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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia



MapAround 2000 BC, Chinese rice and millet farmers spread southwards into a region which stretched between Vietnam and Burma. There, they interbred with local hunter-gatherers in two main pulses, this being the first with the second taking place around the end of the first century BC. In 2017 a team led by Harvard Medical School geneticist, Mark Lipson, concluded that these population movements brought agriculture to the region and triggered the spread of Austroasiatic languages that are still spoken in parts of south and South-East Asia. Over the preceding twenty years, archaeology had already accumulated increasing amounts of evidence to support the emergence of rice farming in south-east Asia between 2,500-2,000 BC, accompanied by tools and pottery which revealed links to southern China.

Cambodia witnessed one of the earliest of the historical south-east Asian kingdoms to be formed. Despite the Chinese admixture into the ancestry of its people, culturally it was heavily influenced by India, and was essentially an indigenous culture which predated most of the later Chinese influences on the region. The first kingdom, Chen-la, dominated an area covering modern Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos.

(Additional information from External Link: Ancient Chinese farmers sowed literal seeds of change in south-east Asia (Science News).)

Mid-6th Century AD - Late 8th Century

A sub-Indian kingdom that covered most of South-East Asia.

mid-6th cent.

Bhavamarman I

end of 6th cent.


early 7th cent.

Isanavarman I

early 7th cent.

Bhavavarman II

mid-7th cent.

Jayavarman I

early 8th cent.



730 - 731

A war of succession in the Pallava kingdom in India is avoided as military leaders (dandanayakas), scholars, and representatives of the merchant class and the peasantry form an entourage and undertake 'a long journey' to reach the kingdom of Kambujadesa (modern Cambodia and Vietnam). They are ruled by a certain Kadavesa Hari Varma, who is a sixth generation descendant of Bhimavarman, brother of the great Simhavishnu. Of his sons, only the youngest, Nandivarman, accepts his request to return to the Deccan to govern the Pallava kingdom as successor to the deceased Parameshvaravarman.



8th cent.


late 8th cent.

Rajendravarman I


Khmer Empire
AD 802 - 1432

The capital of the empire was at Angkor, which was founded in 889 by Jayavarman II and finally abandoned in 1432. At its height the kingdom extended even farther than its predecessor, taking in more territory to the north and reaching far down into the Thai peninsula. Numbering of the kings continues from Chen-la. It was customary for a Khmer emperor to build one or more grand templates during his reign in honour of his ancestors. It was Suryavarman II who decided to build a temple that was greater than any that had gone before - the great temple of Ankor Wat.

(Additional information by Ben Lawrie, and from the two-part BBC documentary series, Jungle Atlantis, first screened on 25 September 2014.)

802 - 850

Jayavarman II

850 - 877

Jayavarman III

877 - 889

Indravarman I

889 - 900

Yasovarman I

900 - c.922

Harshavarman I

c.922 - 928

Isanavarman II

928 - 942

Jayavarman IV

942 - 944

Harshavarman II

944 - 968

Rajendravarman II

968 - 1001

Jayavarman V

1001 - 1002

Udayadityavarman I

1002 - c.1011


1002 - 1050

Suryavarman I

1050 - 1066

Udayadityavarman II

1066 - 1090

Harshavarman III

1075 - 1076


The Northern Sung have introduced revolutionary and very fair-minded economic reforms. Nevertheless, these have incensed opponents who would rather retain the old tithe and tribute practices. Lý Nhân Tông of Dai Viet and his regent mother see an opportunity to interfere militarily, sparking the Sino–Vietnamese War of 1075-1076.

The Viet besiege Yongzhou but suffer high casualties due to resistance from inside the city walls. When they finally break through those walls they slaughter close to sixty thousand people.

The Sung response is delivered in 1076 in the form of an invasion of Dai Viet. Sung vassal states - Khmer and Champa - support them. Fortunes swing and both sides win a major battle, but casualties are tremendously high. Both sides are happy to sue for peace and the Sung withdraw, gradually.

1090 - 1107

Jayavarman VI

1107 - 1113

Dharanindravarman I

Ineffectual ruler. Killed.


Suryavarman kills Dharanindravarman in battle, seizing his throne at the tender age of seventeen. The empire is still in a state of civil war.

1113 - 1150

Suryavarman II

Built temple & mausoleum of Angkor Wat.

1120 - 1150

Work is started on the great temple of Suryavarman II, digging out the foundations in the middle of the jungle.

