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Norodom Sihanouk

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Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk (1983).jpg
King of Cambodia
Reign 24 April 1941 – 3 March 1955
Coronation 3 May 1941
Predecessor Sisowath Monivong
Successor Norodom Suramarit
Prime Ministers
Reign 24 September 1993 – 7 October 2004
Coronation 24 September 1993
Predecessor Chea Sim (Regent)
Successor Norodom Sihamoni
Prime Ministers
Born (1922-10-31)31 October 1922
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Died 15 October 2012(2012-10-15) (aged 89)
Beijing, China
Spouse Norodom Monineath
(m. 1952; his death 2012)
Issue Norodom Buppha Devi
Norodom Yuvaneath
Norodom Ranariddh
Norodom Ravivong
Norodom Chakrapong
Norodom Naradipo
Norodom Soriyaraingsey
Norodom Kantha Bopha
Norodom Khemanurakh
Norodom Botumbopha
Norodom Sucheatvateya
Norodom Sihamoni
Norodom Narindrapong
Norodom Arunrasmy
House House of Norodom
Father Norodom Suramarit
Mother Sisowath Kossamak
Religion Theravada Buddhism
Signature Norodom Sihanouk's signature
Norodom Sihanouk
File:Sihanouk 1959.jpg
1st Prime Minister of Cambodia
In office
17 November 1961 – 13 February 1962
Preceded by Penn Nouth
Succeeded by Nhiek Tioulong (acting)
In office
10 July 1958 – 19 April 1960
Preceded by Sim Var
Succeeded by Pho Proeung
In office
9 April 1957 – 7 July 1957
Monarch Norodom Suramarit
Preceded by Sam Yun
Succeeded by Sim Var
In office
15 September 1956 – 15 October 1956
Monarch Norodom Suramarit
Preceded by Khim Tit
Succeeded by Sam Yun
In office
1 March 1956 – 24 March 1956
Monarch Norodom Suramarit
Preceded by Oum Chheang Sun
Succeeded by Khim Tit
In office
3 October 1955 – 5 January 1956
Monarch Norodom Suramarit
Preceded by Leng Ngeth
Succeeded by Oum Chheang Sun
In office
7 April 1954 – 18 April 1954
Preceded by Chan Nak
Succeeded by Penn Nouth
In office
16 June 1952 – 24 January 1953
Preceded by Huy Kanthoul
Succeeded by Penn Nouth
In office
28 April 1950 – 30 May 1950
Preceded by Yem Sambaur
Succeeded by Sisowath Monipong
In office
18 March 1945 – 13 August 1945
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Son Ngoc Thanh
Leader of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum
In office
24 March 1955 – 18 March 1970
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by None (party dissolved)
Head of State of Cambodia
In office
14 June 1993 – 24 September 1993
Preceded by Chea Sim
as Chairman of the Council of State
Succeeded by Himself as King
In office
20 June 1960 – 18 March 1970
Preceded by Chuop Hell (acting)
Succeeded by Cheng Heng
as President of the Khmer Republic
President of the State Presidium of Democratic Kampuchea
In office
17 April 1975 – 2 April 1976
Preceded by Sak Sutsakhan
as Chairman of the Supreme Committee
Succeeded by Khieu Samphan
Personal details
Political party FUNCINPEC (1981–1991)
Other political
Sangkum (1955–1970)
Independent (1945–1955)
Alma mater Armoured Cavalry Branch Training School
Website Official website

