Cambodia Table of Contents

Industry accounted for only 5 percent of Cambodia's GDP in 1985, down from 19 percent in 1969. Industrial activity continued to be concentrated in the processing of agricultural commodities, mostly rice, fish, wood, and rubber. Manufacturing plants were small, and they employed an average of fewer than 200 hundred workers. These plants aimed to produce enough consumer goods (soft drinks, cigarettes, and food items) and household products (soap, paper, and utensils) to satisfy local demand.

The extent of Cambodia's industrial rehabilitation could be gauged by a comparison of enterprises in prewar and in postwar times. In 1969 the last year before the country was engulfed in the war sweeping Indochina, a census disclosed 18 large industries countrywide (13 public and 5 mixed public-private sector) and 33,000 small and medium privately owned enterprises. About half the factories operating in 1969 were rice mills, or were otherwise engaged in rice processing. In 1985 the government news agency (Sarpodamean Kampuchea) announced that fifty-six factories had been renovated and had been put back into operation. In the capital itself, about half of Phnom Penh's prewar plants had reopened by 1985. Most industries were producing at far below capacity because of frequent power cuts, shortages of spare parts and of raw materials, and the lack of both skilled workers and experienced managers. Industrial revival continued to be difficult and extremely slow because it was based mainly on the use of limited local resources.

Major Manufacturing Industries

In early 1986, the major industrial plants in Phnom Penh included the Tuol Kok textile factory, the largest of six textile factories in the city (the factory was idle three days a week, however, because of power shortages). There were also four power plants, a soft drink plant, a tobacco factory, a ferro-concrete factory, and some other enterprises that produced consumer goods.

In the municipality of Kampong Saom and in neighboring Kampot Province, rice mills, lumber mills, small brick and tile factories, power plants, an oil refinery, a tractor-assembly plant, cement and phosphate factories, and a refrigeration plant for storing fish were reported to be in operation. In the important industrial center of Ta Khmau, Kampot Province, were a tire factory (possessing its own generator, but lacking rubber and spare parts), several mechanical workshops, and warehouses. Batdambang Province had shops for repairing farm implements, a cotton gin and textile mill, a jute-bag factory, an automobile and tractor repair plant, and a phosphate-fertilizer plant. In Kampong Cham Province, the former center for tobacco growing and for cotton garment making, there were a cotton-spinning textile factory, some silk-weaving operations, and an automobile tire and tube plant.


Small family-run businesses and private enterprises specializing in weaving, tailoring (silk sampot and sarongs, the Cambodian national dress), and small manufactured products grew more rapidly than public industries, and they contributed significantly to economic recovery. According to official estimates, the output value of local and of handicraft industries together amounted to 50 percent of the value of production in state industries in 1984. In Phnom Penh alone, there were 1,840 handicraft shops whose output value rose from 14 million riels in 1981 to 50 million riels in 1984.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress