Preliminary results of Cambodia’s first census in 36 years show that the country’s population hit 11.4 million as of March 3, 1998—doubling the 5.7 million figure given in 1962.
According to data released on Tuesday by the Ministry of Planning and the National Institute of Statistics, 5.5 million of those counted are male, 5.9 million female. The average population density is 64 people per square kilometer, and the average household has 5.2 people.
Cambodia’s annual growth rate of 2.4 percent is second only to Laos in Southeast Asia.
The final report, due in July 1999, will add an unprecedented amount of more specific data. Census officials hope that detailed information about health and education issues, as well as immigration patterns and living conditions, will give those working towards social and economic development an invaluable tool.
“In order to lead and develop the country, the government needs clear information,” said Seng Soeurn, deputy director of the National Institute of Statistics. “If we know the condition of the people, we can focus on what needs to be done.”
Hedi Jemai, the Cambodia representative of the UN Population Fund, said the government now needs to put the data to use.
“The figures tell us there’s high population growth,” he said. “The government does not have the capacity to deal even with the needs of 11 million in terms of economy, education and health.”
According to the report’s projections, Cambodia’s population could amount to 13 million by 2005 and 15 million by 2010.
The challenge for the next government, Jemai added, is to pursue a population policy that strikes a “balance between population and economic growth.”
The census, which covered 98 percent of households, was carried out with $6.8 million of funding by the UN Population Fund. The UN Development Program contributed $700,000.
According to the provisional results, the most populous province is Kompong Cham, with 1.6 million people, or 14.1 percent of the nation. Pailin ranks last with 22,844, or 0.2 percent.
Questioning people about their religion, native tongue and other potentially sensitive topics, the 20,000 census takers had to overcome suspicions they might use information for political purposes.
In a March 2 radio speech, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to the Cambodian people to comply with the census. But, he added, “If you are posed questions like ‘which party do you belong to’ or ‘which party are you voting for,’ please don’t answer those questions.”
Only unstable areas like the former Khmer Rouge stronghold Anlong Veng and O’smach near the Thai border, where troops loyal to Prince Norodom Ranariddh are holding out, could not be taken into account.
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