Construction of the temple and mausoleum of Angkor Wat is completed in 1150. By the end of the century, Angkor is a bustling metropolis covering a thousand square kilometres of territory.

Records concerning the death of Suryavarman and of the immediate events afterwards have not survived. The empire seems to fall into a state of chaos.

1150 - 1160

Dharanindravarman II

1160 - 1166

Yasovarman II

1166 - 1177


1177 - 1181

The throne is vacant.

1181 - c.1219

Jayavarman VII

c.1219 - 1243

Indravarman II

1243 - 1295

Jayavarman VIII

1295 - 1308

Indravarman III

1308 - 1327


1327 - 1353

Jayavarman Paramesvara

1353 - 1362

The throne is again vacant. The end of the medieval period also sees dramatic shifts in climate across South-East Asia. Tree ring samples record sudden fluctuations between extreme dry and wet conditions, and a modern (2014) lidar map of Angkor Wat reveals catastrophic flood damage to the city's vital water network. With this lifeline in tatters, Angkor enters a spiral of decline from which it never recovers.

1362 - 1369

Nippean Bat

1369 - 1375

The Khmer are controlled by Lan Na. As a result they lose much of their power for the next century, while they are embroiled in conflicts with the Thais.

1371 - ?


Ruled from Basan.

14th cent.


Recovered Angkor Wat.

14th cent.


? - 1389

The Khmer again fall under the control of the Thai kingdom of Lan Na.

1389 - 1404

Ponthea Yat

1404 - 1429

Narayana Ramadhipati

1429 - 1444

Sri Bodhya

1431 - 1432

The Khmer are defeated by Lan Na in 1431. The following year the capital is moved southwards to Phnom Penh. Angkor Wat is abandoned to the jungle and the seeds of modern Cambodia are sown.

1444 - 1486

Dharmara Jadhiraja

1486 - 1512

Sri Sukonthor

1512 - 1516

Ney Kan

1516 - 1566

Ang Chan I

1566 - 1576

Barom Reachea I

1576 - 1594

Chettha I


Phnom Penh is captured by Lan Na.

1594 - 1596

Reamea Chung Prey

1596 - 1599

Barom Reachea II

1599 - 1600

Barom Reachea III

1600 - 1603

Chau Ponhea Nhom

1603 - 1618

Barom Reachea IV

1618 - 1622

Chettha II

1622 - 1628



Ponhea To

1628 - 1642


1630 - 1642

Ponhea Nu

1640 - 1642

Ang Non I

1642 - 1659


1659 - 1672

Barom Reachea V

1672 - 1673

Chettha III

1673 - 1674

Ang Chei

1674 - 1675

Ang Non

1675 - 1695

Chettha IV

1695 - 1699

Outey I

1699 - 1701

Ang Em

1701 - 1702

Chettha IV


1702 - 1703

Thommo Reachea II

1703 - 1706

Chettha IV

Restored? d.c.1725.

1706 - 1710

Thommo Reachea II


1710 - 1722

Ang Em

Restored? d.1730.

1722 - 1738

Satha II

1738 - 1747

Thommo Reachea II



Thommo Reachea III

1747 - 1749

Ang Tong

1749 - 1755

Chettha V

1755 - 1758

Ang Tong

1758 - 1775

Outey II

1775 - 1796

Ang Non II

1796 - 1806


1806 - 1837

Ang Chan II

Recaptured throne in 1812. A Vietnamese puppet in later years.

1831 - 1834

The Siamese-Vietnamese War has the alternate title of the Siamese-Cambodian War. Following Ang Chan's recapture of the Cambodian throne in 1812, the Siamese have been moving into northern Cambodia and then advancing towards the south in support of their own claimant. The Cambodians are routed at the Battle of Kompong Chang in 1832, and Ang Chan is forced to flee to Vietnam. Siam is soon distracted by a revolt by the Cambodians at the same time as the Vietnamese-controlled Laos revolt. A Vietnamese army of 15,000 advances towards the Siamese in 1833, forcing the latter to withdraw. Ang Chan is restored, albeit as a Vietnamese puppet.

1837 - 1841

Ang Mey

Queen. Installed by Vietnam. Overthrown.

1841 - 1845

The 'Siamese-Vietnamese War in Cambodia', as it is known, has seen increasing Vietnamese influence in Cambodia during the reign of Queen Ang Mey. The Cambodians rebel in 1841, overthrowing the pro-Vietnamese elements and appealing to Siam.

