Freedom of religion in Cambodia

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice. Buddhism is the state religion. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion. There were limited reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

Religious demography

The country has an area of 181,035 square kilometres (69,898 sq mi), and a population of approximately 14.1 million. An estimated 93 percent of the population is Theravada Buddhist. The Theravada Buddhist tradition is widespread and strong in all provinces, with an estimated 4,100 pagodas throughout the country. Since the vast majority of ethnic Khmer Cambodians are Buddhist, there is a close association between Buddhism, Khmer cultural traditions, and daily life. Adherence to Buddhism generally is considered intrinsic to the country's ethnic and cultural identity. The Mahayana branch of Buddhism is practiced by approximately 150,000 followers and has 63 temples throughout the country.

There are approximately 500,000 to 700,000 Muslims (between 3.5 and 5 percent of the population), predominantly ethnic Cham, who generally are found in towns and rural fishing villages on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers and in Kampot Province. Some organizations that work with or have contacts in the Cham Muslim population cite lower estimates for the number of Cham Muslims in the country. A nationwide census scheduled for 2008 should provide a more accurate estimate. There are four branches of Islam represented: the Malay-influenced Shafi'i branch, practiced by 88 percent of Cham Muslims; the Saudi-Kuwaiti-influenced Salafi (sometimes called "Wahhabi") branch, which claims six percent of the Muslim population although this number is increasing; the indigenous Iman-San branch, practiced by three percent; and the Kadiani branch, which also contributes three percent. There are 200 to 300 mosques of the four main branches and 200 to 300 small Surav mosques, which have congregations of up to 40 persons and do not have a min-bar from which Friday sermons are given. The small, but growing, Christian community constitutes approximately two percent of the population. There are an estimated 100 Christian organizations or denominations that operate freely throughout the country and include approximately 2,400 churches; however, only 900 of these churches are officially registered. Other religious organizations with small followings include the Vietnamese Cao Dai religion and the Baha'i Faith, each with an estimated 2,000 practicing members.

Foreign missionary groups operate freely. A June 26, 2007, announcement by the Ministry of Cults and Religions restated a 2003 ban on door-to-door proselytizing and similar proselytizing activities such as using a loudspeaker or directing assistance only to denomination members. However, open-ended assistance activities by missionary groups are encouraged.