Geographical aspects of South East Asian countries – 6

Geography of Cambodia

Cambodia is a country in mainland South-east Asia, bordering Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand and covers a total area of 181,035 km². The country is situated in its entirety inside the tropical Indomalayan ecozone and the Indochina Time zone. Cambodia has a land area of 181,035 square kilometers in the south-western part of the Indochina peninsula, about 20 percent of which is used for agriculture. It lies completely within the tropics with its southern most points slightly more than 10° above the Equator.

International borders are shared with Thailand and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on the West and the North, and the Social Republic of Viet Nam on the East and the Southeast. The country is bounded on the Southeast by the Gulf of Thailand. In comparison with neighbours, Cambodia is a geographical contact country administratively composed of 20 provinces, three of which have relatively short maritime boundaries, 2 municipalities, 172 districts, and 1,547 communes. The country has a coastline of 435 km and extensive mangrove stands, some of which are relatively undisturbed.

The dominant features of the Cambodian landscape are the large, almost generally located, Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the Bassac River Systems and the Mekong River, which crosses the country from North to South. Surrounding the Central Plains which covered three quarters of the country’s area are the more densely forested and sparsely populated highlands, comprising: the Elephant Mountains and Cardamom Mountain of the southwest and western regions; the Dangrek Mountains of the North adjoining of the Korat Plateau of Thailand; and Rattanakiri Plateau and Chhlong highlands on the east merging with the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.

The Tonle Sap Basin-Mekong Lowlands region consists mainly of plains with elevations generally of less than 100 meters. The Cardamom Mountains in the southwest rise to more than 1,500 meters and is oriented generally in a northwest-southeast direction. The highest mountain in Cambodia –Phnom Aural, at 1.771meters – is in the eastern part of this range.

The Elephant Range, an extension of Cardamom Mountains, runs towards the south and the southeast and rises to elevations of between 500 and 1,000 meters. These two range are bordered on the west are narrow coastal plain facing the gulf of Thailand that contains Kampong Som Bay. The Dangrek Mountains at the northern rim of Tonle Sap Basin, consisting of a steep escarpment on the southern edge of the Korat Plateau in Thailand, marks the boundary between Thailand and Cambodia. The average elevation of about 500 meters with the highest points reaching more than 700 meters. Between the northern part of the Cardamom ranges and the western part of the Dangrek, lies and extension of the Tonle Sap Basin that merges into the plains in Thailand, allowing easy accesses from the border of Bangkok.

The Mekong River Cambodia’s largest river, dominates the hydrology of the country. The river originates in mainland China, flows through Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand before entering Cambodia. At Phnom Penh, with alternative arms, the Bassak River from the south, and the Tonle Sap River linking with the ” Great Lake ” itself –Tonle Sap – form northwest. It continues further south eastward to its lower delta in Viet Nam and to the South China Sea.