PRELIMINARY results of Cambodia's first census in 36 years have been released, giving
the country the beginnings of a reliable statistical framework for national planning.
The numbers also help estimate final voter registration and voting percentages in
last month's election.
National Census Committee Chairman Sar Kheng released the results at an Aug 25 ceremony.
"The General Population Census of Cambodia is a very huge national task which
has an important and historical meaning," Sar Kheng told the gathering, according
to an unofficial translation of his speech.
On "Census Night" - midnight of March 3, 1998 - Cambodia's population was
11,426,223, according to the provisional results. The last census, in 1962, gave
a population of 5,728,771.
The 1998 provisional results are not yet broken down by age or citizenship, so numbers
of potential voters in the country cannot be exactly determined. But by using age
breakdown percentages from a 1996 government demographic survey, the present census
numbers would give an approximate voting base of 5,907,357.
Setting official government registration and voting figures against the surmised
voter-base number gives a voter registration of 91.3% - not far off revised estimates
of 92%, but down from an original official estimate of 97%. Actual voter turnout
would be 85.6% of the eligible population.
The census numbers include everyone within Cambodia's borders on March 3, thus including
foreigners - except diplomats - and excluding refugees who were in Thailand fleeing
fighting at that time. The absence of the about 60,000 refugees is not noted in this
report, though it will be in the final one. The provisional report does note that
perhaps 45,000 people in areas of conflict could not be counted.
The US$6.8 million procedure was funded by the United Nations Population Fund, with
UNDP "sharing" $0.7 million for vehicles and equipment and UNESCO running
an information campaign. Over 33,000 supervisors and enumerators - teachers and other
civil servants - spent ten days completing the surveying.
UNFPA Representative Hedi Jamai said he was pleased that the results corresponded
well with those of the 1996 demographic survey. "They were really very, very
close, demonstrating that the census has very good quality," he said.
He added that solid demographic figures will be valuable in all sorts of national
planning. Statistics on migration and population density can be used for road planning,
for example, while age breakdowns and growth rate can indicate how many schools should
Of equal importance is that surveys in Cambodia will now have a reliable basis for
extrapolation - a boon to businesses, the government and NGOs alike. "The census
will provide a sampling frame for all types of survey," Jamai said.
The provisional results show: population breakdown by province; sex ratio (93.1 males
to 100 females); population density (64 people per 100km); urban population percent
(15.7) and average household size (5.2 people).
Final census figures with comprehensive breakdowns will be finished in mid-1999,
according to census organizers at the Ministry of Planning and the National Institute