In 2012 Cambodia reached 14 million 952 thousand 665 persons, following the statistics of Index Mundo, which prevents that this estimate takes into account ‘the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS.’ Most Cambodians are by now 22 years old, being males younger the women. 32.2 percent of Cambodians are under 15 years old and 3.8 percent are older than 65. Cambodia continues to be a country with a very young population that is growing, though the unemployment rate is low with 0,2 percent as January 2012. In 2012 there was an estimate of 20% of Cambodians living in cities, but it is probably that such percent grew very much during the last year if we see how Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville are growing so fast.
In the human rights perception by the international community and local human rights defenders, Cambodia did not convince. The Human Rights Watch says that Cambodian human rights remains poor and points out the practice ‘to use the judiciary, penal code, and threats of arrest or legal action to restrict free speech, jail government critics, disperse peaceful protests by workers and farmers, and silence opposition party members.’ The Cambodian Human Rights Portal enlisted the human rights sins of 2012, mostly related with forced evictions. This year Cambodia human rights defender and The Cambodia Daily produced a report on land concessions: ‘Carving Up Cambodia.’ In a report of an European Union Delegation to Cambodia, it is said that ‘environmental and natural resources in Cambodia are threatened by short-sighted over-exploitation on an increasing and threatening scale. This reduces the Country’s overall natural capital, yet whilst great benefits flow to the few; equally great burdens fall on the many.’
Cambodia presided in 2012 ASEAN, an event where it put an evident good will and interest to gain an international recognition, although it has been shadowed by the South Chinese Sea dispute, portraying the Kingdom as a Chinese ally (see China Stalls Move to Quell Asia Disputes Over Territory in The New York Times.) As some prominent members of ASEAN like the Philippines are involved in the dispute with China, it is possible that ASEAN will endure a difficult division in the year to come and Cambodia will be forced to take a definite position that could undermine its leadership in the group or not. It is not possible to say yes to everybody.
Tensions with Thailand over a strip of land around Preah Vehear decreased during 2012, mostly thanks to the new government of P.M. Yingluck Shinawatra of the Pheu Party. 2013 will remind us this case during the public hearings scheduled by the International Court of Justice in April to follow the 2011 Cambodian request of interpretation of the 1962 ruling on Preah Vehear sovereignty.
The passing away of King Norodom Sihanouk was with no doubt the most important fact of Cambodia in 2012. Prince Sihanouk passed away on a Beijing Hospital on 15th October and his remains were brought to Phnom Penh for cremation.