Religion in Cambodia (2019 World Factbook)[1]

  Buddhism (97.1%)
  Islam (2%)
  Christianity (0.3%)
  Other (0.5%)

Buddhism is the state religion of Cambodia. Approximately 97% of Cambodia's population follows Theravada Buddhism, with Islam, Christianity, and tribal animism as well as Baha’i faith making up the bulk of the small remainder.[1][2] The wat (Buddhist monastery) and sangha (monkhood), together with essential Buddhist doctrines such as reincarnation and the accumulation of merit, are at the centre of religious life.

According to The World Factbook in 2019, 97.1% of Cambodia's population was Buddhist, 2% Muslim, 0.3% Christian and 0.5% Other.[1]

According to the Pew Research Center in 2010, 96.9% of Cambodia's population was Buddhist, 2.0% Muslim, 0.4% Christian, and 0.7% folk religion and non religious.[3]

Provincial statistics

The spread of Buddhism in Cambodia.

The predominant religion in Cambodia is Buddhism (97%), followed by Muslim (2%), other religions (0.8%), and Christianity (0.2%). The category of "Others" mainly refers to the local religious system of the highland tribal groups and a few minority religious groups from other countries. The distribution of the population by religion was more or less the same in 2008 and 2019:[4]

Province 2008 2019
Buddhism Islam Christianity Others Buddhism Islam Christianity Others
Banteay Meanchey 99.2% 0.5% 0.3% 0.0% 99.3% 0.4% 0.2% 0.0%
Battambang 98.3% 1.3% 0.3% 0.0% 98.3% 1.4% 0.3% 0.0%
Kampong Cham 97.6% 2.3% 0.1% 0.0% 97.6% 2.3% 0.1% 0.0%
Kampong Chhnang 94.7% 4.2% 0.4% 0.7% 93.1% 5.8% 0.3% 0.9%
Kampong Speu 99.7% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 99.8% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0%
Kampong Thom 99.0% 0.6% 0.4% 0.0% 98.6% 1.0% 0.3% 0.0%
Kampot 97.1% 2.7% 0.2% 0.0% 96.9% 2.8% 0.2% 0.0%
Kandal 98.0% 1.2% 0.7% 0.1% 98.3% 1.2% 0.4% 0.1%
Koh Kong 95.2% 4.6% 0.2% 0.0% 95.1% 4.6% 0.2% 0.0%
Kratié 94.0% 5.6% 0.4% 0.1% 93.1% 6.6% 0.2% 0.1%
Mondulkiri 54.7% 5.5% 4.4% 35.5% 70.4% 4.4% 4.0% 21.2%
Phnom Penh 97.5% 1.5% 0.8% 0.1% 97.8% 1.6% 0.5% 0.1%
Preah Vihear 99.4% 0.3% 0.3% 0.0% 99.1% 0.5% 0.3% 0.0%
Prey Veng 99.5% 0.1% 0.2% 0.1% 99.5% 0.2% 0.3% 0.0%
Pursat 97.4% 2.4% 0.2% 0.0% 96.9% 3.0% 0.1% 0.0%
Ratanakiri 49.3% 1.3% 2.3% 47.2% 73.4% 1.3% 2.1% 23.2%
Siem Reap 99.7% 0.2% 0.1% 0.0% 99.3% 0.2% 0.4% 0.1%
Preah Sihanouk 94.5% 4.7% 0.7% 0.1% 96.2% 3.6% 0.2% 0.0%
Stung Treng 96.1% 1.3% 0.4% 2.2% 93.6% 4.7% 0.4% 1.3%
Svay Rieng 99.7% 0.1% 0.2% 0.0% 99.8% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1%
Takéo 99.1% 0.7% 0.2% 0.0% 99.2% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0%
Oddar Meanchey 99.8% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 99.5% 0.2% 0.3% 0.0%
Kep 98.7% 1.2% 0.0% 0.0% 97.5% 1.7% 0.7% 0.1%
Pailin 99.1% 0.7% 0.2% 0.0% 98.3% 1.0% 0.7% 0.0%
Tboung Khmum 88.9% 11.0% 0.1% 0.0% 88.1% 11.8% 0.1% 0.0%
Total 96.9% 1.9% 0.4% 0.8% 97.1% 2.0% 0.3% 0.5%


Main article: Buddhism in Cambodia

Wat Botum in Phnom Penh.

