Under 19th century French colonial administration Kampot became a regional administrative centre with the status of a state border district as a result of the delimitation of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The Circonscription Résidentielle de Kampot contained the arrondissements of Kampot, Kompong-Som, Trang and Kong-Pisey.
In 1889 French colonial census reports a multi-ethnic community: Kampot town consisted of "Cambodian Kampot" on the Prek-Kampot River and "Chinese Kampot" on the right riverbank of the west branch of the Prek-Thom River. Nearby was also a Vietnamese village, called Tien-Thanh and another Vietnamese village on Traeuy Koh Island. A Malay also existed on Traeuy Koh Island. Additional villages of mixed ethnicity are listed.
Kampot is the base for trips up the Dâmrei and Bokor Mountains.
Whilst considered largely safe, Kampot still faces a number of challenges related to crime, security and safety, particularly involving tourists and foreign residents. Despite some efforts to provide better security and policing, local authorities have been criticized in recent years for their response to a number of high profile serious crimes, including rapes and murders, that were dealt with poorly. As in neighbouring Sihanoukville, police in Kampot have been accused of corruption and links to organized crime, such as drug trafficking and usage. Some members of Kampot's expatriate community have also faced criticism for alleged attempts to censor, cover up, and control any negative news or reviews about the city, its businesses, and inhabitants, especially on social media groups and pages.