LAND AND PEOPLE-Cambodia, or Kampuchea as it is known in the Khmer language, is in tropical South-east Asia bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand. Its population, now estimated at about 5 million, is primarily ethnic Khmer and fiercely independent from neighboring Vietnamese and Thais.

Rising from the Southeastern coast and its numerous islands, through the central plain to the hills and mountains in the west, the country is well suited for the growing of rice, its primary commodity. More than 98 percent of the population lives scattered in small villages through the country's approximately 70,000 square miles (about the size of Missouri).

ECONOMY-With almost all of the population in the countryside, there is little concetrated industry or production, other than agriculture, except of rudimentary items for domestic use. While rich in natural resources such as timber, gemstones and some minerals, there is now little exploitation. Thriving rubber production was all but destroyed by the fighting that swirled in Indochina in the late 1960s and 1970s. What little trade the country has is primarily with China, its major ally.

HISTORY AND POLITICS-Major Hindu states dominated the region until the 14th century, with the Hindu influence showing giving over to inroads by Buddhism. Wester influence entered the region in the mid 19th century. When the king requested French protection and Cambodia became a part of French Indochina. With the exception of a period of Japanese control during World War II, the French were dominant until full independence was achieved under Prince Sihanouk in November 1953.

The Indochina wars ended for Cambodia with the victory of the Communist Khmer Rouge in Apil 1975. The Communist Party of Kampuchea immediately instituted a government that has become controversial, with widespread charges of campaigns against dissidents and elements in the population considered hostile to its control. Under Prime Minister Pol Pot, Cambodia closed itself off from outsiders until recent months, when longstanding antagonisms with the neighboring Vietnamese exploded into warfare and Cambodia began to turn to the outside world for support in its struggle with Vietnam. CAPTION: Picture 1, Cambodian soldiers near the Vietnamese border at Krek: "This problem is a problem of life and death for us."; Picture 2, Childred of the revolution: Returning home after a day of school.