His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni's 59 th Birthday - CamNet

His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni's 59 th Birthday - CamNet

His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni's 59 th Birthday - CamNet


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<strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni’s<br />

<strong>59</strong><strong>th</strong> Bir<strong>th</strong>day<br />

A special supplement to The CAmbodiA dAily

<strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni during a ceremony in Phnom Penh marking Cambodia’s independence from France on November 9.<br />



4 MAY 14, 2012<br />


3 The Advent of <strong>th</strong>e Modern <strong>King</strong>ship 6 Shelter From <strong>th</strong>e Sun<br />

8 Fa<strong>th</strong>er and Son<br />

10 The <strong>King</strong> Reaches Out<br />

Siv Channa<br />

Cover photo: <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni embraces young volunteers of <strong>th</strong>e Cambodian Red Cross on Independence Day on November 9. Siv Channa<br />

Contents photos: Clockwise from top left: <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk visiting Communist Romania in 1972 Romanian National <strong>His</strong>tory Museum; A Bodhi tree<br />

offers shade from <strong>th</strong>e sun. Haiko Su/Creative Commons; <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk introduces his son, <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni, to <strong>th</strong>e media after arriving in Phnom<br />

Penh in October 2004, days prior to <strong>th</strong>e future <strong>King</strong>’s coronation. Reuters; <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni reaches out to young Cambodians during Independence<br />

Day celebrations on November 9. Siv Channa

The Advent of <strong>th</strong>e<br />

Modern <strong>King</strong>ship<br />

U.S. Center of Military <strong>His</strong>tory<br />

<strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk stands wi<strong>th</strong> Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, left, and party members Peng Zhen and Liu Shaoqi, right, during a state visit to Beijing in 1956.<br />

Placing <strong>th</strong>e role of Cambodia’s <strong>King</strong> in a long line of monarchs in <strong>th</strong>e country, and<br />

around <strong>th</strong>e world, who have redefined <strong>th</strong>eir position in democratized societies.<br />

The Constitution adopted in 1993 stipulated<br />

<strong>th</strong>at <strong>th</strong>e country was a constitutional<br />

monarchy, stating in Article<br />

7 <strong>th</strong>at “The <strong>King</strong> of Cambodia shall<br />

reign but shall not govern.”<br />

This article irked <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk, who<br />

quoted <strong>th</strong>e text several times in his speeches<br />

during his second reign from 1993 until his retirement<br />

in 2004. He had after all ruled Cambodia<br />

in <strong>th</strong>e 1950s and 1960s wi<strong>th</strong> all <strong>th</strong>e executive<br />

powers of a government leader and had<br />

played a key role in <strong>th</strong>e 1980s to broker <strong>th</strong>e<br />

Paris Peace Agreement <strong>th</strong>at put an end to war<br />

in 1991.<br />

But as in <strong>th</strong>e case of Queen Elizabe<strong>th</strong> II of<br />

England, <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni acceded to<br />

By Michelle Vachon <strong>th</strong>e cambodia daily<br />

<strong>th</strong>e <strong>th</strong>rone in 2004 having never been involved<br />

in politics—a status <strong>th</strong>at has become customary<br />

for constitutional monarchs around <strong>th</strong>e<br />

world.<br />

The 1993 constitution also mentions <strong>th</strong>at<br />

<strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> is <strong>th</strong>e country’s head of state and, al<strong>th</strong>ough<br />

Cambodians are quite clear <strong>th</strong>at Prime<br />

Minister Hun Sen and elected officials are <strong>th</strong>e<br />

ones who run <strong>th</strong>e country, <strong>th</strong>ey get confused<br />

as to <strong>th</strong>e role <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> is meant to play, said<br />

Theng Chan Sangvar, a law professor at <strong>th</strong>e<br />

Royal University of Phnom Penh wi<strong>th</strong> a PhD in<br />

law from <strong>th</strong>e Universite Lyon 2 in France.<br />

“People don’t understand <strong>th</strong>at <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> has<br />

no [executive] power,” said Mr. Theng, who<br />

also serves as chief of staff at <strong>th</strong>e Ministry of<br />

Rural Development.<br />

In any case, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong>’s most important<br />

role is serving as a symbol for <strong>th</strong>e people, Mr.<br />

Theng added.<br />

This symbolic role is linked to <strong>th</strong>e concept<br />

of nation versus state, said Jona<strong>th</strong>on Lou<strong>th</strong>, an<br />

Australian political scientist previously wi<strong>th</strong><br />

<strong>th</strong>e University of Adelaide in Sou<strong>th</strong> Australia<br />

now teaching at <strong>th</strong>e University of Chester in<br />

England.<br />

“The state is a political entity...whereas a<br />

nation is a cultural idea: That you belong to a<br />

particular people which you identify as being<br />

some<strong>th</strong>ing specific. Queen Elizabe<strong>th</strong> embodies<br />

Englishness or Britishness at <strong>th</strong>at level,”<br />

he said.<br />

In a similar manner, <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni embodies<br />

