The "Kingdom of Cambodia" is the official English name of the country. The English "Cambodia" is an anglicization of the French "Cambodge", which in turn is the French transliteration of the Khmer Kampuchea. Kampuchea is the shortened alternative to the country's official name in Khmer, Preah Reacheanachak Kampuchea (Khmer: ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា). The Khmer endonym Kampuchea derives from the Sanskrit name Kambujadeśa (कम्बोजदेश), composed of देश, desa ("land of" or "country of") and कम्बोज, Kambujas, which alludes to the foundation myths of the first ancient Khmer kingdom.
Colloquially, Cambodians refer to their country as either Srok Khmer (Khmer pronunciation: [srok kʰmae]), meaning "Khmer's Land", or the slightly more formal Prateh Kampuchea (ប្រទេសកម្ពុជា), literally "Country of Kampuchea". The name "Cambodia" is used most often in the Western world while "Kampuchea" is more widely used in the East.
The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, practised by approximately 95% of the population. The country's minority groups include Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams, and 30 hill tribes. The capital and largest city is Phnom Penh, the political, economic, and cultural centre of Cambodia. The kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with Norodom Sihamoni, a monarch chosen by the Royal Throne Council, as head of state. The head of government is Hun Sen, who is currently the longest serving non-royal leader in South East Asia and has ruled Cambodia for over 25 years.
In 802 AD, Jayavarman II declared himself king, uniting the warring Khmer princes of Chenla under the name "Kambuja". This marked the beginning of the Khmer Empire which flourished for over 600 years, allowing successive kings to control and exert influence over much of Southeast Asia and accumulate immense power and wealth. The Indianized kingdom built monumental temples including Angkor Wat, now a World Heritage Site, and facilitated the spread of first Hinduism, then Buddhism to much of Southeast Asia. After the fall of Angkor to Ayutthaya in the 15th century, a reduced and weakened Cambodia was then ruled as a vassal state by its neighbours. In 1863 Cambodia became a protectorate of France which doubled the size of the country by reclaiming the north and west from Thailand.
Cambodia gained independence in 1953. The Vietnam War extended into the country with the US bombing of Cambodia from 1969 until 1973. Following the Cambodian coup of 1970, the deposed king gave his support to his former enemies, the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge emerged as a major power, taking Phnom Penh in 1975 and later carrying out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 until 1979, when they were ousted by Vietnam and the Vietnamese backed People's Republic of Kampuchea in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War (1979–91). Following the 1991 Paris Peace Accords Cambodia was governed briefly by a United Nations mission (1992–93). The UN withdrew after holding elections in which around 90 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. The 1997 coup placed power solely in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People's Party, who remain in power as of 2016.