History of Battambang, Cambodia
As a city Battambang is not particularly old although there is evidence of occupation in the area for over 1000 years. It was established as an important trading city sometime in the 18th century. In 1795 Thailand annexed much of north western Cambodia including the provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap and Thai rule lasted until 1907 when the province was ceded to the French to be part of their Indochina colony. Much of the architecture still seen today in the centre of the town dates from the first half of the twentieth century. Development was halted by the Second World War when Battambang once again fell under Thai administration but continued rapidly after Independence in 1953.
Battambang suffered much the same as the rest of the country under the Khmer Rouge - the city was evacuated as the population was moved to the countryside where many people died. The city was liberated by the Vietnamese a week after the fall of Phnom Penh on 13th January 1979 but the Khmer Rouge continued to fight on in the north west of the province only suspending hostilities in 1996. During this period the city was off limits to most visitors as it was on the front line in the war against the Khmer Rouge. Typically the government forces would push the Khmer Rouge back towards Pailin in the dry season only to cede most of the gains once the monsoon rains came.
After 1996 Battambang was at peace for the first time in decades and experienced some growth. However it is only until very recently that tourists have come to the city in any numbers - most of the minefields have now been cleared and the main roads have been rehabilitated.