Norodom Sihanouk (Khmer: នរោត្តម សីហនុ; 31 October 1922 – 15 October 2012) was the King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 to 2004. Also affectionately known as Samdech Euv (Khmer: សម្តេចឪ) to the Cambodian people, Sihanouk ascended to the throne in 1941. After the Second World War, he campaigned for the independence of Cambodia from French rule. Cambodia subsequently became an independent state in 1953. In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated the throne in favour of his father Norodom Suramarit, and went on to form the Sangkum, a political organisation. Sihanouk led the Sangkum to win the 1955 general elections, and became the Prime Minister of Cambodia. When Suramarit died in 1960, Sihanouk introduced a constitutional amendment which made him the Head of State of Cambodia, a position which he held until 1970. Between 1955 and 1970, Sihanouk pursued a policy of neutrality for Cambodia. As he forged close ties with Communist countries, in particular China, this incurred the suspicions of the United States (US) and its anti-Communist allies. Sihanouk maintained tenacious ties with the US and their allies, as they engaged in various activities which Sihanouk perceived as attempts to undermine his rule.

In March 1970, Sihanouk was overthrown as the Head of State by Lon Nol and Sisowath Sirik Matak, paving the way for the formation of the Khmer Republic. He fled to China and North Korea and went on to form a government in exile, known as the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK) as well as a resistance movement, the National United Front of Kampuchea. As the leader of GRUNK, Sihanouk lent his support to the Khmer Rouge which led to their victory against the Khmer Republic in April 1975. Sihanouk subsequently returned to Cambodia and became the figurehead Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea by the Khmer Rouge. In 1976, Sihanouk resigned from his position which led to him being placed under house arrest until 1979 when Vietnamese forces overthrew the Khmer Rouge. Sihanouk went into exile again, and in 1981 he formed FUNCINPEC, a resistance party. The following year in 1982, Sihanouk was appointed as the President of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), consisting of the three anti-Vietnamese resistance factions including FUNCINPEC, Khmer Rouge and the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF).

In the late 1980s, informal talks were carried out to end hostilities between the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) and resistance factions under the CGDK. A transitional body to oversee Cambodian affairs, the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC) was formed in 1990 which saw Sihanouk appointed as its President. The following year in 1991, peace accords were signed which led to the creation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). The UNTAC organised general elections in 1993, which led to the formation of a coalition government jointly led by his son Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen. Sihanouk was reinstated as the Head of State of Cambodia in June 1993. When a permanent constitution was promolugated in September 1993, Sihanouk was made the King of Cambodia for a second time. In 2004, Sihanouk abdicated again in favour of another son, Norodom Sihamoni who succeeded him as king. He subsequently became known as the King Father until his death in 2012. Sihanouk pursued an artistic career during his lifetime, and wrote several musical compositions. He was also known to be a film producer, director and actor, and produced a total of 50 films between 1966 and 2006.

Early life and first reign

File:Norodom Sihanouk 1941.jpg
Norodom Sihanouk in his coronation regalia, November 1941

Sihanouk was the only child born of the union between Norodom Suramarit and Sisowath Kossamak.[1] He received his primary education at the Francois Baudoin school and Nuon Moniram school, and subsequently pursued his secondary education in Saigon at Lycée Chasseloup Laubat.[2] When his maternal grandfather Sisowath Monivong, died on 23 April 1941, the Crown Council appointed Prince Sihanouk as King of Cambodia the following day.[3] Sihanouk was officially crowned on 3 May 1941.[4] During the Japanese occupation of Cambodia, he dedicated most of his time to sports, filming and the occasional tour to the countryside.[5] In March 1945, the Japanese military which had occupied Cambodia from August 1941 dissolved the nominal French colonial administration. Under pressure from the Japanese, Sihanouk proclaimed Cambodia's independence[6] and assumed the position of Prime Minister while serving as king at the same time.[7]

