, before later on becoming an empire, which due to exhausting conquests collapsed. Subjugated and divided by Siam and Vietnam , the devastated country abandoned her capital, Angkor , bringing her millennium-old civilisation to extinction.
It was in 1863 that Cambodia became a French protectorate, a regime under which her economy gradually developed until 1954 when she became independent.
Unfortunately, the country entered a terrible period of turmoil due to the corrupt practices of her leaders and the administration in charge of running the economy. Plunged into abject poverty, the peasants staged a rebellion. A schism occurred between the cities and the rural areas and, in 1975, the Khmer rouge finally captured the capital, Phnom Penh , and took over power.
Cambodia toppled into absolute horror
Atrocities of the Khmer rouge dictatorial regime, which lasted for three year, were outrageous.
Out of a population of less than ten million inhabitants, it is estimated that over a million people perished under the name of the “Democratic Kampuchea” communist ideology, according to which cleansing the country of corruption involved the physical elimination of former elites.
It was the Vietnamese army which, upon occupying Cambodia in early 1979 after having destroyed Khmer rouge bases and putting in place a new regime, took a few years to restore some rather precarious stability in a country completely devastated.
France , within the framework of the UN, contributed in the restoration of Cambodian sovereignty, during the transitional period, which lasted from November 1991 to May 1995 (Operations MIPRENUC, APRONUC, UNMLT, UNCONSMIL).
The French participated in maintaining order and controlling arms, as well as in the constructing bridges and repairing roads, while the Khmer rouge guerrilla was still active.
Due to the huge number of land mines present on Cambodian territory, the French contingent has equally participated in operations aimed at marking and neutralising land-mine-infested areas as well as provided assistance to land-mine victims.