“Cambodianness,” Mr. Lou<strong>th</strong> said.<br />

“The actual concept of statehood is a Euro-<br />

The CAmbodiA dAily 3

pean concept,” he said, one <strong>th</strong>at grew out of<br />

necessity to end wars. It is often traced back<br />

to <strong>th</strong>e Peace of Westphalia in 1648: a series of<br />

treaties signed by several European nations<br />

<strong>th</strong>at determined <strong>th</strong>e territories over which<br />

monarchs ruled, introducing <strong>th</strong>e notion of<br />

states and set borders, he said.<br />

European nations imposed <strong>th</strong>is concept<br />

when <strong>th</strong>ey built <strong>th</strong>eir colonial empires, physically<br />

erecting fences along borders <strong>th</strong>at had<br />

earlier been blurred and of little importance in<br />

regions such as Asia, Mr. Lou<strong>th</strong> said.<br />

Chinese emperors for instance would consider<br />

<strong>th</strong>eir territories to extend to states or nations<br />

<strong>th</strong>at had to pay <strong>th</strong>em tributes, he said. And<br />

some au<strong>th</strong>ors have <strong>th</strong>eorized <strong>th</strong>at Buddhist<br />

countries viewed <strong>th</strong>eir states as mandalas-<strong>th</strong>e<br />

circle representing <strong>th</strong>e universe in Buddhism<strong>th</strong>at<br />

is, powerful in <strong>th</strong>e center and weakening<br />

towards <strong>th</strong>e edges, <strong>th</strong>ese weak edges leading<br />

to conflicts when <strong>th</strong>ey overlapped wi<strong>th</strong> o<strong>th</strong>er<br />

countries claiming <strong>th</strong>at territory, he said.<br />

Whe<strong>th</strong>er or not <strong>th</strong>is was <strong>th</strong>e case, China and<br />

Sou<strong>th</strong>east Asian nations were using <strong>th</strong>e notion<br />

of states wi<strong>th</strong> physical borders by <strong>th</strong>e late<br />

1940s, and in <strong>th</strong>e mid-1960s <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk<br />

was very clear about Cambodia’s borders<br />

and <strong>th</strong>e fact <strong>th</strong>at <strong>th</strong>e U.S. at war wi<strong>th</strong> Nor<strong>th</strong><br />

Vietnam was bombing Cambodian territory,<br />

Mr. Lou<strong>th</strong> said.<br />

Constitutional monarchies wi<strong>th</strong> kings as<br />

heads of state and elected officials running<br />

governments came out of efforts over <strong>th</strong>e centuries<br />

to curb <strong>th</strong>e powers of absolute monarchs<br />

who had ruled nations wi<strong>th</strong>out allowing <strong>th</strong>eir<br />

subjects decision-making rights, he said.<br />

The first attempts however involved aristocrats<br />

or <strong>th</strong>e weal<strong>th</strong>y eager to maintain <strong>th</strong>eir<br />

status and benefits, Mr. Lou<strong>th</strong> said.<br />

The Magna Carta charter <strong>th</strong>at English barons<br />

imposed on <strong>King</strong> John of England in 1215<br />

was meant to limit his abuse of power affecting<br />

<strong>th</strong>em, he said. “They wanted to protect <strong>th</strong>eir<br />

own privileges. We are not talking about workers’<br />

revolution or any<strong>th</strong>ing like <strong>th</strong>at. We’re only<br />

talking about very privileged people wanting to<br />

maintain <strong>th</strong>eir own position,” Mr. Lou<strong>th</strong> said.<br />

<strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni during Independence Day celebrations last year<br />

4 MAY 14, 2012<br />

It is only in <strong>th</strong>e late 19<strong>th</strong> century or early<br />

20<strong>th</strong> century <strong>th</strong>at movements against monarchs<br />

would include <strong>th</strong>e rights for all people<br />

to vote and elect <strong>th</strong>eir countries’ leaders, he<br />

explained.<br />

When France agreed to sign <strong>th</strong>e 1863 Protectorate<br />

Treaty at <strong>th</strong>e request of <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong><br />

intent on reducing Thai and Vietnamese<br />

influence over <strong>th</strong>e country, monarchs wi<strong>th</strong> absolute<br />

powers had been ruling Khmer territory<br />

for centuries. Or at least <strong>th</strong>ey had tried to:<br />

There was a long tradition of Khmer princes<br />

fighting and killing each<br />

o<strong>th</strong>er to accede to <strong>th</strong>e<br />

<strong>th</strong>rone.<br />

As historian David<br />

Chandler writes in his<br />

book “A <strong>His</strong>tory of Cambodia,”<br />

“<strong>th</strong>ere was probably<br />

little difference be-<br />

tween <strong>th</strong>e way Cambodia<br />

was governed in <strong>th</strong>e<br />

1860s and <strong>th</strong>e way Angkor<br />

had been governed almost a <strong>th</strong>ousand years<br />

before.... Government meant a network of status<br />

relationships whereby peasants paid in rice,<br />

forest products, or labor to support <strong>th</strong>eir officials.<br />

The officials in turn paid <strong>th</strong>e king, using<br />

some of <strong>th</strong>e rice, forest products, and peasant<br />

labor wi<strong>th</strong> which <strong>th</strong>ey had been paid. The number<br />

