By 1450 or so, the capital had shifted southward to the region of present-day Phnom Penh, where it has remained ever since.
Over the next four centuries, Cambodia became a small Buddhist kingdom dependent on the goodwill of its neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam, In the mid-19th century, conflict between these kingdoms spilled onto Cambodian soil, and Cambodia almost disappeared.
In 1863 the Cambodian king, fearful of Thai intentions, asked France to provide protection for his kingdom.
France kept Cambodia from being swallowed up, but the protectorate developed into a full-scale colonial relationship that the king had not foreseen.
State-sponsored Hinduism, and the temples inspired by that religion, lost their importance, but for many years the kingdom remained strong and prosperous, as the Chinese emissary Zhou da guan reported in 1296.
Over the next 200 years, the empire shrank, as tributary states in what is now Thailand declared their independence and invaded Cambodian territory.Elements of Indian culture, in the meantime, took root among Cambodia’s elite, and by the 5th and 6th centuries several Hinduized kingdoms sprang up in southern Cambodia.We know about them from the remains of small religious monuments in brick, laterite and stone, from massive stone sculptures, and from inscriptions in Sanskrit and Cambodian, or Khmer.The spokesman was also boasting that Cambodia's recorded history stretched back for two millennia.In fact, archaeological data has revealed that the area we now call "Cambodia" was inhabited by human beings at least 40,000 years ago.Cities developed along the coast in the centuries before and after the birth of Christ.Indian and Chinese pilgrims and traders passed through these cities, and for the first centuries of the Christian era sources for Cambodian history that survive are almost entirely written in Chinese.Since then, Cambodia has been a constitutional monarchy ruled by a coalition government that has accepted large infusions of foreign aid.In 1999 Cambodia became a member of ASEAN, and became for the first time, after centuries of isolation, a full-fledged member of the Southeast Asian community.Taking inspiration from French and Buddhist education systems, Cambodia was the model of education in the region: education attainment rates grew steadily at a remarkable rate of more than 2 percent.Prince Sihanouk was deposed in 1970, just 17 years after Cambodia gained independence, and the country was embroiled in conflict for the next two decades.