When I was there, those responsible for solving the transfer and visa issues to cross the border crossing from Thailand do not think they exceeded twenty. The hostel we stayed in Siem Reap It was run by a group of boys and girls aged between 15 and 25. The boy who made us a taxi driver during our visit to the Angkor temples I was 18 years old. The workers in a construction where I stopped to take a look, enjoyed their twenties.
One walks through the streets of the second most important city in Cambodia and hardly meets older people. An extremely young population prevails. And one wonders: "what is happening here?" And as always, for everything (or almost everything) there is an explanation.
Reviewing the history of Cambodia we will find many dark periods like the one lived in the late 70's when the country was ruled by the Khmer Rouge led by a character whose name I recommend you do not mention too much if you are there, Pol Pot.
A quarter of the population - a quarter! - was exterminated between 1975 and 1979 at the hands of Pol Pot and his minions, who intended to build 'a new communist Cambodia'. A Cambodia in which there was no room for people capable of thinking for themselves or daring enough to make an opinion public. About 2 million people were killed for representing what Pol Pot called 'the hidden enemy', that is, everything that he considered contrary to his plan to return Cambodia up to a 'point 0', in which the population returned to live exclusively on crops and livestock. Teachers, engineers, architects and politicians, among many others, were eliminated because they were considered obstacles in the path. Famines and epidemics did the rest. In short, that fate decided to be ruthlessly primed with this Asian nation.
Then came a Vietnamese invasion, different monarchical periods and abdications, a coup d'etat and a continuous succession of calamities. Total, that when I was in Cambodia I could not avoid the feeling of being in a country that is still in a post-war period with everything that implies: poverty, places to rebuild, unemployment, bad infrastructure, epidemics and other problems that have left as inheritance long years of injustice.
However, the increase in tourism, the increase in international aid, the work of NGOs and investment, seem to start to put a little light in this long and tedious tunnel.
If you are planning to travel to Asia, from the bottom of my heart I recommend that you include Cambodia in your itinerary. The country of the eternal smile, in spite of the inclemencies and its dark past, overflows energy and illusion being a place that has a lot to offer and will appreciate everything you offer.