Buddhism in Cambodia or Khmer Buddhism (Khmer: ព្រះពុទ្ធសាសនាបែបខ្មែរ) has existed since at least the 3rd century. In its earliest form it was a type of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism has existed in Cambodia since at least the 5th century AD, with some sources placing its origin as early as the 3rd century BC.[citation needed] Theravada Buddhism has been the Cambodian state religion since the 13th century AD (excepting the Khmer Rouge period), and is currently estimated to be the religion of 97.1% of the total population.[5]

The history of Buddhism in Cambodia spans nearly two thousand years, across a number of successive kingdoms and empires. Buddhism entered Cambodia through two different streams. In later history, a second stream of Buddhism entered Khmer culture during the Angkor empire when Cambodia absorbed the various Buddhist traditions of the Mon kingdoms of Dvaravati and Haripunchai.

For the thousand years of Khmer history, Cambodia was ruled by a series of Mahayana with an occasional Theravada Buddhist king, such as Jayavarman I of Funan, and Suryvarman I. A variety of Buddhist traditions co-existed throughout Cambodian lands, under the Mahayana Buddhist kings and the neighboring Mon-Theravada kingdoms. Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple in Siem Reap, was converted into a Mahayana Buddhist temple during the reign of King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century and again into a thereveda Buddhist temple during the reign of King Ang Chan I in the 16th century (Longvek Era).


Main article: Islam in Cambodia

Nur ul-Ihsan Mosque in Phnom Penh, is the oldest mosque in Cambodia.

Muslim traders along the main trade-route between Western Asia through Āryāvarta were responsible for the introduction of Islam to Cambodia around 12th to 17th centuries CE.[6] The religion was then further spread by the Chams and finally consolidated by the expansion of the territories of converted rulers and their communities. The Chams have their own mosques. In 1962, there were about 100 mosques in the country. Nur ul-Ihsan Mosque in Phnom Penh is the oldest mosque in Cambodia, it was built in 1813, and is a relic of the history of Islam in Cambodia.[7]

Islam also flourished among Khmer people, in Kwan village, Kampong Speu, Muslims thrived with most of the converts from Buddhism. The propagator of Islam in the village is Abdul Amit, a Cham farmer.[8]


See also: Catholic Church in Cambodia

The first known Christian mission in Cambodia was undertaken by Gaspar da Cruz, a Portuguese member of the Dominican Order, in 1555-1556. According to his own account, the enterprise was a complete failure; he found the country run by a "Bramene" king and "Bramene" officials, and discovered that "the Bramenes are the most difficult people to convert". He felt that no one would dare to convert without the King's permission, and left the country in disappointment, not having "baptized more than one gentile whom I left in the grave".[9]

Cathedral of Phnom Penh. Built during the French colonial period.

Despite the French colonization in the 19th century, Christianity made little impact in the country. In 1972 there were probably about 20,000 Christians in Cambodia, most of whom were Catholics. Before the repatriation of the Vietnamese in 1970 and 1971, possibly as many as 62,000 Christians lived in Cambodia. According to Vatican statistics, in 1953, members of the Catholic Church in Cambodia numbered 120,000, making it at the time, the second largest religion. Estimates indicate that about 50,000 Catholics were Vietnamese.

Many of the Catholics remaining in Cambodia in 1972 were Europeans – chiefly French; and still, among Catholic Cambodians are whites and Eurasians of French descent. Steinberg reported, also in 1953, that an American Unitarian mission maintained a teacher-training school in Phnom Penh, and Baptist missions functioned in Battambang and Siem Reap provinces.

Until the late 19th century, there were no Protestant missions to Cambodia.[10] A Christian and Missionary Alliance mission was founded in Cambodia in 1923; by 1962 the mission had converted about 2,000 people.

