Cambodian Recent History and Contemporary Society: An Introductory Course

How to use this website

Note: This course was originally designed in two sections, Recent History and Contemporary Society.  The course has not been updated since 2002 and the material on "contemporary" society is now dated.  Thus the second half of the course has been deleted until it can be updated.  Only the first half of the course on recent history is accessible.  Note that this resource too has not been updated since 2002.

The general reader

The best method to use this website depends upon your goals. If you are a person with a general interest in Cambodia, or perhaps someone planning to visit Cambodia as a tourist, my suggestion is that you just read the two main essays, clicking over to the keywords, biographies or background essays as they seem helpful to you.

The specialist

This course is not designed for specialists in Khmer studies. The information provided is general and includes material drawn from my own interests, and stories from my own experiences. The section of the website that might be useful to specialists would be the bibliography, particularly references to reports by Non-governmental organizations and theses that have limited circulation.

The teacher

You may wish to use the syllabus that follows as the basis for designing a course on Cambodia, or for a section of a course on Southeast Asia. Or you may wish to just assign certain sections as readings. When you use materials, please cite the website as you would any published source.

The Student

The following syllabus is for students who are taking this class on their own. This is not designed to be an interactive class, though you are welcome to send comments to SEASITE. I have structured the class as if it were for one semester. If I were teaching this class in a classroom, I would have required readings and recommended readings, so I have included that format here. I would also have two examinations and assign a research paper. In the future I plan to add questions for two exams, a midterm and a final. For the general reader the idea is to take as little or as much of the material as you would like; for the student the goal is to systematically work through all of the material on the site, as well as the assigned readings and related links. If you use materials from this course in your writings, please cite this website, just as you would a published source.

Cambodian Recent History and Contemporary Society: An Introductory Course

Section 1: History: Cambodia Since April 1975

Week I


1. Begin reading Becker (first three chapters):

Becker, Elizabeth

1986 When the War Was Over: Cambodia's Revolution and the Voices of its People. New York: Simon and Schuster. (there is a new 1998 edition of this book that is still in print)

2. Read Essay I - Cambodia since April 1975


Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979)

The People’s Republic of Kampuchea (1979-1989)

The State of Cambodia (1989-1993)

The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (1992-93)

The Royal Government of Cambodia (1993-present)

Week 2


1. Continue reading Becker (chapter 5-8)

Read the background essay (and the readings assigned):

Understanding Cambodia: Social Hierarchy and Patron-Client Relationships

Week 3


1. Finish reading Becker (chapters 9-12 and epilog)

2. Read the background essay (and the readings assigned):

Democratic Kampuchea: Hierarchy/Egalitarianism and Pol Pot

Week 4


1. Read the background essay (and the readings assigned, including Ledgerwood 1994)

The UN Sponsored Elections of 1993: Were they ‘free and fair’?

2. Recommended reading, Peou (Chapters 4-6) :

Peou, Sorpong

    Intervention and Change in Cambodia: Towards Democracy? New York: St. Martin’s Press

Week 5


1. Read the background essay (and the assigned readings):

2. Recommended reading, continue reading Peou (chapters 7-9).

3. Recommended reading (linked on this site):

United Nations Centre for Human Rights

Week 6


Reread Essay I, biographies, and keywords. Review for the exam.

Week 7


Course Resources




Links to Other Useful Sites

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