Their chosen candidate is Prince Ang Duong, and he is duly installed by force in 1842. Viet Nam and Siam now face strike and counter-strike by their respective armies while the Cambodians rebel against the same Siamese heavy-handedness which had started the war in the first place.

On 13 September 1845, the Vietnamese take Phnom Penh and Siam is forced to withdraw. During the subsequent peace negotiations, Cambodia is placed under joint Siamese-Vietnamese protection.

1841 - 1859

Ang Duong

Installed by Siam.

1858 - 1863

In April 1858 a young French explorer, Henri Mouhot, sails from London to South-East Asia. For the next three years he travels widely, discovering exotic jungle insects that still bear his name. Today he would be all but forgotten were it not for his journal, published in 1863, two years after he dies of fever in Laos, aged just 35.

Readers are gripped by his vivid descriptions of vast temples consumed by the jungle: Mouhot introduces the world to the lost medieval city of Angkor and its romantic, awe-inspiring splendour. 'One of these temples, a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo, may take an honourable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome,' he writes. The largest of these buildings is Angkor Wat, constructed around 1150, which remains the biggest religious complex on Earth, covering an area four times larger than Vatican City.

1859 - 1904

Norodom I

Vassal of Siam.

1863 - 1954

The French unite the Viet regions of Annam, Tonkin, Cochinchina, and Cambodia into the 'Union of Indochina', otherwise known as French Indochina.


Norodom requests that France establish a protectorate over Cambodia, ending joint Siamese-Vietnamese protection. Siam voluntarily relinquishes its role and recognises the French protectorate of Cambodia. Viet Nam has its own problems, with creeping French colonial activities taking place within its borders.


France creates Laos out of the kingdom of Luang Prabang and the province of Xieng Khouang and added Laos to French Indochina.

1904 - 1927


1927 - 1941

Sisovath Monivong

1941 - 1955

Norodom II Sihanouk

1940 - 1941

From about October 1940 onwards, Thailand under the military domination of Lord Plaek Phibul Songkhram begins attacking the eastern banks of the Mekong between Vientiane and Champassak province, intent on creating a pan-Thai empire.

This erupts into a full Thai invasion of Laos in January 1941, but initial victories soon give way to a stalemate when the French colonial authorities of French Indochina win a great naval victory at Ko Chang.

Their Japanese overlords mediate a ceasefire, compelling the French colonial government to cede Champasak and Xaignabouli province in Laos and Battambang province in Cambodia to Thailand. This ends the war.

1941 - 1945

Japanese occupation.

1955 - 1960

Norodom III Suramarit

1960 - 1970

Norodom II Sihanouk

Prince & Head of State.

Cambodian Republics
AD 1970 - 1993

A period of turmoil, constant warfare to some extent, and of thousands of lives cut short. The conflict in South Vietnam seemingly spreads like a virus to drawn in the surrounding countries, first Laos and then Cambodia.

1970 - 1975

Prime Minister Lon Nol mounts a successful coup against King Sihanouk. The king organises a guerrilla movement from exile, but the First Republic is declared and the Lon Nol government rules the country. Supported by the US forces in South Vietnam, Cambodia quickly becomes mired in a civil war against the Khmer Rouge guerrilla forces. The republic falls after Phnom Penh is captured.

1975 - 1979

Lon Nol's fracturing government mirrors the state of the country as a whole, as the Khmer Rouge continue to advance upon the capital. The Second Republic is proclaimed by the victorious Khmer Rouge. In fact, the republic quickly turns into a communist dictatorship under the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot. He and his forces become responsible for the notorious 'killing fields' and for returning the country to 'Year One'. The population is driven from the cities and is subjected to violent totalitarian rule in the countryside, while all technological advancements are banned on pain of death (although senior figures continue to enjoy many of the better trappings of life).

1975 - 1976

Norodom II Sihanouk

Prince & Head of State.

1979 - 1991

Following several border incursions and attacks on Vietnamese villages by the Khmer Rouge rulers of Cambodia, Vietnamese troops invade and conquer of much of it. The Khmer Rouge are pushed back from the heartland of the country and have to resume a guerrilla warfare approach to maintaining what positions they do retain. The pro-Vietnamese Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party wins the Cambodian elections in 1981, forming the Third Republic, but its rule is not internationally recognised and later faces mounting guerrilla resistance. Vietnamese dominance in Cambodia lasts until 1991, although the last Vietnamese troops are withdrawn in 1989.

