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CAMBODIA » SOUTHEAST » History of Phnom Penh
 
 
History of Phnom Penh 
 

PHNOM PENH CAPITAL

Phnom Penh was founded by a rich old lady named Penh, whose house was not for from the riverbank, on a knoll on the eastern side of a small hill.

One day, when the water had overflowed, she went down to the riverbank and found a large Koki tree drifting down the river. She immediately called her neighbors to get into a boat to catch that tree.

After taking it to the bank, she cleaned out the mud and discovered four bronze Buddha statues and one stone Buddha in the hollow tree. Lady Penh and her neighbors exulted in their discovery. They brought all the statues to lady Penh’s house. Then, she asked the people to build a small cottage for those statues in front of her house and to build up a hill “Phnom” nearby.

After that, she had the Koki sawn up for wood to make a sanctuary. In 1372, as a result of the firm support and assistance of her neighbors, Lady Penh built up a sanctuary on that hill and covered it with grass called “Sbov Phlaing”. The sanctuary housed the four bronze statues, whereas the stone statue, she put at the foot of the hill to the east.

When the work was finished, the monks were invited to settle at the foot of the hill to the west.
Then they called it “Wat Phnom Daun Penh” (odl lady Penh’s Pagoda). The temple today is popular with local residents who offer prayers for good luck in business dealings or education.

Phnom Penh has had a colourful history dating back to the mid fifteen century. In 1434, King Ponhea Yat moved the capital from Bassak City (in ancient Kampong Cham Province) to Phnom Daun Penh.

The sanctuary built by lady Penh had been removed, but the King decided to construct a new one. Then he tried to build up the hill and constructed a brick stupa on top.

After the inauguration, the King named the hill “Preah Chetdei Paravata”, but nowadays it is simply called Wat Phnom.

The first establishment did not last long, the capital moved from one place to another. However, its location at the meeting point of the Mekong and the Tonle Sab allowed it to become a centre for trade. The port received goods, mostly from China, which were shipped in through the Mekong Delta.

In the 1960s, Phnom Penh was a beautiful city, with its broad boulevards, its riverside setting, and its mixture of elegant French colonial architecture and Khmer temples.

Until 1866, in the reign of King Norodom, the capital moved to Phnom Daun Penh again and remains up to the present time. Phnom Pehn is the sixth capital after Nokor Phnom, Angkor Wat, Longvek, Srei Santhor, and Oudong.
During the Vietnam War, refugees swelled the population in Phnom Penh to almost 2 million. Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge turned Phnom Penh into a ghost town. Many people were killed, while others were forced out of the city. Today, most of the people living in the city moved there from the countryside.

Most of the French colonial buildings and old houses in Phnom Penh are crumbling. Public health facilities are in poor condition and many other facilities and buildings need repair, but the city and port are bustling again. With the revival of the Cambodian economy, Phnom Penh now has the possibility of regaining its former prosperity and charm.

The Phnom Penh Capital with over two million inhabitants covers an area of 290 square kilometers. It is seriously considered the major centre of administration, commerce, communication, culture, economy, education, industry, policy, and tourism for home and world services. The city offers tourists a lot of modern hotels and restaurants with diversified services.