of peasants one could exploit in <strong>th</strong>is way<br />

depended on <strong>th</strong>e position one was granted by<br />

<strong>th</strong>e <strong>th</strong>rone; positions <strong>th</strong>emselves were for sale,<br />

and <strong>th</strong>is tended to limit officeholders to members<br />

of <strong>th</strong>e elite wi<strong>th</strong> enough money or goods<br />

on hand to purchase <strong>th</strong>eir positions.”<br />

The first Cambodian rebellion against <strong>th</strong>e<br />

French in <strong>th</strong>e mid-1880s was, as had been <strong>th</strong>e<br />

case in Europe, <strong>th</strong>e elite class wanting to maintain<br />

<strong>th</strong>eir profits and privileges <strong>th</strong>reatened by<br />

France’s administrative measures, Mr. Chandler<br />

explains. In 1916 however, it would be ordinary<br />

Cambodian farmers by <strong>th</strong>e <strong>th</strong>ousands who<br />

protested <strong>th</strong>e heavy taxes imposed by France.<br />

During <strong>th</strong>e Protectorate, France progressively<br />

took all <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong>’s powers away. But<br />

at <strong>th</strong>e same time, “<strong>th</strong>e French colonists sig-<br />

“The <strong>King</strong> has rights and<br />

obligations, but no power....<br />

He is, in fact, a head of state<br />

similar to <strong>th</strong>e head of state in <strong>th</strong>e<br />

British...parliamentary system.”<br />

Siv Channa<br />

nificantly boosted <strong>th</strong>e status of <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> compared<br />

to <strong>th</strong>e pre-colonial order,” said Caroline<br />

Hughes, director of <strong>th</strong>e Asia Research Centre<br />

and associate professor at Murdoch University<br />

in Western Australia.<br />

“They mixed <strong>th</strong>e iconography of Angkor<br />

wi<strong>th</strong> French conceptions of kingship to come<br />

up wi<strong>th</strong> an Asian Louis XIV,” whose prestige<br />

would be akin to <strong>th</strong>is 17<strong>th</strong>-century monarch<br />

who reigned during a golden age of France, she<br />

said.<br />

“The colonial ideal was embraced and manipulated<br />

by <strong>Norodom</strong><br />

Sihanouk from 1955 to<br />

1970, in <strong>th</strong>e very specific<br />

context of <strong>th</strong>e Cold<br />

War in Sou<strong>th</strong> East Asia;<br />

he linked <strong>th</strong>e French colonial<br />

conception of kingship<br />

wi<strong>th</strong> modern ideas<br />

about mass politics to<br />

promote a political system<br />

<strong>th</strong>at worked against<br />

<strong>th</strong>e formation of stable party systems <strong>th</strong>at could<br />

represent <strong>th</strong>e interests of <strong>th</strong>e masses,” she said<br />

in an e-mail interview.<br />

The situation created by <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk<br />

in 1955 was a singular one.<br />

When Cambodia opted to become a constitutional<br />

monarchy after obtaining its independence<br />

from France, <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk, who<br />

had been king since 1941, stepped down in order<br />

to enter <strong>th</strong>e political arena, reverting to <strong>th</strong>e<br />

title of prince and making room for his fa<strong>th</strong>er to<br />

be crowned <strong>King</strong> Suramarit, said Theng Chan<br />

Sangvar, doctor of law.<br />

He founded <strong>th</strong>e political party Sangkum<br />

Reastr Niyum, or people’s socialist community,<br />

which won <strong>th</strong>e 1955 elections.<br />

“It was <strong>th</strong>erefore a prince, former king who<br />

had become prime minister,” Mr. Theng said.<br />

When <strong>King</strong> Suramarit died in 1960, <strong>Norodom</strong><br />

Sihanouk turned palace duties over to Queen<br />

Kossamak, his mo<strong>th</strong>er, and assumed <strong>th</strong>e role<br />

of head of state on <strong>th</strong>e international stage, handling<br />

foreign affairs, he said. <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk<br />

was in fact serving as bo<strong>th</strong> head of state<br />

and head of government.<br />

However, since <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk’s party<br />

was winning about every seat in national elections<br />

in <strong>th</strong>e 1950s and 1960s, <strong>th</strong>is created no<br />

difficulty, Mr. Theng said.<br />

The Cambodian constitution of <strong>th</strong>e 1960s,<br />

last amended in 1964, stated <strong>th</strong>at <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> appointed<br />

Cambodian ambassadors and was <strong>th</strong>e<br />

army’s supreme commander. It also stated <strong>th</strong>at<br />

all powers emanated from <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> and <strong>th</strong>at<br />

<strong>th</strong>e constitution could not be amended in any<br />

way <strong>th</strong>at would restrict “<strong>th</strong>e rights reserved to<br />

Royalty by <strong>th</strong>is Constitution.” During <strong>th</strong>at period,<br />

