Phnom Penh [key], city (1994 est. pop. 527,000), capital of Cambodia, SW Cambodia, at the confluence of the Mekong and Tônlé Sap rivers. Phnom Penh was founded in the 14th cent. and was made the Khmer capital after the abandonment (1434) of Angkor. It became the capital of Cambodia in 1867. The city was occupied by the Japanese in World War II. The cultural and commercial center as well as political capital of Cambodia, it was severely stressed and battered by the civil war in the 1970s. The onset (1970) of fighting between government forces and the Khmer Rouge drove refugees from the war-torn countryside to Phnom Penh. Its population swelled from c.500,000 in 1970 to c.2 million in early 1975, when it was evacuated after falling to the Khmer Rouge. By the time the Khmer Rouge were overthrown in 1979, the city had become virtually a ghost town, with no more than 50,000 residents and its universities and cultural institutions no longer in operation. It gradually revived through the 1980s; Phnom Penh Univ. reopened in 1988. The transportation center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is the focus of four highways radiating out to the provinces. It is the terminus of the country's only two railroads—one extending to the Thai border and another to the deepwater port of Sihanoukville on the Gulf of Thailand. There is an international airport in nearby Pochentong.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Cambodian Political Geography