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Cambodia Index

The birth of a child is a happy event for the family. According to traditional beliefs, however, confinement and childbirth expose the family, and especially the mother and the child to harm from the spirit world. A woman who dies in childbirth--crosses the river (chhlong tonle) in Khmer is believed to become an evil spirit. In traditional Khmer society, a pregnant woman respects a number of food taboos and avoids certain situations. These traditions remain in practice in rural Cambodia, but they have become weakened in urban areas.

No extensive information exists on birth control or on the use of contraceptives in Cambodia. Before the Khmer Rouge takeover, no organizations in Cambodia were known to be concerned with family planning. Traditional Khmer families were normally smaller than Chinese or Vietnamese families; the desired number of children was five. Reports suggest that several methods of contraception are currently available in Cambodia and that these are practiced in the PRK (see Public Health , this ch.). A recent study of Cambodian women in France reported that 91 percent of the sample wished to use some method of birth control and that 74 percent knew of at least one method. The most common methods used in that group were the oral contraceptive pill and some form of sterilization. It is not known to what extent the attitudes of this group reflect those of Cambodian women in general.

A Cambodian child may be nursed until he or she is between two and four years of age. Up to the age of three or four, the child is given considerable physical affection and freedom. There is little corporal punishment. After reaching the age of about four, children are expected to feed and bathe themselves and to control their bowel functions. Children around five years of age also may be expected to help look after younger siblings. Children's games emphasize socialization or skill rather than winning and losing.

Most children begin school when they are seven or eight. By the time they reach this age, they are familiar with the society's norms of politeness, obedience, and respect toward their elders and toward Buddhist monks. The father at this time begins his permanent retreat into a relatively remote, authoritarian role. By age ten, a girl is expected to help her mother in basic household tasks; a boy knows how to care for the family's livestock and can do farm work under the supervision of older males.

In precommunist days, parents exerted complete authority over their children until the children were married, and the parents continued to maintain some control well into the marriage. Punishment was meted out sparingly, but it might have involved physical contact. Age difference was strictly recognized. The proper polite vocabulary was used in the precommunist period, and special generational terms for "you" continued to be used in the late 1980s. Younger speakers had to show respect to older people, including siblings, even if their ages differed by only a few minutes.

Between the ages of seven and nineteen, but most commonly between the ages of eleven and nineteen, a boy may become a temple servant and go on to serve a time as a novice monk. Having a son chosen for such a position is a great honor for the parents, and earns the individual son much merit (see Religion , this ch.).

Formerly, and perhaps still in some rural areas, a ceremony marked the entrance of a girl into puberty. Upon the onset of menstruation, a girl would participate in a ritual called chol mlup (entering the shadow). Certain foods were taboo at this time, and she would be isolated from her family for a period of a few days to six months. After the period of seclusion, she was considered marriageable.

Adolescent children usually play with members of the same sex. The main exception to this occurs during festivals, especially happy ones such as the New Year Festival, when boys and girls take part in group games. Young people then have the opportunity to begin looking for future mates. Virginity is highly valued in brides, and premarital sex is deplored. The girl who becomes pregnant out of wedlock brings shame to her family.

The choice of a spouse is a complex one for the young male, and it may involve not only his parents and his friends, as well as those of the young woman, but also a matchmaker. A young man can decide on a likely spouse on his own and then ask his parents to arrange the marriage negotiations, or the young person's parents may make the choice of spouse, giving the child little to say in the selection. In theory, a girl may veto the spouse her parents have chosen.

Courtship patterns differ between rural and urban Khmer. Attitudes in the larger cities have been influenced by Western ideas of romantic love that do not apply in the countryside. A man usually marries between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, a girl between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two. Marriage between close blood relatives is forbidden. After a spouse has been selected, a go-between meets with the parents and broaches the subject of marriage. Then each family will investigates the other to make sure its child is marrying into a good family. When both sides agree to the marriage and presents have been exchanged and accepted, the families consult an achar to set the wedding date. In rural areas, there is a form of bride-service; that is, the young man may take a vow to serve his prospective father-in-law for a period of time.

The traditional wedding is a long and colorful affair. Formerly it lasted three days, but in the 1980s it more commonly lasted a day and a half. The ceremony begins in the morning at the home of the bride and is directed by the achar. Buddhist priests offer a short sermon and recite prayers of blessing. Parts of the ceremony involve ritual hair cutting, tying cotton threads soaked in holy water around the bride's and groom's wrists, and passing a candle around a circle of happily married and respected couples to bless the union. After the wedding, a banquet is held. In the city, the banquet is held at a restaurant; in the country, it is held in a temporary shelter and is prepared by the two families. Newlyweds traditionally move in with the wife's parents and may live with them up to a year, until they can build a new house nearby. These patterns changed drastically under the communists. The Khmer Rouge divided families and separated the men from the women. The father, mother, and children frequently were separated for many months. A man and woman often did not have time to consummate a marriage, and sexual relations were limited by long separations. Extramarital relations and even flirtations between young people were heavily punished.