David Chandler writes, “[political] dissent<br />

was viewed as a mixture of treason and<br />

lese majeste.”<br />

In <strong>th</strong>e meantime in Thailand, which had become<br />

a constitutional monarchy in 1932, “<strong>th</strong>e<br />

<strong>King</strong> was used repeatedly <strong>th</strong>roughout <strong>th</strong>e Cold<br />

War as a counterweight to <strong>th</strong>e politics of <strong>th</strong>e<br />

left,” said Australian political scientist Caroline<br />

Hughes. “Ideas about monarchism were mobilized<br />

again and again to combat <strong>th</strong>e formation<br />

of labor organizations, leftist parties or communist<br />

movements.<br />

“I <strong>th</strong>ink <strong>th</strong>at kingship has been used...to constrict<br />

mass politics by labeling as disloyal or anti-nationalist<br />

movements <strong>th</strong>at contest status

U.S. Military U.S. State Department<br />

Left, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan stands wi<strong>th</strong> Queen Elizabe<strong>th</strong> II of England during her visit to <strong>th</strong>e U.S. in February 1983. Right, <strong>King</strong> Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of<br />

Thailand stand wi<strong>th</strong> former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, second from left, and his wife, Mamie, right, at a White House dinner in June 1960.<br />

hierarchies,” she said.<br />

As for Cambodia since 1993, Mr. Theng said,<br />

“monarchy is elective and all powers are in <strong>th</strong>e<br />

hands of people’s elected representatives: It’s<br />

an outright democracy.”<br />

Today, he said, “The <strong>King</strong> has rights and obligations,<br />

but no power. He does not have <strong>th</strong>e<br />

power to issue regulations or to manage <strong>th</strong>e<br />

state’s public and political institutions. He is in<br />

fact a head of state similar to <strong>th</strong>e head of state<br />

in <strong>th</strong>e British...parliamentary system.”<br />

As in <strong>th</strong>e British system, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> can be,<br />

according to <strong>th</strong>e constitution, “arbitrator to ensure<br />

<strong>th</strong>e fai<strong>th</strong>ful execution of public powers” in<br />

<strong>th</strong>e case of political crisis. The <strong>King</strong> presides<br />

over some state and religious ceremonies and<br />

greets visiting heads of state.<br />

Unlike <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> of Thailand, who can delay<br />

signing bills into law, which forces parliamentarians<br />

to review <strong>th</strong>em, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> of Cambodia<br />

does not have <strong>th</strong>at latitude: He is obligated to<br />

sign into law what has been approved by <strong>th</strong>e<br />

National Assembly and <strong>th</strong>e Senate, Mr. Theng<br />

said.<br />

Cambodians are quite clear <strong>th</strong>at in Angkorian<br />

times and up to <strong>th</strong>e arrival of French administrators,<br />

<strong>th</strong>eir kings had absolute powers and<br />

were considered representatives of deities on<br />

Ear<strong>th</strong>, he said.<br />

While kings are no longer seen <strong>th</strong>at way today,<br />

Cambodians still attach a great importance<br />

to <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni as a symbol, Mr. Theng said.<br />

Even if <strong>th</strong>e constitution had not stated <strong>th</strong>at<br />

“The <strong>King</strong> of Cambodia shall be a symbol of<br />

<strong>th</strong>e unity and eternity of <strong>th</strong>e nation,” Cambodians<br />

would still see <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni in <strong>th</strong>at light.<br />

HOPE<br />

Announcement<br />

The CAmbodiA dAily 5

He’ll Give Us<br />

Shelter From <strong>th</strong>e Sun<br />

By Mech Dara <strong>th</strong>e cambodia daily<br />

It has been eight years since <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong><br />

Sihamoni ascended to <strong>th</strong>e <strong>th</strong>rone.<br />

And in <strong>th</strong>at time he has created for himself<br />

an image of generosity, serenity and honesty.<br />

At any one of his public appearances, <strong>King</strong><br />

<strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni is cheered on by young and<br />

old alike, embraced by children and greeted<br />

wi<strong>th</strong> genuine adoration by all.<br />

<strong>His</strong> role as a national figurehead, outside <strong>th</strong>e<br />

realm of fractious politics, has allowed <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni<br />

to rise above <strong>th</strong>e country’s more contentious<br />

issues—corruption, land grabbing and<br />

freedom of expression—and engage wi<strong>th</strong> <strong>th</strong>e<br />

people in a way <strong>th</strong>at serves to fur<strong>th</strong>er consolidate<br />

his position as <strong>th</strong>eir national symbol.<br />

In interviews <strong>th</strong>is week, Phnom Penh’s<br />

you<strong>th</strong> spoke frankly and reverently about <strong>King</strong><br />

