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Backgrounder: Basic facts about Phnom Penh, venue of 20th ASEAN Summit


11:15, March 31, 2012

PHNOM PENH, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The preparatory meetings leading to the 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit kicked off in the Peace Palace here on Friday.

Following are basic facts about the hosting city:

Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia, is located in the south-central region of Cambodia and at the confluence of three rivers -- the Mekong, the Bassac and Tonle Sap.

Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonial era, and remains as the country's political and economic hub. The city is divided into three sections -- the north, an attractive residential area; the south or the French part of the city featuring government offices, banks and colonial houses; and the center or the heart with narrow lanes, markets, food stalls and boutiques.

The metropolitan area of Phnom Penh is home to more than 2 million of Cambodian population of over 14 million, and is mostly inhabited by Khmers who represent 90 percent of the population. There are large minorities of Chinese, Vietnamese and other small ethnic groups who are Thai, Budong, Mnong Preh, Kuy, Chong and Chams.

Once known as the "Pearl of Asia", Phnom Penh, along with Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia and Sihanoukville, a beach resort 185 kilometers southwest of the capital, are significant global and domestic tourist destinations in the country.

Over the past four years, the wealthiest and most populous city in the country has undergone tremendous changes, as a new wave of investors move in, perhaps forever transforming the character and skyline of this classic place. Double-digit economic growth rates in recent years have triggered an economic boom in Phnom Penh, with new hotels, restaurants, bars, high-rises and residential buildings springing up constantly.

In sum, Phnom Penh is a mirror of Asia's past and present, a city of extremes of poverty and excess, of charm and chaos, but one that never fails to captivate.


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