Divorce is legal, relatively easy to obtain, but not common. Divorced persons are viewed with some disapproval, and they are not invited to take part in the blessing of a newlywed couple. Some of the grounds for divorce are incompatibility, prolonged absence without good reason, abandonment by either partner, refusal of the husband to provide for the family, adultery, immoral conduct, and refusal, for more than a year, to permit sexual intercourse. A magistrate may legalize the divorce. Each spouse retains whatever property he or she brought into the marriage. Property acquired jointly is divided equally. Divorced persons may remarry, but the woman must wait ten months. Custody of minor children is usually given to the mother. Both parents continue to have an obligation to contribute financially toward the rearing and education of the child.

In theory a man may have multiple wives if he can afford them, but this is rare in practice; the first wife may veto the taking of a second wife. Concubinage also exists, although it is more frequent in the cities. While second wives have certain legal rights, concubines have none.

As the married couple moves through life they have children, nurture and train them, educate them, and marry them off. When they become too old to support themselves, they may invite the youngest child's family to move in and to take over running the household. At this stage in their lives, they enjoy a position of high status, they help care for grandchildren, and they devote more time in service to the wat (temple).

Death is not viewed with the great outpouring of grief common to Western society; it is viewed as the end of one life and as the beginning of another life that one hopes will be better. Buddhist Khmer usually are cremated, and their ashes are deposited in a stupa in the temple compound. A corpse is washed, dressed, and placed in a coffin, which may be decorated with flowers and with a photograph of the deceased. White pennant-shaped flags, called "white crocodile flags," outside a house indicate that someone in that household has died. A funeral procession consisting of an achar, Buddhist monks, members of the family, and other mourners accompanies the coffin to the crematorium. The spouse and the children show mourning by shaving their heads and by wearing white clothing. Relics such as teeth or pieces of bone are prized by the survivors, and they are often worn on gold chains as amulets.

Data as of December 1987

BackgroundMost Cambodians consider themselves to be Khmers, descendants of the Angkor Empire that extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its zenith between the 10th and 13th centuries. Attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day Vietnam) weakened the empire, ushering in a long period of decline. The king placed the country under French protection in 1863 and it became part of French Indochina in 1887. Following Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia gained full independence from France in 1953. In April 1975, after a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh and evacuated all cities and towns. At least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, forced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under POL POT. A December 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside, began a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, which was not fully respected by the Khmer Rouge. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy under a coalition government. Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability. The remaining elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999. Some of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders are awaiting trial by a UN-sponsored tribunal for crimes against humanity. Elections in July 2003 were relatively peaceful, but it took one year of negotiations between contending political parties before a coalition government was formed. In October 2004, King Norodom SIHANOUK abdicated the throne and his son, Prince Norodom SIHAMONI, was selected to succeed him. Local elections were held in Cambodia in April 2007, and there was little in the way of pre-election violence that preceded prior elections. National elections in July 2008 were relatively peaceful.
LocationSoutheastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, between Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos
Area(sq km)total: 181,035 sq km
land: 176,515 sq km
water: 4,520 sq km
Geographic coordinates13 00 N, 105 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 2,572 km
border countries: Laos 541 km, Thailand 803 km, Vietnam 1,228 km

Coastline(km)443 km

Climatetropical; rainy, monsoon season (May to November); dry season (December to April); little seasonal temperature variation

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Gulf of Thailand 0 m
highest point: Phnum Aoral 1,810 m
Natural resourcesoil and gas, timber, gemstones, iron ore, manganese, phosphates, hydropower potential
Land use(%)arable land: 20.44%
permanent crops: 0.59%
other: 78.97% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)2,700 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)476.1 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 4.08 cu km/yr (1%/0%/98%)
per capita: 290 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsmonsoonal rains (June to November); flooding; occasional droughts
Environment - current issuesillegal logging activities throughout the country and strip mining for gems in the western region along the border with Thailand have resulted in habitat loss and declining biodiversity (in particular, destruction of mangrove swamps threatens natural fisheries); soil erosion; in rural areas, most of the population does not have access to potable water; declining fish stocks because of illegal fishing and overfishing
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - notea land of paddies and forests dominated by the Mekong River and Tonle Sap
note: estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 32.6% (male 2,388,922/female 2,336,439)
15-64 years: 63.8% (male 4,498,568/female 4,743,677)
65 years and over: 3.6% (male 197,649/female 329,038) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 22.1 years
male: 21.4 years
female: 22.8 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)1.765% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)25.73 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)8.08 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)NA
Urbanization(%)urban population: 22% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 4.6% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.6 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 54.79 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 61.84 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 47.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 62.1 years
male: 60.03 years
female: 64.27 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)3.04 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Cambodian(s)
adjective: Cambodian
Ethnic groups(%)Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1%, other 4%