As the Prime Minister, Sihanouk revoked a decree issued by the last resident superior of Cambodia, Georges Gautier to romanise the Khmer alphabet.[8] Following the surrender of Japan in August 1945, nationalist forces loyal to Son Ngoc Thanh launched a coup which led to Thanh being appointed as the Prime Minister.[9] When the French returned to Cambodia in October 1945, Thanh was deposed from his position and was replaced by Sihanouk's uncle Sisowath Monireth.[10] Monireth negotiated for greater autonomy of internal affairs within Cambodia. A Modus Vivendi was signed in January 1946 whereby Cambodia was granted full autonomy within the French Union.[11] A joint French-Cambodian commission was set up after that to write Cambodia's constitution,[12] and in April 1946, Sihanouk introduced clauses which provided for an elected parliament on the basis of universal male suffrage as well as press freedom.[13] The first constitution was signed into effect by Sihanouk in May 1947.[14] Around this time, Sihanouk made two trips to Saumur, France where he undertook military training at the Armoured Cavalry Branch Training School in 1946 and again in 1948. At the end of the training, Sihanouk was made a reserve captain for the French army.[15]

In early 1949, Sihanouk travelled to Paris with his parents to negotiate with the French government for more autonomy to Cambodia, which led to the signing of a Franco-Khmer treaty that cancelled the Modus Vivendi signed in 1946.[16] Later in September 1949, Sihanouk dissolved the National Assembly and ruled by decree[17] until September 1951 when the Democrat Party pressured Sihanouk to hold national elections.[18] Sihanouk travelled to France in February 1953, and wrote twice to then-French President Vincent Auriol to cede control over all remaining executive powers in Cambodia by citing on widespread anti-French sentiment among the Cambodian populace.[19] Auriol responded by appointing the French commissioner for overseas territories, Jean Letourneau to meet with Sihanouk. When Letourneau rejected Sihanouk's suggestion, the latter travelled to Canada and United States (US) where he exploited on the prevailing anti-communist sentiments to call for Cambodian independence. According to Sihanouk, Cambodia faced a Communist threat similar to that of the Viet Minh in Vietnam and the solution to address the Communist threat was full independence for Cambodia.[20]

Sihanouk returned to Cambodia in June 1953, taking up residence in Siem Reap.[21] He organised public rallies calling for the Cambodians to fight forces which opposed the formation of an independent Cambodian nation, and organised a citizenry militia which attracted around 130,000 recruits.[22] In August 1953, France agreed to cede control over judicial and interior ministry to Cambodia, while another further agreement was secured in October 1953 which saw France surrendering control over defense matters. Sihanouk returned to Phnom Penh at the end of the month,[23] and on 9 November 1953 Cambodia officially declared independence from France.[21] In May 1954, Sihanouk sent Nhiek Tioulong and Tep Phan to participate in the Geneva Conference.[24] The agreements signed for Cambodia reaffirmed the country's independence, and also allowed it to seek military aid from any country. At the same time, Sihanouk still faced domestic opposition from the Democrat Party[25] which was unhappy with his intervention in politics and held a majority of seats in the National Assembly.[18] In February 1955, a national referendum was held to gauge approval ratings on Sihanouk's efforts in seeking national independence, which returned with 99.8 percent of the electorate approving for his efforts.[26]

Sangkum era

Premiership (1955–1960)

Meeting in Beijing in 1956: from left Mao Zedong, Peng Zhen, Sihanouk, Liu Shaoqi.

On 2 March 1955, Sihanouk announced his abdication from the throne over Phnom Penh radio.[21][27] The throne council nominated his father, Suramarit to succeed him.[28] A month later in April 1955, Sihanouk announced the formation of the Sangkum, a political organisation with a stated goal on forging national unity. Several political parties including the Khmer Renovation Party, People's Party[29] and the Liberal Party dissolved and merged themselves with the Sangkum.[30] At the same time, Sihanouk appointed Dap Chhuon, a guerrilla leader based in Siem Reap to oversee the organisation of parliamentary elections slated to be held in September 1955. With Sihanouk's approval, Chhuon intimidated politicians from the Democrat Party and the Pracheachon, both of which had refused to merge themselves with the Sangkum.[31] When parliamentary elections were held on September 1955, the Sangkum took 83 percent of all valid votes, taking up all seats in the National Assembly.[32] Sihanouk was subsequently sworn in as Prime Minister the following month.[33]

