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The name "Cambodia" derives from the French Cambodge, which comes from the Khmer word Kâmpuchea, meaning "born of Kambu." During the socialist regimes of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) (1975–1979) and the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) (1979–1989), the country was known internationally as Kampuchea, but more recent governments have returned to using Cambodia, and the official name in English is now the Kingdom of Cambodia.Khmer as a noun or adjective can refer to the Cambodian language, people, or culture and thus suggests an ethnic and linguistic identity more than a political entity.There are no reliable statistics for ethnic populations, although the Khmer population is certainly the largest.A 1993 demographic study estimated that Khmer represented 88.7 percent of the population; Vietnamese, 5.2 percent; Cham, 2.5 percent; Chinese, 1 percent; and others (Thai, Lao, and smaller minority groups in the north and northeast), 2.6 percent. The dominant Khmer language belongs to the Austroasiatic language family and is related to Vietnamese, Mon, and a number of other Asian languages.There continues to be migration of Khmer Kraom to Cambodia, including young men who come as Buddhist monks; many Khmer Kraom have a strong sense of identity with the nation.Their role in Cambodia is complex in that while they are glorified as a symbol of lost territory, they are sometimes distrusted as being Vietnamese.Until recently, much of the area outside the flood plains was forested.
Pictures and bas-relief carvings of the four-faced tower of the Bayon at Angkor Thom and of âpsâras (celestial dancing girls) are ubiquitous in homes and public buildings.
However, at different times the empire ruled large parts of what is now Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
The population of the empire included Siamese and probably other Austroasiatic peoples who gradually assimilated to the Khmer.
In the fifteenth century, the capital was moved to the area of the intersection of the Sap and Mekong rivers, near present-day Phnom Penh, perhaps to enhance trade.
The most densely populated areas now are along the rivers in the provinces near Phnom Penh. According to a 1998 census, the population is 11.42 million.