Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand between Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Although Cambodia was reclassified in 2016 as a lower-middle income country by The World Bank, 2.6 million of Cambodia’s 15.76 million people live on less than $1.20 a day and Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia.
Formerly part of French Indochina, Cambodia gained full independence from France in 1953. Twenty-two years later, in April 1975, communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh and began one of the worst genocides in history. Between 1975 and 1979, 1.5 million Cambodians out of a total population of 7 to 8 million died of execution, starvation, disease or overwork as part of Khmer leader Pol Pot’s efforts to create an agrarian socialist society. The Khmer Rouge sought to create a classless society by targeting intellectuals, city residents, ethnic Vietnamese, civil servants and religious leaders. In December 1978, Vietnamese troops liberated Cambodia. However, guerilla operations on the part of the Khmer Rouge continued for years to come.
The effects of the Cambodian genocide went beyond the loss of life. The country’s infrastructure was destroyed which created challenges to rebuilding the economy. Cambodian society lacked human resources since nearly all intellectuals had been executed by the Khmer Rouge. The United Nations Development Program estimated that only 300 qualified people of all disciplines were left in the country. The Khmer Rouge also left over 200,000 orphans in need of care.
With 40 percent of the population under 24 years old and the median age as 25 years old, Cambodia’s future rests in the hands of its youth. Liger Leadership Academy believes it is imperative to equip a new generation with the capacity and drive to lead Cambodia’s future social and economic development. LLA is committed to nurturing highly-skilled entrepreneurial thinkers who are globally-minded, determined, ethical, passionate, and effective. Liger students aren’t waiting for tomorrow; they are changing their country now.