Sihamoni, praising his generosity and calm demeanor;<br />

likening him to a tree sheltering <strong>th</strong>e<br />

people from <strong>th</strong>e scorching hot sun of everyday<br />

life.<br />

“<strong>King</strong> Sihamoni is a good king and <strong>th</strong>e main<br />

pillar of our country. Wi<strong>th</strong>out him, we would<br />

face difficulties and <strong>th</strong>e government could<br />

do any<strong>th</strong>ing it wants,” said 19-year-old Dos<br />

Vireak.<br />

Resting on a bench outside <strong>th</strong>e Hun Sen Library,<br />

<strong>th</strong>e first-year chemistry student echoed<br />

<strong>th</strong>e beliefs shared by many of his generation interviewed<br />

<strong>th</strong>is week: <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong>, wi<strong>th</strong> his humble<br />

ways, wi<strong>th</strong> his refusal to involve himself in<br />

politics, wi<strong>th</strong> his quiet generosity, does untold<br />

good for Cambodia and its people.<br />

“<strong>King</strong> Sihanouk was active and hardworking<br />

in politics while <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni never involves<br />

6 MAY 14, 2012<br />

Jeff Kennel/WikiMedia Commons<br />

<strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni, below, attends <strong>th</strong>e Royal<br />

Ploughing Ceremony in May 2008. Above, a Bodhi tree<br />

offers shade from <strong>th</strong>e sun. Buddha is believed to have<br />

meditated under a bodhi tree.<br />

himself in politics...he doesn’t care which party<br />

people belong to, he just loves and protects<br />

<strong>th</strong>em because <strong>th</strong>ey are his own people,” said<br />

Suon Sam<strong>th</strong>, a 22-year-old monk at <strong>th</strong>e Sampov<br />

Meas Pagoda in Phnom Penh. He added<br />

<strong>th</strong>at <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> is an occasional topic of conversation<br />

between monks at <strong>th</strong>e pagoda.<br />

“They say <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> is very polite, gentle and<br />

always has good manners,” he said.<br />

“Generous” seems to be <strong>th</strong>e most frequent<br />

adjective <strong>th</strong>at you<strong>th</strong> associate wi<strong>th</strong> <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni,<br />

who turns <strong>59</strong> today.<br />

Haiko Su/Creative Commmons<br />

Among Cambodia’s you<strong>th</strong>, <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni is an image of generosity<br />

“He represents <strong>th</strong>e whole of <strong>th</strong>e Cambodian<br />

people. He is a generous king and we respect<br />

and love him,” explained Phat Srey Poch, a 19year-old<br />

garment worker living in Meanchey<br />

district. In Takeo, where Ms. Srey Poch is originally<br />

from, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> has paid frequent visits,<br />

offering donations to poor villagers.<br />

“The villagers love and respect him. Our<br />

country should have a king so it will be more<br />

developed,” she added.<br />

“When he speaks, he has a smiling face and<br />

it shows <strong>th</strong>at he is an honest and friendly person,”<br />

is how 23-year-old Mong Chivon described<br />

him. Like o<strong>th</strong>ers interviewed, Mr. Chivon,<br />

who is a tuk-tuk driver in Daun Penh, said<br />

<strong>th</strong>e monarchy is a necessary institution for <strong>th</strong>e<br />

stability of Cambodian society.<br />

“Our country needs a <strong>King</strong> to look after<br />

and protect it,” he said. “The <strong>King</strong> represents<br />

<strong>th</strong>e country and provides [a cooling] shade for<br />

Cambodian people.”<br />

One might wonder how <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> manages<br />

to protect Cambodia. But in a society where<br />

abuse of power is commonplace, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong>’s<br />

ability to protect derives from <strong>th</strong>e everlasting<br />

shoulder he offers to <strong>th</strong>e people to lean on in<br />

times of need.<br />

“The <strong>King</strong> goes to help people who have<br />

been affected by natural disasters and to encourage<br />

<strong>th</strong>em to survive and reunite to build<br />

<strong>th</strong>e country,” explained Va<strong>th</strong> Vicheka, a 22year-old<br />

literature student at <strong>th</strong>e Royal University<br />

of Phnom Penh.<br />

“Before, our parents considered <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong><br />

a god. The <strong>King</strong> could bring rain to a place he<br />

had visited. Today, we consider <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> a cool<br />

shadow for people to shelter <strong>th</strong>emselves from<br />

<strong>th</strong>e sun and heat.”

Monument<br />

Books<br />

The CAmbodiA dAily 7

Fa<strong>th</strong>er and Son<br />

The relationship between <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni and <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk<br />

<strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni bows in respect to his fa<strong>th</strong>er, former <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk, during his coronation ceremony on Oct. 24, 2004.<br />

8 MAY 14, 2012<br />


Siv Channa<br />

The <strong>King</strong>’s fa<strong>th</strong>er, <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk, speaks on <strong>th</strong>e occasion of his bir<strong>th</strong>day on Oct. 11 wi<strong>th</strong> his son, <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni, and Queen Moninea<strong>th</strong> seated next to him.<br />

By Kate Bartlett <strong>th</strong>e cambodia daily<br />

The first four letters of his fa<strong>th</strong>er’s<br />

name and <strong>th</strong>e first four letters of<br />

his mo<strong>th</strong>er’s name combined make<br />

up his own unique first name—Sihamoni—who<br />

has always been a favorite of<br />

his fa<strong>th</strong>er’s despite some obvious differences<br />

in character.<br />

Shakespeare wrote “it is a wise fa<strong>th</strong>er who<br />

knows his own child,” and while some Palace<br />

watchers had <strong>th</strong>ought his politically active halfbro<strong>th</strong>er<br />

