Although, during the Cold War, culture was of little importance and the country was identified by its choice of one of the opposed camps, end of the bipolar world has changed everything. Today, under conditions of globalization and spreading of common democratic values, culture is of specific importance. In traditional countries, which are characterized by a long history of instability, cultural specifics are of more socio-political values than even political preferences or participation in elections. This is particularly relevant for the Asian countries which have their own cultural tradition in contrast to relatively homogenous Western examples. Thus, comprehension of culture is vital for an efficient policy conduct and making decisions. The aim of the present paper is to explore the main characteristic features of Cambodian culture and its conditionality.
In general, Cambodian culture is relatively homogenous (meaning quite low level of minorities' self expression), supremacy of ancient culture of Khmer Empire (9th-15th century) followed by prevalence of monarchic rule of Norodom Sihamoni. The culture is also influenced by French colonization and recent trends of globalization (Gottesman 87). The first feature of the culture is conditioned by the fact that almost 90 % of 14.8 million population belongs to original Khmer ethnic group, which speaks official Khmer language. Ethnic minorities are represented by Vietnamese, Chinese, Cham and Khmer Loeu people. Thus, homogeneity contributes to stability of cultural traditions and prevalence of official language, national religion, which is Theravada Buddhism. From a societal perspective, this feature of culture contributes to stability and equality of education spreading, since Buddhist temples are the main educational facilities in the country (Ray, Robinson and Bloom 287).
Cambodian culture is characterized by huge respect to the ancient inheritance of Khmer Empire, which was embodied in monarch-centric religion and is symbolized in Angkor Wat architectural complex, which is a place of religious worshiping. The city and the area around are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This makes the place not only of national but also international importance, especially in the framework of potential targeting this place by terrorist groups (Ray et al., 187). On the other hand, this site is of huge economic and international importance because it attracts numerous tourists each year. Respect to imperial traditions of the past corresponds to continued rule of monarchy in the country. In this regard, the culture is characterized by division between levels of society and existence of royal protocol and traditions. This feature does not only result in preservation of national Apsara dance, but in huge difference between urban and suburban areas and capital in general. The Royal family due to its reserved and formal culture and usage of French language is likely to have an impact on the capital of Phnom Penh, while provincial heads of districts have their own relatively independent view on rule of the territories, not to speak about entirely different approaches on the local levels (Gottesman 17). Thus, prevalence of traditions and supremacy of monarchy does not contribute to the unity and efficiency of ruling in places. Difference in level of development in urban and suburban areas decreases levels of communication not only between districts, but also within them (Ollier and Winter 102).
French colonization of 1863-1953 contributed to territorial losses of Mekong Delta to Vietnam and subsequent isolation of Khmer Krom minority on that territory, which contributed to the tense relationship between two countries, which were further worsened during Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia in 1978 (Morris 48). On the other hand, French colonization contributed to the development of the relevant economic infrastructure and contemporary pro-Western orientation of the country. This was conducted by means of cultural influence, since most of the elder population was still speaking local dialect of French. This also eased spreading of globalization in the country. Acceptance of foreigners was improved by knowledge of French language and tourist necessity of knowing English, which is more widely known in big cities of Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Poiepet and others (Gottesman 87). On the other hand, globalization contributed to the development of a huge gap between urban and rural areas, and lessened communication between different terrains. Thus, until certain extent it can be argued that urban and rural areas of Cambodia are two entirely different countries which should be considered by policymakers (Ollier and Winter 79).
Irrespective of the general characteristic of the country, people are the main asset of any international interactions. From this analysis, it can be concluded that people's element of ASCOPE would be one of the most complicated to identify in general and that each region of the country would have its characteristic features and tendencies for further development. On the other hand from all mentioned above, any policymaker would be able to understand that irrespective of relevant cultural homogeneity of Cambodian society, historical conditionality of it and contemporary status of ethnic minorities might become the source of tensions and potential conflict. This is particularly relevant in the framework of Cambodia-Vietnamese relations, worsening of which can cause instability in the region (Ollier and Winter 82). This is particularly relevant in the framework of 2003 anti-Vietnamese demonstrations. Another dimension of potential concern might be authority structure of Cambodia. In this context is meant the fact that there was no final trial of Khmer Rouge elite and many of the former regime supports ended up in the new government (Morris 36). These matters are of particular attention, due to the aforementioned cultural specifics of the country. Overall, it can be concluded that cultural profiling is essential for comprehension for comprehension of the country and further decision-making process.
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