In the first few years of Sihanouk's administration, he introduced several constitutional changes that included extending suffrage to women, adopting Khmer as the sole official language of the country[34] and making Cambodia a Constitutional monarchy by vesting policy making powers to the Prime Minister rather than to the King.[35] Between several times between 1955 and 1960, Sihanouk alternately resigned and retook the Prime Minister post several times, citing overwork each time as the reason.[36] The National Assembly nominated experienced politicians such as Sim Var and San Yun to fill the posts whenever Sihanouk resigned, but they similarly relinquished their posts each time after several months of their appointment,[37] as cabinet ministers repeatedly disputed over public policy matters.[38]

Sihanouk accepted military aid from the United States (US) in May 1955,[39] but soon developed a suspicious view towards the US, when Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives attempted to coax him into placing Cambodia under Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) protection during a state visit to the Philippines in January 1956.[40] He was also wary of the US attempting to destailise his government through its tacit support of the Democrat Party, which was later dissolved in 1957.[41] On the other hand, Sihanouk cultivated much friendlier relations with China, with which he signed a friendship treaty with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in February 1956.[42] The treaty provided Cambodia with US$40 million in economic aid. When Sihanouk returned from China, the Thai and South Vietnamese governments labelled him as a Communist ally, and the latter briefly imposed an economic blockade to prevent trading ships from travelling up the Mekong river to Phnom Penh.[43] Sihanouk pursued a policy of neutrality, but Sarit Thanarat and Ngo Dinh Diem, the leaders of Thailand and South Vietnam who were known for their pro-American sympathies, became hostile to Sihanouk when he established diplomatic relations with Communist China in 1958.[44]

In December 1958, Ngo Dinh Nhu–Diem's younger brother and chief adviser, mooted the idea of orchestrating a coup to overthrow Sihanouk.[45] Nhu contacted Dap Chhuon, Sihanouk's Interior Minister who was known for his pro-American sympathies, to lead the coup attempt against Sihanouk.[46] To prepare for the coup, Chhuon was provided with covert financial and military assistance from Thailand, South Vietnam and the CIA.[47] In January 1959, Sihanouk learnt of the coup plans through his intermediaries who had contact with Chhuon.[48] The following month, Sihanouk sent the army to capture Chhuon, who was summarily executed and effectively ending the coup attempt.[49] Following Chhuon's execution, Sihanouk accused South Vietnam and the United States of orchestrating a coup attempt to overthrow him.[50] Six months later on 31 August 1959, a small packaged lacquer gift, which was fitted with a parcel bomb was delivered to the royal palace. Norodom Vakrivan, the chief of protocol who opened the package was killed instantly. Sihanouk's parents, Suramarit and Kossamak were sitting in another room within the palace, narrowly escaped from the bomb. An investigation was carried out and traced the origin of the parcel bomb being sent from an American military base in Saigon,[51] and Sihanouk went on to accuse Ngo Dinh Nhu of masterminding the bomb attack as an assassination attempt against him.[52]

Initial years as Head of State (1960–1965)

File:JFK and Prince Sihanouk in New York, 1961.jpg
Sihanouk with U.S. President John F. Kennedy in New York City on 25 September 1961.

Suramarit died on 3 April 1960 after suffering from several months of poor health,[53] which Sihanouk attributed to the fright that his father received from parcel bomb attack.[51] The following day, Monireth was sworn in as the Regent of Cambodia,[54] and Sihanouk introduced constitutional amendments to create a new post of the Head of State of Cambodia which provided ceremonial powers equivalent to that of the King. A referendum was held on 5 June 1960 approved Sihanouk's proposals, and Sihanouk was formally appointed as the Head of State on 14 June 1960.[55] As the Head of State, Sihanouk took over various ceremonial responsibilities of the king, such as holding public audiences[56] and leading the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. At the same time, he continued to play an active role in politics in his capacity as the President of the Sangkum.[57]