Prince <strong>Norodom</strong> Ranariddh was a more<br />

obvious choice for <strong>th</strong>e <strong>th</strong>rone, Retired <strong>King</strong> Sihanouk<br />

favored Prince Sihamoni as his successor<br />

as <strong>King</strong> precisely because he was not part<br />

of <strong>th</strong>e political sphere.<br />

<strong>King</strong> Sihamoni has had an apolitical profile<br />

whereas <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> Fa<strong>th</strong>er has held a towering<br />

place in Cambodia’s political history. And <strong>th</strong>ere<br />

are many o<strong>th</strong>er differences between fa<strong>th</strong>er and<br />

son, including <strong>th</strong>e many-times married Retired<br />

<strong>King</strong> Sihanouk and his son’s confirmed bachelor<br />

status, as well as <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk’s effusive,<br />

opinionated eruptions on every<strong>th</strong>ing from<br />

poverty to corruption in contrast to his son’s<br />

low-key approach to matters of state.<br />

Last year, Retired <strong>King</strong> Sihanouk reflected<br />

on his son’s bachelor status. All Cambodia’s<br />

ancient kings had been polygamous, he noted,<br />

and even in <strong>th</strong>e modern era <strong>King</strong>s <strong>Norodom</strong><br />

and Sisowa<strong>th</strong> had had hundreds of consorts.<br />

“Our current <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni, has<br />

nei<strong>th</strong>er ‘spouse,’ not ‘mistress’ nor ‘feminine<br />

adventure,’” <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> Fa<strong>th</strong>er observed.<br />

But, <strong>th</strong>e two share more <strong>th</strong>an blood and <strong>th</strong>e<br />

first four letters of <strong>th</strong>eir names. While <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong><br />

Fa<strong>th</strong>er has always been a lover of all <strong>th</strong>ings<br />

French and his son studied Western classical<br />

ballet in Prague, <strong>th</strong>ey have in common a deep<br />

appreciation for <strong>th</strong>e arts, and particularly for<br />

music, dance and film.<br />

Retired <strong>King</strong> Sihanouk made 27 films, some<br />

of which he starred in himself, and some of<br />

which he cast his son in; at 14, <strong>Norodom</strong> Si-<br />

hamoni starred in “The Little Prince.” When<br />

he joined his fa<strong>th</strong>er in Nor<strong>th</strong> Korea years later,<br />

<strong>King</strong> Sihamoni attended film school.<br />

Having moved to Paris in <strong>th</strong>e 1980s, <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni<br />

became a professor of classical dance,<br />

made several films wi<strong>th</strong> a dance focus, and<br />

in 1993 became Cambodia’s ambassador to<br />

Unesco.<br />

Since <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni’s ascent to <strong>th</strong>e <strong>th</strong>rone<br />

in 2004, <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihanouk has spoken publicly<br />

about his favorite--and only surviving-son<br />

by Queen Moninea<strong>th</strong> several times, sometimes<br />

defending him against criticism, o<strong>th</strong>er<br />

times making allusions to his personal life.<br />

The two share more <strong>th</strong>an blood<br />

and <strong>th</strong>e first four letters of <strong>th</strong>eir<br />

names...<strong>th</strong>ey have in common a<br />

deep appreciation for <strong>th</strong>e arts.<br />

In 2005, after an opposition lawmaker called<br />

on <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni to play a more active role in<br />

<strong>th</strong>e nation’s political life, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> Fa<strong>th</strong>er posted<br />

a letter of reply on his website—where he<br />

frequently posts his observations or grievances<br />

on matter of state and <strong>th</strong>e world.<br />

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay had in his letter<br />

called on <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni to “advise leaders including<br />

Hun Sen to help improve” <strong>th</strong>e political<br />

situation in <strong>th</strong>e country.<br />

The Retired <strong>King</strong>’s riposte was classic<br />

Sihanouk.<br />

“I would like to reply to Your Excellency on<br />

behalf of my son <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong>. I would like you to<br />

understand <strong>th</strong>at <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> has done his best but<br />

wi<strong>th</strong> no success,” <strong>th</strong>e retired <strong>King</strong> wrote wi<strong>th</strong>out<br />

elaborating.<br />

Observers share <strong>th</strong>e opinion <strong>th</strong>at Retired<br />

<strong>King</strong> Sihanouk was more outspoken on politics<br />

<strong>th</strong>an his son, but <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni’s softer<br />

approach to statesmanship should not be<br />

misinterpreted.<br />

In a leaked diplomatic cable from <strong>th</strong>e U.S.<br />

Embassy in Phnom Penh, embassy staff noted<br />

<strong>th</strong>at after Sihamoni’s selection as successor to<br />

<strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong>: “Sihanouk will now likely work behind<br />

