Printable version

Socio-Demographic Indicators Year Value
Human Development Index 2005 0.598a
Human Development Index, Rank 2005 131a
Gender-related Development Index 2005 0.594a
Gender-related Development Index, Rank 2005 113a
Population Mid-year (In millions) 2008 14.7b
Rate of Natural Increase (%) 2008 1.8b
Life Expectancy (Male/Female) 2008 59/66b

Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008)

Economic Indicators Year Value
GDP Growth Rate (%) 2006 10.4c
GDP Per Capita (PPP US$) 2005 2,727a
GNI PPP Per Capita (US$) 2007 1,690b
Unemployment Rate --- ---

Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008); cADB (2007)



Cambodia’s per capita income is among the lowest in the world. Poverty remains prevalent, with 35 to 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line (ADB, 2005). Droughts, political volatility and the Asian financial crisis hampered its economic development in 1997 and 1998. Growth has been steady since 1999 (driven largely by an expansion in the garment sector and tourism between 2001 and 2004[1]). Economic expansion was strong in 2004-2006 with double-digit growth. The agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP has fallen since 1995, but agriculture still plays a crucial role in society, accounting for 70 percent of employment (Joiner, 2006). Cambodia has a unique demographic situation; more than half the population is less than 21 years old.[2] It borders Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
The following are among the landmark events that have had a bearing on Cambodia’s migration experience:
  •  Law on Suppression of the Kidnapping and Trafficking of Human Persons and the Exploitation of Human Persons (1996)
  • MoU between Cambodia and Thailand on Bilateral Cooperation in Eliminating Trafficking in Children and Women, and Assisting Victims of Trafficking (2003)
  • MoU on Cooperation in the Employment of Workers with Thailand (2003)
As of 2005, the stock of immigrants in Cambodia was 303,871 amounting to 2.2 percent of the kingdom’s total population. Immigrants came from Vietnam, Thailand, China, France, Laos, the US, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and Singapore (World Bank, n.d.).
Montagnards (Degar) Christians from the Central Highlands in Vietnam started fleeing to Cambodia after suffering harassment and discrimination by the government. Many Montagnards assisted the US during the Vietnam War. More than 1,000 Montagnards fled to Cambodia and took shelter in two UNHCR camps. In March 2002, Cambodia allowed the processing for resettlement of over 900 Montagnards in the US. However, the Cambodian authorities have forced the Montagnards back to Vietnam.[3]
In 2005, the stock of Cambodian emigrants reached 348,710. The destination countries included the US, France, Thailand, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland, Laos and Germany (World Bank, n.d.).
Cambodia had been bombarded by various internal and international conflicts, which led to waves of refugees seeking asylum in neighboring countries particularly to Thailand from 1978 to 1979.
Around 160,000 Cambodian refugees resettled in camps within Thailand, 350,000 lived outside the refugee camps in Thailand whereas 100,000 went to Vietnam. From 1978 to 1993, most Cambodian refugees were resettled in the US, Australia, France and Canada. There are some 206,000 people of Cambodian descent in the US (SEARAC, n.d.).
In October 2005, Thailand had 182,007 registered Cambodians according to the Ministry Interior of Thailand. This figure represented 13 percent of all registered migrants in Thailand (Maltoni, 2006). There were 181,579 Cambodian migrants in Thailand, 32 percent women and 68 percent men. These figures are based on the July 2004 open registration of migrant workers and their dependents. It is estimated that about 80,000 undocumented Cambodian migrants are working in Thailand (IOM, 2004). To curb irregular migration, Cambodia signed a labor pact with Thailand in 2003. The recent years have also seen a growing number of Cambodians migrating to Malaysia, South Korea and Saudi Arabia (Maltoni, 2006).
Cambodia has tightened its efforts to combat sex crimes, child abuse and human trafficking and vows to work with various institutions to minimize such cases of abuse. The government has also vowed to work with various institutions to resolve these problems (AMN, 15 October 2006).
Asian Development Bank
2007   “Southeast: Cambodia.” In Asian Development Outlook 2007. Available at
2005   “Cambodia.” In Asian Development Outlook 2005. Available at
Index Mundi
2008   “Cambodia Economy Profile 2008.” Available at, accessed on 15 January 2008.
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
2004   “Labour Migration in the Mekong River.” Available at, accessed on 16 January 2008.
Joiner, Alex
2006   “Cambodia Economic Overview.” Available at
Maltoni, Bruno
2006   “Review of Labor Migration Dynamics in Cambodia.” Available at
Montagnard Foundation, Inc.
2003   “Cambodia Sends Last Montagnard Refugees Back to Vietnam.” Available at, accessed on 20 January 2008.
Population Reference Bureau
2008   “2008 World Population Data Sheet.” Available at, accessed on 21 November 2008.
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
n.d.   “Cambodian Refugees.” Available at, accessed on 16 January 2008.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
2007  “Human Development Report 2007/2008.” Available at
World Bank
n.d.    “Cambodia.” Available at
accessed on 23 November 2007.


[3] See


© Scalabrini Migration Center, 2000. All rights reserved.