American Protestant missionary activity increased in Cambodia, especially among some of the hill tribes and among the Cham, after the establishment of the Khmer Republic. The 1962 census, which reported 2,000 Protestants in Cambodia, remains the most recent statistic for the group. In 1982 French geographer Jean Delvert reported that three Christian villages existed in Cambodia, but he gave no indication of the size, location, or type of any of them. Observers reported that in 1980 there were more registered Khmer Christians among the refugees in camps in Thailand than in all of Cambodia before 1970. Kiernan notes that, until June 1980, five weekly Protestant services were held in Phnom Penh by a Khmer pastor, but that they had been reduced to a weekly service after police harassment. His estimates suggest that in 1987 the Christian community in Cambodia had shrunk to only a few thousand members.[11]

Various Protestant denominations have reported marked growth since the 1990s, and by some current estimates Christians make up 2-3% of Cambodia's population.[12][13]

There are around 75,000 Catholics in Cambodia which represents 0.5% of the total population.[14] There are no dioceses, but there are three territorial jurisdictions - one Apostolic Vicariate and two Apostolic Prefectures.The president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, officially introduced missionary work to Cambodia on May 29, 1996.[15] The church now has 31 congregations (27 Khmer language and three Vietnamese language, and one international). Jehovah’s Witnesses are present in Cambodia since 1990 and opened their third Kingdom Hall in 2015.[16]

Baháʼí Faith

Bahá'í House of Worship in Battambang.

The introduction of the Baháʼí Faith in Cambodia first occurred in 1920, with the arrival of Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney in Phnom Penh at the behest of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.[17] After sporadic visits from travelling teachers throughout the first half of the 20th century, the first Baháʼí group in Cambodia was established in that city in 1956.[18][19] By 1963, Baháʼís were known to reside in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, with a functioning Spiritual Assembly present in Phnom Penh.[20]

During the rule of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s, the Baháʼís of Cambodia became isolated from the outside world.[21] Many of them joined with the flood of refugees that dispersed around the world following the fall of the Khmer Rouge, resettling in places such as Canada and the United States, where special efforts were made to contact them and incorporate them into local Baháʼí community life.[22] Baháʼís in Thailand and other countries reached out to the Cambodian refugees living in camps on the Thai-Cambodian border; this eventually led to the growth of Baháʼí communities there, including the establishment of Spiritual Assemblies.[23][24]

The Baháʼí community has recently seen a return to growth, especially in the city of Battambang. The city hosted one of 41 Baháʼí regional conferences worldwide in 2009, which attracted over 2,000 participants.[25] Two regional youth conferences occurred in Cambodia in 2013, including one in Battambang and one in Kampong Thom.[26][27]

In 2012, the Universal House of Justice announced plans to establish a local Baháʼí House of Worship in Battambang.[28] Its design was unveiled in July 2015,[29] with the groundbreaking following in November.[30] The House of Worship—the first Bahá'í House of Worship to serve a single locality—was dedicated in a ceremony in September 2017, attended by 2,500 people.[31]

According to a 2010 estimate, Cambodia is home to approximately 16,700 Baháʼís.[32]

Indigenous beliefs

Highland tribal groups, most with their own local religious systems. These were arguably the earliest religious people in Cambodia. Hinduism came to Cambodia mainly during the reign of the Chola king Raja Raja Chola in the 10th century. Even before that, Buddhism had arrived in Cambodia. Now tribes include approximately 150,000 people only.[33] The Khmer Loeu have been loosely described as animists, but most indigenous ethnic groups have their own pantheon of local spirits. In general they see their world filled with various invisible spirits (often called yang), some benevolent, others malevolent. They associate spirits with rice, soil, water, fire, stones, paths, and so forth. Shamans, sorcerers or specialists in each village contact these spirits and prescribe ways to appease them.[11]

In times of crisis or change, animal sacrifices may be made to placate the anger of the spirits. Illness is often believed to be caused by evil spirits or sorcerers. Some tribes have special medicine men or shamans who treat the sick. In addition to belief in spirits, villagers believe in taboos on many objects or practices. Among the Khmer Loeu, the Austronesian groups (Rhade and Jarai) have a well-developed hierarchy of spirits with a supreme ruler at its head.[11]


