The Mekong River boat ride to capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, provided a brief look in how the people living along this lifeline live. We saw people bathing, washing laundry, washing their oxen, food, everything – in the river that is both freeway and food source.
A long boat trip brought us into Cambodia using the same route travelers have taken for millennia. The Kingdom of Cambodia, as it is officially known, offered an interesting history, a gorgeous natural environment and the opportunity to witness the birth of a new nation.
The country once known as Kampuchea, is just now (summer 2009) putting on trial the men and women who tortured and killed some two million of their countrymen through starvation, overwork, disease and execution. The Kmer Rouge who were responsible for the genocide were in power between 1975 and 1978 when Vietnam invaded to stop incursions into its own land and to stop the killing. The entire historical episode was recounted beautifully in the book and movie “The Killing Fields”.
The modern country is rebuilding itself as a constitutional monarchy in which tourism, manufacturing, agriculture (rice being the most important crop) and construction the most important industries. In 2011, oil and natural gas deposits will begin to be exploited – something that is expected to have quite an impact on this underdeveloped economy.