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Travel Guide > Asia > Cambodia > Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh History & Politics

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Those who find Phnom Penh's current state lacking should recall the terrible times the city has been through in recent decades. In 1975 it was choked with up to 2 million refugees from the war between the then U.S.-backed government and the Khmer Rouge. Following the fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, it was completely emptied of civilians and allowed to crumble for several years. Most of the small class of skilled professionals had been murdered by Pol Pot, or driven into exile.

As Cambodia's economy has risen, a new rich class has arisen in Phnom Penh, and a crop of new hotels and restaurants has opened to accommodate them and the tourist trade. There is now a large gulf between the very rich and the very poor, largely due to Cambodia's all-pervasive corruption. A trip to the green-domed Sorya Mall will transport you to the consumerist world to which the emerging middle and upper classes aspire.

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