<strong>th</strong>e scenes to train Sihamoni and keep his<br />

hand in politics.<br />

“P.M. Hun Sen supported <strong>th</strong>e choice (of Sihamoni<br />

as <strong>King</strong>), perhaps because Sihamoni is<br />

apolitical and believed to be relatively pliable,”<br />

<strong>th</strong>e cable continued.<br />

The diplomatic dispatch went to on note<br />

<strong>th</strong>at: “Many had long speculated <strong>th</strong>at Ranariddh...would<br />

be <strong>th</strong>e logical choice for <strong>King</strong>. However,<br />

Sihanouk has had a rancorous relationship<br />

wi<strong>th</strong> Ranariddh for years. Sihanouk may<br />

have worried <strong>th</strong>at having such an overtly political<br />

son as <strong>King</strong> would put <strong>th</strong>e monarchy itself<br />

in danger.<br />

“But, most important, Sihanouk is devoted<br />

to Queen Moninea<strong>th</strong>, and, <strong>th</strong>erefore, has long<br />

expressed support for his son by her.... The selection<br />

of Sihamoni no doubt took greater urgency<br />

for <strong>th</strong>e Queen wi<strong>th</strong> <strong>th</strong>e untimely dea<strong>th</strong><br />

of her o<strong>th</strong>er son by Sihanouk, Prince Narindrapong<br />

[in 2003].”<br />

Retired <strong>King</strong> Sihanouk has long posted letters<br />

on his website from his childhood friend<br />

and pen-pal Ruom Ritt, who lives in <strong>th</strong>e Pyrenees,<br />

<strong>th</strong>ough some have suggested <strong>th</strong>at Mr.<br />

Ritt is a non-de-plume <strong>th</strong>at once allowed <strong>th</strong>e<br />

<strong>King</strong> Fa<strong>th</strong>er to speak his mind more freely<br />

about <strong>th</strong>e pressing issues of <strong>th</strong>e day.<br />

Before promising to never write again several<br />

years ago, Ruom Ritt’s letters had evoked<br />

particular ire from Prime Minister Hun Sen.<br />

Then in 2004, a “Ruom Ritt Jr.,” writing from<br />

Prague emerged, vowing to write to <strong>th</strong>e new<br />

<strong>King</strong> Sihamoni.<br />

He said he had met <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni while<br />

he was studying abroad, and indicated <strong>th</strong>at he<br />

would be as critical of Cambodia’s leaders as<br />

Ruom Ritt Sr, saying: “The Powerful who <strong>th</strong>ink<br />

only of <strong>th</strong>emselves, <strong>th</strong>e Poor who attempt to<br />

survive and Your Family who is haunted by a<br />

past <strong>th</strong>at is no longer.”<br />

The CAmbodiA dAily 9

<strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni greets <strong>th</strong>e crowd during Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh last year.<br />

The <strong>King</strong> Reaches Out<br />

A royal schedule, tailored to <strong>th</strong>e people.<br />

Many of his red carpet appearances<br />

take place on <strong>th</strong>e runway at<br />

Phnom Penh International Airport,<br />

where he can be seen surrounded<br />

by government officials and royal family<br />

members. But, <strong>King</strong> <strong>Norodom</strong> Sihamoni<br />

generally leads a low-profile life. He has no official<br />

spokesman and only makes a few public<br />

speeches every year.<br />

Behind <strong>th</strong>e scenes, however, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> is<br />

busy visiting foreign dignitaries from countries<br />

like China, Burma and Australia. He is also<br />

heavily occupied wi<strong>th</strong> a variety of philan<strong>th</strong>ropic<br />

activities and o<strong>th</strong>er trips around <strong>th</strong>e country,<br />

10 MAY 14, 2012<br />

By Lauren Cro<strong>th</strong>ers <strong>th</strong>e cambodia daily<br />

where he connects wi<strong>th</strong> people and sees firs<strong>th</strong>and<br />

<strong>th</strong>e challenges being faced by many.<br />

In fact, humanitarian work has dominated<br />

<strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong>’s calendar since he celebrated his<br />

58<strong>th</strong> bir<strong>th</strong>day last May, and since <strong>th</strong>en he has<br />

averaged one visit per mon<strong>th</strong> to poor communities<br />

around <strong>th</strong>e country.<br />

During last year’s disastrous flooding, which<br />

killed hundreds and wiped out a large chunk of<br />

<strong>th</strong>e country’s rice harvest, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> delivered<br />

gifts of cash, rice and noodles, bedding, mosquito<br />

nets and o<strong>th</strong>er necessities to many people<br />

facing hardships.<br />

But even before <strong>th</strong>e floods hit in Septem-<br />

Reuters<br />

ber, 2011 <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> traveled to Preah Sihanouk<br />

province in June, where he visited villagers<br />

from Prey Nop district’s Samakki commune.<br />

Accompanied by o<strong>th</strong>er senior palace officials,<br />

he donated 50,000 riel, 50 kg of rice, clo<strong>th</strong>es<br />

and o<strong>th</strong>er food to 465 poor families. During <strong>th</strong>e<br />