Religions(%)Buddhist 96.4%, Muslim 2.1%, other 1.3%, unspecified 0.2% (1998 census)
Languages(%)Khmer (official) 95%, French, English

Country nameconventional long form: Kingdom of Cambodia
conventional short form: Cambodia
local long form: Preahreacheanachakr Kampuchea (phonetic pronunciation)
local short form: Kampuchea
former: Khmer Republic, Democratic Kampuchea, People's Republic of Kampuchea, State of Cambodia
Government typemultiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy
Capitalname: Phnom Penh
geographic coordinates: 11 33 N, 104 55 E
time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions23 provinces (khett, singular and plural) and 1 municipality (krong, singular and plural)
provinces: Banteay Mean Cheay, Batdambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Spoe, Kampong Thum, Kampot, Kandal, Kaoh Kong, Keb, Krachen, Mondol Kiri, Otdar Mean Cheay, Pailin, Pouthisat, Preah Seihanu (Sihanoukville), Preah Vihear, Prey Veng, Rotanah Kiri, Siem Reab, Stoeng Treng, Svay Rieng, Takev
municipalities: Phnum Penh (Phnom Penh)
Constitutionpromulgated 21 September 1993

Legal systemprimarily a civil law mixture of French-influenced codes from the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) period, royal decrees, and acts of the legislature, with influences of customary law and remnants of communist legal theory; increasing influence of common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: King Norodom SIHAMONI (since 29 October 2004)
head of government: Prime Minister HUN SEN (since 14 January 1985) [co-prime minister from 1993 to 1997]; Permanent Deputy Prime Minister MEN SAM AN (since 25 September 2008); Deputy Prime Ministers SAR KHENG (since 3 February 1992); SOK AN, TEA BANH, HOR NAMHONG, NHEK BUNCHHAY (since 16 July 2004); BIN CHHIN (since 5 September 2007); KEAT CHHON, YIM CHHAI LY (since 24 September 2008); KE KIMYAN (since 12 March 2009)
cabinet: Council of Ministers named by the prime minister and appointed by the monarch
elections: the king is chosen by a Royal Throne Council from among all eligible males of royal descent; following legislative elections, a member of the majority party or majority coalition is named prime minister by the Chairman of the National Assembly and appointed by the king

Legislative branchbicameral, consists of the Senate (61 seats; 2 members appointed by the monarch, 2 elected by the National Assembly, and 57 elected by parliamentarians and commune councils; members serve five-year terms) and the National Assembly (123 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 22 January 2006 (next to be held in January 2011); National Assembly - last held 27 July 2008 (next to be held in July 2013)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - CPP 69%, FUNCINPEC 21%, SRP 10%; seats by party - CPP 45, FUNCINPEC 10, SRP 2; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - CPP 58%, SRP 22%, HRP 7%; NRP 6%; FUNCINPEC 5%; others 2%; seats by party - CPP 90, SRP 26, HRP 3, FUNCINPEC 2, NRP 2

Judicial branchSupreme Council of the Magistracy (provided for in the constitution and formed in December 1997); Supreme Court (and lower courts) exercises judicial authority

Political pressure groups and leadersCambodian Freedom Fighters or CFF; Partnership for Transparency Fund or PTF (anti-corruption organization); Students Movement for Democracy; The Committee for Free and Fair Elections or Comfrel
other: human rights organizations; vendors
Flag descriptionthree horizontal bands of blue (top), red (double width), and blue with a white three-towered temple representing Angkor Wat outlined in black in the center of the red band
note: only national flag to incorporate an actual building in its design

