What if the Khmer Empire Reunited Today?
First published: Saturday May 14th, 2022
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At its territorial peak in 1203, the Khmer Empire was among some of the largest and most powerful empires in Southeast Asia at the time and controlled almost all of the Indochinese Peninsula. However, gradually as time went on, the empire began to suffer a long and steady decline in power and land, mainly due to droughts, plagues and floods in the region. Coupled with constant food shortage and quite poor leadership, it didn't seem like it could last for much longer. Eventually in the year 1431, after over 500 years of existence, the empire's capital, Angkor fell under siege by a foreign Siamese kingdom, marking the official end of the Khmer Empire.
But what if the empire reunited today?
Population and Land
So, the first thing we would need to think about the Khmer Empire if it came back to life in the modern world is its population, land and the population centres that would be in it.
Coming to talking about its land first, a total of 6 modern-day countries would lose all or some of their territory to the new country: Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Despite this not seeming that much, the Khmer Empire would actually still have a decently sized land area if you take into consideration how large these countries really are.
In total, the land area of the Khmer Empire, if it reunited to the exact same borders it once had at its territorial height, would stand at a quite large 1.04 Million Sq Km (399,000 Sq mi), enough to make it the 29th largest country in the world, slightly larger than Mauritania (1.03 Million Sq Km) and Egypt (1.002 Million Sq km), but smaller than Bolivia (1.098 Million Sq Km) and Ethiopia (1.104 Million Sq Km).
As well as its land area, the population of a reunited Khmer Empire would also be a significant amount, standing quite high on the world rank, at 113 Million and a population density of 108/km2. This is very large and would be enough to make the empire the 13th most populous country in the world, even ahead of many other very populated countries such as the Philippines (112 Million) and Egypt (106 Million), but behind Ethiopia (120 Million) and Japan (125 Million). Thailand account the most for the whole population, totalling up to just about 59%.
Another thing that the Khmer Empire would be able to boast would be the cities within its borders, which would be very interesting to talk about. Choosing a capital city for the new country would be a quite hard choice to make as all of the former capitals of the historic Khmer Empire are nothing but ruins today. So, in my opinion, Phnom Penh would be the next logical option as it is very close to the ruins of Angkor, the former Khmer capital, and is also a thriving city in the 21st century with a population of over 2.5 million. Despite this, Bangkok, in Thailand, would be the biggest city in the empire, with a population of 19.4 million, much larger than Phnom Penh. Here would be the rest of the top 10 biggest cities in the Khmer Empire:
- Bangkok (19,400,000)
- Ho Chi Minh City (10,600,000)
- Phnom Penh (2,580,000)
- Can Tho (1,700,000)
- Bien Hoa (1,250,000)
- Vientiane (948,000)
- Vung Tau (527,000)
- Buon Ma Thuot (502,000)
- Pleiku (458,000)
- Phan Thiet (400,000)
Despite there being a few agglomerations and even megacities in the Khmer Empire, most of the population would live in rural areas or other small towns.
Money and Economy
The next thing we need to think about a reunited Khmer Empire is its economy, which would also be quite an interesting topic to discuss. Starting with its whole wealth, the Nominal GDP of the country would stand at a decently high $777 Billion. This would be enough to place the empire with the 22nd largest economy in the entire world, ahead of some other well-known economies such as Poland ($699 Billion), Turkey ($692 Billion) and Sweden ($621 Billion), but behind Taiwan ($841.2 Billion) and Switzerland ($841.9 Billion). Like almost everything else, Thailand would dominate this GDP accounting for about 67%, over 2/3, of the whole amount.
Even though the GDP of the empire would be large, its GDP Per Capita, or the average yearly earnings of the normal Khmer citizen in other words, wouldn't sit at quite a high amount. However, it would still be enough to be well ahead of dozens of other countries and territories that would be poorer than the Khmer Empire. Standing at $6,876, the new country would be ranked with the 114th highest living standards in the world, richer than North Macedonia ($6,863) and Colombia ($6,807), but poorer than South Africa ($6,979) and Peru ($7,034).
Religious and Ethnic Groups
The Religious and Ethnic groups of a reunited Khmer Empire in the 21st century would also be another thing we would need to talk about. It would also be very different from how it was back in the 13th century as well.
Starting off with Religion, exactly 3/4 (75%) of the whole population would adhere to Buddhism, split between 68% Theravada Buddhists and 7% Mahayana Buddhists. Next, various indigenous religions like Vietnamese Folk Religion and Tai Folk Religion would make up a further 10% in the empire. Other minor religions such as Islam and Christianity would be 7% and 2.5% representatively. The final 5.5% of the population would be a mix of various other small religions, Atheists and other irreligious people.
Coming to Ethnic Groups next, 47% of the population would represent Thai people, mostly focused in Thailand. Khmer people, which is what the whole empire is named after, would represent 18%, while Vietnamese would be just slightly behind at 17%. This would be followed by Han Chinese at 10% and Lao-Tai at 3.8%. Lastly, other tiny ethnicities prevalent in the empire would make up the remaining 4.2% of the population.
Yellow = Buddhism
Green = Islam
Purple = Christianity
Red = Chinese Folk Religion
Pink = Indigenous Religions
Finishing off the empire's Religious, Ethnic and Linguistic Groups off, we come to talk about the languages spoken within its borders. Firstly, all Thai variants collectively would make up about 38% of the country's whole population, while Vietnamese would be 17%. Next, people that natively speak Khmer would be represented at 16%. Chinese would make up another 10% of the population, trailed by Lao at 4%. The final 15% of the population would be a vast mix of hundreds of other languages with only a very small amount of speakers in it.
Choosing just one official language for the Khmer Empire would be quite difficult to predict what it would be as many languages would be spoken within its borders. In my opinion, though, Thai, Khmer and Vietnamese would all become the official languages as those three would be the most spoken.
Beginning with its infantry and army, the empire would possess a grand total of 796,500 active-duty personnel. This is a huge amount and would be the 6th largest force in the world, even much larger than Pakistan (654,000 troops) and Iran (610,000 troops), but smaller than the army size of Russia (1,014,000 troops) and North Korea (1,280,000 troops). The new country would also have an extra 2,000,000 troops placed in reserves, mainly due to the gargantuan size of Vietnam's reserve troops, bringing its troops to a total of 2,796,500.
The budget to fund this very large military would be quite small, based on what it has to fund, standing at roughly $9.2 Billion. Despite that, this would still be one of the highest military budgets in the world, at 30th place, ahead of the Oman ($8.69 Billion) and Indonesia ($7.6 Billion), but behind Morocco ($10 Billion) and Colombia ($10.6 Billion).
Strengths and Weaknesses - Conclusion
Now that we have finished talking about all of the main topics there are to discuss about a reunited Khmer Empire, here is a brief summary of the strengths and weaknesses it would have in the modern world:
✔️ Big military
✔️ Decently large economy
✔️ A few large and significant cities
❌ Mostly ruralised population
❌ Large population meaning harder to govern
Qing Dynasty | First French Empire | Gupta Empire | A united Arab Union
Anyway, that brings us to the end of this blog. As always, please let me know if you have any suggestions of empires you would like me to cover in the series. Thanks for reading and goodbye! :)
Qing Dynasty | 6 votes | 1st Place
A United Arab Union | 3 votes | Joint 2nd Place
First French Empire | 3 votes | Joint 2nd Place
Gupta Empire | 2 votes | 4th Place
so longmy whole JetPunk career! The military was most surprising. Gupta!
Also your ban was pretty justified too if you ask me