The Khmer people have been living within the area covered by the present-day country of Cambodia at least since the 5th millennium BC. The ancient Kingdom of Funan occupied a wider area, and it was during that period that the culture became heavily influenced by Hinduism. The state of Chenla then arose. The Khmer Empire had its golden age in the 9th to the 13th centuries, when huge temple complexes were built, most notably Angkor Wat.
Spanish and Portuguese missionaries visited from the 16th century, and Cambodia became a protectorate of France in the 19th century, being ruled as part ofFrench IndochinaCambodia became an independent kingdom in 1953 under Norodom Sihanouk.
The Vietnam war extended into Cambodia, giving rise to the Khmer Rouge which took Phnom Penh in 1975 and carried out a campaign of mass killing. After a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in April 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns; at least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, enforced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under POL POT. A December 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside, led to a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war.
After years of isolation, the war-ravaged nation was reunited under the UN-sponsored elections in 1993 which helped restore some semblance of normalcy. The final elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999. Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability. The July 2003 elections were relatively peaceful, but it took one year of negotiations between contending political parties before a coalition government was formed.