Phnom Penh, capital city of Cambodia (Kampuchea), at the junction of the Mekong and Sab rivers, in the southern part of the country. The city was badly damaged and its population greatly reduced during civil war in the mid-1970s, but rebuilding began in the 1980s. The city had traditionally been a commercial centre for the Mekong Valley with facilities for transport by air, rail, river, and road. It is a major port, with an outlet to the South China Sea through the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Principal manufactured goods have included textiles, processed food, and beverages. Known as a picturesque Asian city with an enduring French colonial atmosphere, Phnom Penh has been home to a number of cultural and educational institutions, most of which were closed in 1975 when the city fell to the Khmer Rouge. The Museum of the Buddhist Institute featured a collection of artefacts of the Khmer civilization, and the National Museum of Phnom Penh housed a collection of antiquities dating from the 6th century. Among the institutions of higher education in the city were the University of Phnom Penh (1960), the Buddhist University (1954), the University of Fine Arts (1965), and the University of Agricultural Sciences (1965). Historical landmarks include palaces of former rulers of Cambodia and Buddhist temples.
The first permanent settlement here was probably established in the late 14th century by the Khmers, and in 1434 it displaced Angkor Thom as the Khmer capital. Phnom Penh was abandoned and reoccupied several times before it became Cambodia’s capital in 1865. In the mid-1970s warfare in Cambodia led to social upheaval in the city; for a time almost all its more than 1 million inhabitants were forced to evacuate Phnom Penh and move to the countryside as agricultural workers, and a sizeable proportion of the city’s educated population were executed. The city was resettled during the 1980s, and some of its cultural and educational institutions reopened. Population 1,157,000 (2003 estimate).