of Longvek. Another Portuguese Dominican, Sylvester d'Azevedo, came in 1574 to work among the Khmer. In the early seventeenth century, a number of Japanese Catholics, a group of Portuguese Eurasians from the Moluccan Islands (Indonesia) and Vietnamese Christians arrived in the country to avoid persecution, and together with Portuguese Cambodians they made up the Christian communities of Cambodia. In 1665, Louis Chevreuil was sent by the MEP to do missionary work there, but he left in the same year, frustrated by the indifference of the population. In 1768, Gervais Levavaseur, of the MEP, began work among the Khmer. Besides translating the principal prayers and a catechism into Khmer, he composed a Khmer-Latin dictionary.
It was not until the nineteenth century that there was a significant number of Christians (predominantly Vietnamese) in Cambodia. As mentioned above, the diocese of Cao Mien (now Phnom Penh) was created in 1850. Earlier, Cambodia had been part of the western diocese of the interior part of Vietnam, later known as Saigon. Indeed, when the interior part was divided into two dioceses in 1844, i.e. eastern (Qui Nhon) and western (Saigon), the latter included not only the two central provinces (Binh Thuan and Di Linh) and the six southern provinces of Vietnam (Bien Hoa, Saigon, My Tho, Vinh Long, Chau Doc and Ha Tien) but also the whole of Cambodia and the southern part of Laos. The Catholic population ofthe new diocese, which was entrusted to Bishop Dominique Lefebvre (1844-64), was estimated at 23,000, and there were three missionaries (Jean Miche, Pierre Duclos and Charles Fontaine) and sixteen Vietnamese priests.2
Given the vastness of the new diocese, in 1850 Bishop Lefebvre proposed that a new diocese be carved out of his territory. It was named Cao Mien (Vietnamese for Cambodia). Jean Miche was appointed apostolic vicar of the new diocese, which covered the whole of Cambodia. Several years earlier, Miche and four other missionaries (Marie-Laurent Cordier, Louis Ausoleil, Edme Sylvestre and Francois Beuret) had attempted a mission to Cambodia but achieved only very meagre success. At its foundation, the diocese of Cao Mien had only 600 Catholics, most of them Vietnamese expatriates, Cambodians of Vietnamese origin or Portuguese Cambodians. Internecine war had destroyed much ofthe country, including the few Catholic communities established by bishops Armand Lefebvre and Guillaume Piguel between 1759 and 1780.
To a greater extent than Vietnam, Cambodia was deeply steeped in Buddhism, and though neither government nor people was openly hostile
2 See Louvet, La Cochinchine religieuse, vol. 11, pp. 154-6.
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