same trip 137 school students were provided<br />

wi<strong>th</strong> school materials, t-shirts and 10,000 riel,<br />

or $2.50 each. Medical staff at a nearby hospital<br />

also received packages <strong>th</strong>at included clo<strong>th</strong>es<br />

and bedding.<br />

The following mon<strong>th</strong>, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> continued<br />

his humanitarian activities wi<strong>th</strong> a visit<br />

to Kompong Speu province’s Odong district.<br />

First on <strong>th</strong>e agenda was a visit to Krang Tumnup<br />

village in Chan Sen commune on July 22,<br />

where four of <strong>th</strong>e village’s poorest families

were given bedding, food and 50,000 riel. Similar<br />

gifts were handed out to hundreds of o<strong>th</strong>er<br />

families in nearby villagers and more <strong>th</strong>an<br />

100 children were given school uniforms.<br />

These sorts of visits often include <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong><br />

entering ordinary people’s homes and places of<br />

work and study. Climbing up steps to visit wi<strong>th</strong><br />

families in <strong>th</strong>eir stilted homes and embracing<br />

Behind <strong>th</strong>e scenes, <strong>th</strong>e<br />

<strong>King</strong> keeps himself busy<br />

wi<strong>th</strong> a variety of philan<strong>th</strong>ropic<br />

activities and o<strong>th</strong>er trips<br />

around <strong>th</strong>e country, where he<br />

connects wi<strong>th</strong> people and sees<br />

firs<strong>th</strong>and <strong>th</strong>e challenges being<br />

faced by <strong>th</strong>em.<br />

<strong>th</strong>e elderly in some of <strong>th</strong>e most impoverished<br />

conditions imaginable have become a common<br />

occurrence for <strong>th</strong>e king.<br />

<strong>King</strong> Sihamoni’s ability to get down on his<br />

hands and knees and greet <strong>th</strong>e Cambodian<br />

people in <strong>th</strong>eir every day lives has meant <strong>th</strong>at<br />

villagers today flock in <strong>th</strong>eir hundreds to catch<br />

a glimpse of him during his many missions<br />

around <strong>th</strong>e country.<br />

Siv Channa<br />

<strong>King</strong> Sihamoni arrives at Phnom Penh International<br />

Airport on Feb. 12.<br />

In August, <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> visited Kampot province,<br />

where he was met in Chhuk district by<br />

518 people from four villages. Everyone present<br />

was given cash, rice, noodles, bedding and<br />

clo<strong>th</strong>es.<br />

Ano<strong>th</strong>er element to <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong>’s trips around<br />

Cambodia is how he openly practices his Buddhist<br />

fai<strong>th</strong>. He is often seen presenting offer-<br />

ings to a Buddha statue under a local Banyan<br />

tree. On one trip last year he donated 1 million<br />

riel, or $250 to a pagoda in Takeo province.<br />

By October last year, flooding had affected<br />

tens of <strong>th</strong>ousands of people and <strong>th</strong>e inundation<br />

had decimated <strong>th</strong>ousands of hectares of rice<br />

paddy. Hearing of <strong>th</strong>e news it was not long before<br />

<strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> was back in his car and traveling<br />

out to meet <strong>th</strong>e people he knows so well.<br />

By November, <strong>th</strong>e flooding crisis had escalated<br />

fur<strong>th</strong>er and farmers were struggling to<br />

contain <strong>th</strong>e fallout. The outlook was bleak, and<br />

large amounts of stagnant water were contributing<br />

to a concern <strong>th</strong>at cases of malaria could<br />

rapidly rise.<br />

On one occasion <strong>th</strong>at mon<strong>th</strong>, <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni<br />

traveled to Svay Rieng province, where 50,000<br />

riel, rice, paddy seeds, noodles, drinking water,<br />

mosquito nets, clo<strong>th</strong>es and bedding were donated<br />

to 850 families in Kompong Ro district.<br />

When <strong>th</strong>e <strong>King</strong> is not out in <strong>th</strong>e provinces<br />

he also spends time meeting wi<strong>th</strong> visiting dignitaries,<br />

<strong>th</strong>e country’s leaders, and he travels<br />

abroad to promote Cambodia.<br />

In April, after a trip to China to visit his<br />

mo<strong>th</strong>er and fa<strong>th</strong>er, he flew to Zurich, where he<br />

presided over a ceremony to mark <strong>th</strong>e 20<strong>th</strong> anniversary<br />

of <strong>th</strong>e Kan<strong>th</strong>a Bopha Foundation in<br />

Cambodia, which was founded by Swiss doctor<br />

Beat Richner.<br />

Like his fa<strong>th</strong>er, <strong>King</strong> Sihamoni maintains a<br />

website, <strong>th</strong>rough which his activities and correspondence<br />

can be seen as <strong>th</strong>ey are updated.<br />

And if <strong>th</strong>e past year is any<strong>th</strong>ing to go by,<br />

his sixtie<strong>th</strong> year will be just as jam packed wi<strong>th</strong><br />

events.<br />

HOPE<br />

Announcement<br />

The CAmbodiA dAily 11

Cambodia<br />


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