Sometime in early 1962, political leaders from the Pracheachon, which was known for its left-wing sympathies were arrested at Sihanouk's instructions. Its spokesman, Non Suon had criticized Sihanouk a year earlier for failing to tackle inflation, unemployment and corruption issues.[58] The secretary-general of the Pracheachon, Tou Samouth disappeared sometime in May 1962, which its ideological ally, Communist Party of Kampuchea suspected that Samouth was kidnapped and killed at the direction of Sihanouk's security forces.[59] At the same time, he co-opted politicians with left-wing views including Khieu Samphan, Hou Yuon, Hu Nim and Chau Seng to stand for parliamentary elections in June 1962, which they won.[60]

In November 1962, Sihanouk called on the US to stop supporting the Khmer Serei, which he believed that they have had provided covert assistance through the CIA. He threatened to reject all economic aid from the US if they failed to respond to their demands,[61] and in November 1962, threatened to reject all American economic aid if CIA did not withdraw its support for the Khmer Serei.[62] a decision which he put later to act on 19 November 1963.[63] At the same time, Sihanouk also nationalised the country's entrepot trade, banking sector and distillery industries.[64] He proceeded to establish the National Export-Import Corporation and Statutory Board (SONEXIM), which was tasked to oversee policy and regulatory matters on the country's entrepot trade.[65] Some three weeks later, on 9 December 1963, Sihanouk issued a communique celebrating the deaths of Diem, Kennedy and Sarit. The US protested against Sihanouk's communique, who responded with recalling Nong Kimny, the Cambodian ambassador to the US back to Cambodia.[66]

In early 1964, Sihanouk signed a secret agreement with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, which allowed Chinese military aid destined for the latter to be delivered through the port of Sihanoukville. In turn, the Cambodian army would be allowed to skim off 10 percent of all military hardware shipped through Cambodia, as well as collecting fees for transporting food supplies to Viet Cong resistance bases.[67] Sihanouk also allowed the Viet Cong to build a trail through eastern Cambodia to allow Viet Cong troops to receive war supplies from North Vietnam, which became known as the Sihanouk Trail.[68] When the US learnt of Vietcong presence in eastern Cambodia, they started a bombing campaign in this region,[69] which spurned Sihanouk to sever diplomatic ties with the US in May 1965.[68] Other Communist countries including China, Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia provided military aid to Cambodia as a result of Sihanouk's warming of relations with North Vietnam.[70]

Continued leadership as Head of State (1966–1970)

File:Sihanouk 1967.jpg
Norodom Sihanouk in 1967.

In September 1966, general elections were held,[71] which led to many Sangkum nominees with conservative and right-wing sympathies to be elected to the National Assembly. The newly elected legislators nominated Lon Nol to be the Prime Minister. Lon Nol's was known for his conservative and right-wing views, and his nomination did not sit well with Sihanouk.[72] In response, Sihanouk set up a shadow government in October 1966, made up of Sangkum legislators with left-wing sympathies to counterbalance right-wing influences.[73] At the end of the month, Lon Nol offered to resign from his position, which Sihanouk rejected.[74] In April 1967, fighting broke out between government troops and local peasants in Samlaut, Battambang Province.[75] The fighting, which became known as the Samlaut Uprising was quickly put down,[76] but Sihanouk soon developed a suspicion that three left-wing legislators–Khieu Samphan, Hou Yuon and Hu Nim had incited the rebellion.[77] When Sihanouk threatened to charge Khieu Samphan and Hou Yuon before a military tribunal, both of them fled into the jungle and joined Khmer Rouge.[78]