1991 - 1993

A peace agreement is signed in Paris in 1991, ushering in a power-sharing administration. An interim government is created that is headed by Prince Norodom II as head of state. This is supported by a United Nations mission.

Modern Cambodia / Kampuchea
AD 1993 - Present Day

Cambodia suffered a period of intense turmoil during the second half of the twentieth century. Temporarily stripped of its monarchy, the country decided to restore this ancient institution and is once again known as the 'Kingdom of Cambodia'. This largely Buddhist country is located in the southern part of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, and is neighboured by Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, part of the Gulf of Thailand to the south, and the country of Thailand to the north and west.

Modern Cambodia is the heir to the ancient Khmer empire, which was founded at the start of the ninth century AD. The empire declined from the fourteenth century as a result of dramatic climate change in the region. A new capital had to be created at Phnom Penh to avoid the now-flooded Angkor Wat, and successive domination by several neighbouring kingdoms followed. In the nineteenth century French colonial rule largely displaced the ruling kings, until France was displaced itself during its eclipse in the Second World War. US influence gradually took over, to be ended by a crippling civil war in which Pol Pot's communist dictatorship return the clock to 'Year Zero'.

Following this period of total anarchy and destruction, Cambodia re-emerged into the modern world and benefited from two decades of relative stability between around 1995 to 2015. Painful memories still endure of the radical Khmer Rouge dictatorship, but the country seems finally to be on the road to recovery, with a new generation emerging that is making the most of its freedoms. The economy is dominated by garment-making, but tourism is expanding, and Cambodia hopes to tap into offshore oil and gas reserves and draw in overseas investment to replace aid. Corruption is still deep-rooted and Cambodia is still one of the world's poorest countries, with most of the workforce still employed in subsistence farming.

(Additional information by John De Cleene, from Washington Post (22 August 2023), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and East Asia Forum, and Deutsche Welle.)


General elections see the royalist Funcinpec party winning the most seats, with Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) coming second. A three-party coalition is formed, with Funcinpec's Prince Norodom Ranariddh as prime minister and Hun Sen as deputy prime minister. The monarchy is restored, with Sihanouk being returned to the throne. The country is re-named the 'Kingdom of Cambodia' in English, with most far eastern countries using 'Kampuchea' - both names are derived from Khmer.

1993 - 2004

Norodom II Sihanouk

Restored. Abdicated due to frustration with political system.

1994 - 1996

Thousands of Khmer Rouge guerrillas surrender under the terms of a 1994 government amnesty, although Pol Pot never surrenders and dies in his jungle hideout in 1998. Two years later, in 1996, Ieng Sary, deputy leader of the Khmer Rouge, forms a new political party and is granted amnesty by Sihanouk.

Hun Sen
Despite sometimes hardline tactics used in maintaining his hold on power, Hun Sen (centre, in green, shown during a visit to paddy fields) did a good job of cultivating a populist image which saw him making a huge number of site visits and attending ceremonies and special occasions of all types


Former communist Hun Sen - soon to be one of the world's longest-serving prime ministers - has been in power in various coalitions since 1985. Briefly a member of the Khmer Rouge he remains prime minister until 2023.

In 1997 he launches a coup to seize power from his co-prime minister, Prince Ranariddh, brother of the king. Now sole ruler, he apparently uses his office to become increasingly authoritarian, using a mixture of electoral fraud, corruption, and intimidation to maintain quasi-dictatorial rule.


The widely venerated and long-serving King Sihanouk abdicates in favour of his son. The decision is largely due to his frustration with Cambodia's political system in which little seems to be achieved, but poor health also plays a role.

Unlike previous kings under the old system, Sihanouk's role is largely a ceremonial one, with little political power to force through necessary reforms (the former king dies in 2012 following a heart attack at the age of eighty-nine).

2004 - Present

Norodom III Sihamoni

Son. Chosen by throne council one week later, on 14 Oct.

2014 - 2015

In January 2014, riot police clear a two-week opposition protest camp that has appeared in Phnom Penh. The camp is part of a long-running campaign against the government following the disputed 2013 election.

In July, 150,000 Cambodian workers return home from neighbouring Thailand after rumours circulate that the new military junta there will crack down on illegal migrants. Despite the protests and continued unrest in the country, in 2015 Hun Sen is able to celebrate thirty years in power.


Hun Sen resigns as prime minister after a 'reign' of thirty-eight years. His son, Hun Manet, takes over, in effect becoming the country's new ruler. Hun Sen does not retire from politics however. He continues to be active behind the scenes.

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