Economy - overviewFrom 2004 to 2007, the economy grew about 10% per year, driven largely by an expansion in the garment sector, construction, agriculture, and tourism. Growth dropped to below 7% in 2008 as a result of the global economic slowdown. With the January 2005 expiration of a WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, Cambodian textile producers were forced to compete directly with lower-priced countries such as China, India, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. The garment industry currently employs more than 320,000 people and contributes more than 85% of Cambodia's exports. In 2005, exploitable oil deposits were found beneath Cambodia's territorial waters, representing a new revenue stream for the government if commercial extraction begins. Mining also is attracting significant investor interest, particularly in the northern parts of the country. The government has said opportunities exist for mining bauxite, gold, iron and gems. In 2006, a US-Cambodia bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed, and several rounds of discussions have been held since 2007. The tourism industry has continued to grow rapidly, with foreign arrivals exceeding 2 million per year in 2007-08, however, economic troubles abroad will dampen growth in 2009. Rubber exports declined more than 15% in 2008 due to falling world market prices. The global financial crisis is weakening demand for Cambodian exports, and construction is declining due to a shortage of credit. The long-term development of the economy remains a daunting challenge. The Cambodian government is working with bilateral and multilateral donors, including the World Bank and IMF, to address the country's many pressing needs. The major economic challenge for Cambodia over the next decade will be fashioning an economic environment in which the private sector can create enough jobs to handle Cambodia's demographic imbalance. More than 50% of the population is less than 21 years old. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$28.01 billion (2008 est.)
$26.67 billion (2007 est.)
$24.2 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$11.25 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)5% (2008 est.)
10.2% (2007 est.)
10.8% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$2,000 (2008 est.)
$1,900 (2007 est.)
$1,800 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 29%
industry: 30%
services: 41% (2007 est.)
Labor force8.6 million (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 75%
industry: NA%
services: NA% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)3.5% (2007 est.)
2.5% (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)35% (2004)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 34.2% (2007)
Distribution of family income - Gini index43 (2007 est.)
40 (2004 est.)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)22.4% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $1.274 billion
expenditures: $1.592 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)25% (2008 est.)
5.9% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$591.7 million (31 December 2008)
$513.6 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$2.328 billion (31 December 2008)
$2.309 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$1.67 billion (31 December 2008)
$1.131 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
Economic aid - recipient$698.2 million pledged in grants and concession loans for 2007 by international donors (2007)

Agriculture - productsrice, rubber, corn, vegetables, cashews, tapioca, silk
Industriestourism, garments, construction, rice milling, fishing, wood and wood products, rubber, cement, gem mining, textiles

Industrial production growth rate(%)8% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$1.06 billion (2008 est.)
-$506.3 million (2007 est.)
Exports$4.708 billion (2008 est.)
$4.089 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)clothing, timber, rubber, rice, fish, tobacco, footwear
Exports - partners(%)US 54.4%, Germany 7.7%, Canada 5.9%, UK 5.5%, Vietnam 4.5% (2008)
Imports$6.534 billion (2008 est.)
$5.424 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)petroleum products, cigarettes, gold, construction materials, machinery, motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products
Imports - partners(%)Thailand 26.8%, Vietnam 19%, China 14.5%, Hong Kong 8.1%, Singapore 6.9% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$2.641 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$2.143 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$4.127 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$3.89 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Exchange ratesriels (KHR) per US dollar - 4,070.94 (2008 est.), 4,006 (2007), 4,103 (2006), 4,092.5 (2005), 4,016.25 (2004)

Currency (code)riel (KHR)

Telephones - main lines in use45,100 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular4.237 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: mobile-phone systems are widely used in urban areas to bypass deficiencies in the fixed-line network; fixed-line connections stand at well less than 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular usage, aided by increasing competition among service providers, is increasing and stands at 30 per 100 persons
domestic: adequate landline and/or cellular service in Phnom Penh and other provincial cities; mobile-phone coverage is rapidly expanding in rural areas
international: country code - 855; adequate but expensive landline and cellular service available to all countries from Phnom Penh and major provincial cities; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region) (2008)
Internet country code.kh
Internet users74,000 (2008)
Airports17 (2009)
Roadways(km)total: 38,093 km
paved: 2,977 km
unpaved: 35,116 km (2007)

Ports and terminalsPhnom Penh, Kampong Saom (Sihanoukville)
Military branchesRoyal Cambodian Armed Forces: Royal Cambodian Army, Royal Khmer Navy, Royal Cambodian Air Force (2009)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)conscription law of October 2006 requires all males between 18-30 to register for military service; 18-month service obligation (2006)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 3,759,034
females age 16-49: 3,784,333 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 2,673,383
females age 16-49: 2,763,256 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 177,881
female: 175,332 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)3% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalCambodia and Thailand dispute sections of boundary with missing boundary markers and claims of Thai encroachments into Cambodian territory; maritime boundary with Vietnam is hampered by unresolved dispute over sovereignty of offshore islands; Thailand accuses Cambodia of obstructing inclusion of Thai areas near Preah Vihear temple ruins, awarded to Cambodia by ICJ decision in 1962, as part of a planned UN World Heritage site

Electricity - production(kWh)1.273 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 65%
hydro: 35%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)1.272 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)167 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)4,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)30,970 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.8% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS75,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths6,900 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, and malaria
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 73.6%
male: 84.7%
female: 64.1% (2004 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 10 years
male: 10 years
female: 9 years (2006)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)1.7% of GDP (2004)

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