Lon Nol resigned as Prime Minister at the beginning of May 1967, and Sihanouk appointed Son Sann in his place.[77] At the same time, Sihanouk replaced conservative-leaning ministers appointed by Lon Nol with technocrats and left-leaning politicians, calling it an "Exceptional Government".[78] In mid-May 1967, Sihanouk accused China of supporting local Chinese Cambodians in engaging in "contraband" and "subversive" activities.[79] During the spring of 1967, the Chinese embassy had published and distributed Communist propaganda to the Cambodian populace which appraised the Cultural Revolution , causing much consternation to Sihanouk.[80] Sihanouk subsequently sent his Foreign Minister, Norodom Phurissara in August 1967 to China. Phurissara attempted to urge Zhou Enlai in stopping the Chinese embassy for disseminating Communist propaganda, but failed.[81] In response, Sihanouk closed the Cambodia-Chinese Friendship Association in September 1967. When the Chinese government protested Sihanouk's action,[82] he followed up by threatening to close the Chinese embassy in Cambodia.[83] Subsequently, Zhou Enlai stepped in to placate Sihanouk,[84] and Chinese embassy agreed to send its publications to the Information Ministry before they are to be distributed for circulation.[83]

Sihanouk subsequently pursued rapprochement with the US, hosting a private visit of Jacqueline Kennedy to Cambodia in October 1967.[85] In January 1968, he met with the US ambassador to India Chester Bowles, where he tacitly acknowledged the presence of Viet Cong troops in the Cambodia, and allowed US forces to enter Cambodia in attacking Viet Cong forces.[86] Subsequently, the US started prepared plans to bomb parts of eastern Cambodia through Operation Menu, starting in March 1969. The bombing campaign prompted Viet Cong forced to flee from their sanctuaries in the jungles, seeking refuge in populated towns and villages of the Cambodian countryside.[87] As a result of the bombing campaign, Sihanouk became concerned Cambodia being drawn into the Vietnam War. In June 1969, he extended diplomatic recognition to the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (PRGSV),[88] with the hope of keeping the scale Operation Menu in check. At the same time, he also openly admitted the presence of Viet Cong troops in Cambodia for the first time in April 1969,[89] prompting the US to restore formal diplomatic relations with Cambodia three months later.[90]

In January 1969, Sihanouk opened two casinos in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in January 1969,[91] at a time when the Cambodian economy was facing stagnation and widespread corruption.[92] While the casinos generated revenues that accounted up to 700 million riels for the state budget, it also caused a sharp increase in the number of bankrupts and suicide incidences.[93] In August 1969, Lon Nol was reappointed as the Prime Minister, while Sisowath Sirik Matak was appointed as his deputy. Two months later, Lon Nol left Cambodia in October to seek medical treatment, leaving Sirik Matak to lead the government. Between October and December 1969, Sirik Matak instituted several policy changes that ran contrary to Sihanouk's wishes, such as allowing private banks to re-open in the country and devaluing the riel. He also encouraged ambassadors to write to Lon Nol directly, instead of going through Sihanouk, angering the latter.[94] In early January 1970, Sihanouk left Cambodia for medical treatment in France.[95] Shortly after Sihanouk left, Sirik Matak took the opportunity to close down the casinos.[96]

Deposition, GRUNK and Khmer Rouge years

File:Norodom Sianuc72a.jpg
Sihanouk visiting Romania in 1972, with Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu (right)..

On 11 March 1970, demonstrations occurred outside the North Vietnamese and PRGSV embassies. The demonstrators looted and sacked both embassies, alarming Sihanouk who was still in Paris.[97] Sihanouk made up his mind to visit Moscow, Beijing and Hanoi to pressure Viet Cong forces in returning to their sanctuaries in the underpopulated forests of northeast Cambodia, where they had originally established themselves between 1964 till 1969.[98] Five days later Oum Mannorine, who was the half-brother of Sihanouk's wife Monique, was summoned to the National Assembly over corruption charges.[99] On the same night after the hearing, Oum ordered troops under his command to arrest Lon Nol and Sirik Matak, but ended up being placed under house arrest by Lon Nol's troops. On 18 March 1970, the National Assembly voted to depose Sihanouk,[100] and allowed Lon Nol to assume emergency powers.[101]

