Adhémard Leclère, Ang Duong, Bokor, Cham, French protectorate in Cambodia, Hainan Chinese, Jean-Michel Filippi, Kampong Som, Kampot Exhibition hall, Kampot Pepper, Kampot Résidencer, Kampot region, Kep, Kep Rotonde, Phnom Chhngok, Phnom Khyang, Phnom Penh – kampot – Sihanoukville railroad, Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville road, Phnom Totoeng, Pol Pot dyke, Roger Colne, S'aoch, Sangkum Reastr Niyum, Sihanoukville, Teochiu Chinese, Veal Renh Polders
For us, the region of Kampot refers to a natural entity of which the historical and geographical limits go well beyond the present province of Kampot and include the two new provinces of Kep and Kampong Som as well as parts of coastal Vietnam.
More precisely, the boundaries of this region are: the town of Tani in the north, the sea and the islands (including Koh Trâl – Phu Quoc) in the south, Ha Tien (nowadays in Vietnam) in the east, and the foothills of the Cardamom Mountains in the west.
The identity of this region is heavily influenced by the history of its turbulent relationships with the authorities of the kingdoms of Cambodia from the beginning of the Common Era: periods of integration will be followed by periods of isolation.
During the pre-Angkorian period, this region was a part of the kingdom of Funan. This is exemplified by the presence of three main troglodyte temples (Phnom Chhngok, Phnom Toteung and Phnom Khyang) and a significant number of minor shrines.
Different from neighboring Takeo province, where shrines would be built after the 9th century, the history of Kampot “stops” with the 9th century inscription (K 45) of Yaçovarman 1st.
There will be no further written documentation surviving prior to the 15th century.
The region was the object of considerable rivalries which, from the 18th century would oppose the Cambodian central power to the Vietnamese.
Mass arrival of Chinese would have important political consequences. This population was more prone to obey its own leaders than the authorities of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The importance of the region was emphasized during the reign of King Ang Duong (1796 – 1860), who built a harbor in Kampot and a road to link his capital Oudong to Kampot. Kampot then began the main port of entry and exit of Cambodia.
In the beginning of the French protectorate with the construction of a new road from Phnom Penh to Oudong, the economic importance of the region was confirmed for a short period.
However, the protectorate authorities soon preferred Cholon, in what is now Vietnam, to export Cambodian rice.
Economically weakened, the region of Kampot then experienced a wave of pirating. The insecurity peaked in the 1885 – 1886 rebellion, which was more violent than in other provinces.
Tourist and economic development of the 1930s would be followed by a long period of insecurity when France once again attempted to get a foothold in Indochina after World War II. The region was the stronghold of a Khmer Issarak – Viet Minh guerilla movement which would only en after independence in 1953.
The Sangkum Reastr Niyum (1955 – 1970) carried on the work of the protectorate in developing and urbanizing the region:
the Kampot exhibition hall
infrastructure development in Kep
the construction of the Phnom Penh – Kampot – Sihanoukville railroad.
And the construction of Sihanoukville
However, two years after Lon Nol’s coup d’état (March 1970), the region would be isolated.
At the time of Democratic Kampuchea (1975 – 1979), Kampot and the other towns of the province were emptied of their population.
The Khmer Rouge forced the population to work in enormous building sites.
The region would remain isolated till the United Nation Transitional Authority for Cambodia (UNTAC) intervention (1992 – 1993), due to growing unrest and insecurity.
The role played by commercial exchanges together with the various rebellions which isolated the region from the central power, opened up the Kampot region to the outside world. One of the consequences is the remarkable ethnic diversity of the region. There are several ethnic groups in the region:
These various ethnic groups specialize in their own particular products and, by doing so , have shaped the economic scene of the region. The religious diversity is also considerable: Buddhism, Islam and a very special form of Taoism.
To these historical and cultural characteristics, we have to add an exceptional natural environment. The Elephant Mountains, the rain forests around Kep, and the beauty of the Opal Coast will greatly contribute to create tourist destination of a high quality.
In order to protect and promote this heritage, it is therefore essential to create a museum to account for the characteristics of this region.
(To be followed)