See also: History of the Jews in Cambodia

There is a small Jewish community in Cambodia consisting of a little over 100 people. Since 2009, there has been a Chabad house in Phnom Penh.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Cambodia", The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, 2022-02-04, retrieved 2022-02-13
  2. ^ "Religious Composition by Country" (PDF). Global Relidious Landscape 2010. Pew Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 10, 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Religious Composition by Country" (PDF). Global Relidious Landscape 2010. Pew Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 10, 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  4. ^ "General Population census of the Kingdom of Cambodia 2019" (PDF). National Institute of Statistics Ministry of planning. October 2020.
  5. ^ "CIA World Factbook - Cambodia". Retrieved 2007-04-10.
  6. ^ "Culture And Heritage - Medieval History - The Rise Of Islam In South Asia - Know India: National Portal of India". Archived from the original on August 23, 2017. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  7. ^ "Nur Ul-Ihsan Mosque,". Archived from the original on 2013-06-29. Retrieved 2017-07-14.
  8. ^ "The village that left Buddhism behind". Retrieved 22 May 2023.
  9. ^ Boxer, Charles Ralph; Pereira, Galeote; Cruz, Gaspar da; Rada, Martín de (1953), South China in the sixteenth century: being the narratives of Galeote Pereira, Fr. Gaspar da Cruz, O.P. (and) Fr. Martín de Rada, O.E.S.A. (1550-1575), Issue 106 of Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, Printed for the Hakluyt Society, pp. lix, 59–63
  10. ^ Bliss, Edwin Munsell (1891). The Encyclopædia of Missions: Descriptive, Historical, Biographical, Statistical. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 230.
  11. ^ a b c Federal Research Division. Russell R. Ross, ed. "Other religions". Cambodia: A Country Study. Research completed December 1987. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica Accessed 5 November 2017.
  13. ^ Operation World, Seventh Ed. Jason Mandryk, 2010
  14. ^ Ford, Peter (14 March 2017). "Cambodia, Catholicism, and Cauliflower". The Diplomat. Kien Svay District, Cambodia: Diplomat Media Inc. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  15. ^ Leland D. and Joyce B. White, [ "The Gospel Takes Hold in Cambodia"], Liahona, October 1997, p. 41.
  16. ^ Naomi-Collett Ritz, “Jehovah’s Witnesses Open Kingdom Hall Near Angkor Wat,” Khmer Times, March 3, 2015.
  17. ^ "Hippolyte Dreyfus, apôtre d'Abdu'l-Bahá" [Hippolyte Dreyfus, Disciple of 'Abdu'l-Bahá]. National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of France. 2000. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
  18. ^ Messages of Shoghi Effendi to the Indian Subcontinent: 1923-1957. Baháʼí Publishing Trust of India. 1995. p. 403.
  19. ^ "Teaching and Assembly Development Conference for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand". Baháʼí News Letter. National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of India, Pakistan & Burma (85). 1956.
  20. ^ "Bahá'í Faith, the: 1844-1963".
  21. ^ "Religious Freedom in the Asia Pacific".
  22. ^ p.131
  23. ^ p.96
  24. ^ The Universal House of Justice. Century of Light. p.104.
  25. ^ "The Battambang Regional Conference - Bahá'í World News Service".
  26. ^ Battambang Youth Conference. Baháʼí International Community.
  27. ^ Kampong Thom Youth Conference. Baháʼí International Community.
  28. ^ "Plans to build new Houses of Worship announced | BWNS". 22 April 2012.
  29. ^ "Dawn unveiling for Cambodian temple design | BWNS". 18 July 2015.
  30. ^ "First groundbreaking for a local House of Worship | BWNS". 15 November 2015.
  31. ^ ""A new dawn is breaking": House of Worship inaugurated in Cambodia | BWNS". September 2017.
  32. ^ "QuickLists: Most Baha'i (sic) Nations (2010)". Association of Religion Data Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2020-10-14.
  33. ^ 1996 estimate
  34. ^ Ellen, Rosa (December 14, 2012). "Festival of light shines in Phnom Penh". The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved December 25, 2012.