Sihanouk was in Moscow on the day of his overthrow and the Soviet foreign minister Alexei Kosygin, informed him of the news.[102] From Moscow, Sihanouk flew to Beijing where he was received by Zhou Enlai. Zhou arranged for the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Pham Van Dong to fly to Beijing from Hanoi and meet with Sihanouk.[103] Both Zhou and Dong encouraged Sihanouk to rebel against Lon Nol and promised to give the latter military and financial support. On 23 March 1970, Sihanouk announced the formation of his resistance movement, the National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK) and encouraged the Cambodian people to join him in fighting against Lon Nol's government.[104] Sometime later on 5 May 1970, Sihanouk announced the formation of a government-in-exile known as Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK) and led Communist countries including China, North Vietnam, and North Korea to break relations with the Lon Nol regime.[105] In Phnom Penh, a military trial convened on 2 July 1970, whereby Sihanouk was charged with treason and corruption in his capacity as Head of State. After a three day trial, the judges ruled that Sihanouk guilty of the charges and sentenced to him death, in absentia on 5 July 1970.[106]

Sihanouk alternately lived in Beijing and Pyongyang between 1970 and 1975, where he lived in large residences that were furnished for his personal needs.[107] In February 1973, Sihanouk travelled to Hanoi where he started on a long journey with Khieu Samphan and other Khmer Rouge leaders. The convoy traveled along the Ho Chi Minh trail and reached the Cambodian border at Stung Treng Province the following month. Sihanouk travelled across the provinces of Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, and Siem Reap. Throughout his visit, Sihanouk faced constant bombardment from American planes participating in Operation Freedom Deal.[108] At Siem Reap, Sihanouk visited the temples of Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, and Bayon.[109] In August 1973, Sirik Matak wrote an open letter to call Sihanouk to bring the Cambodian Civil War to an end and accepting the possibility of the latter returning to the country. When the letter reached Sihanouk, he angrily rejected Sirik Matak's advances.[110]

When the Khmer Republic fell to the Khmer Rouge in 17 April 1975, Prince Sihanouk was nominated to the symbolic position as the Head of State for the Khmer Rouge regime, officially known as Democratic Kampuchea.[111] He continued to live in Beijing until September 1975[112] when he returned to Cambodia so as to inter the ashes of Queen Kossamak, who had died in Beijing just days after the Fall of Phnom Penh.[113] He subsequently went abroad to recommend the diplomatic recognition of Democratic Kampuchea, and visited several Communist countries[114] before returning to Cambodia on 31 December 1975. After presiding a meeting to endorse the constitution of the Democratic Kampuchea,[115] Sihanouk was taken on a tour across Cambodia by Khieu Samphan the following month, whereby he witnessed the effects of the Cambodian genocide orchestrated by the Angkar. Following the tour, Sihanouk decided to resign from his position as the head of state.[116] The Angkar initially rejected his resignation request, though they subsequently accepted it in mid-April 1976, which they retroactively backdated the resignation to 2 April 1976.[117]

From this point of time onwards, Sihanouk was kept under house arrest at the royal palace until September 1978, when he was relocated to another apartment within Phnom Penh where he stayed until the end of the year.[118] Throughout his entire period of confinement, Sihanouk made several requests to travel overseas to the Angkar, which were all turned down.[119] On New Year's Day of 1979, Sihanouk was taken from Phnom Penh to Sisophon, where they stayed for three days until 5 January when they were taken back to Phnom Penh.[120] Sihanouk was taken to meet Pol Pot, who appraised him of the Angkar's plans to repulse Vietnamese troops who have invaded parts of eastern Cambodia since December 1978.[121] On 6 January 1979, Sihanouk flew to Beijing from Phnom Penh, where he was greeted by Zhou Enlai's successor, Deng Xiaoping.[122] Three days later, Sihanouk flew from Beijing to New York to attend the UN Security Council, where he simultaneously condemned the Khmer Rouge for orchestrating the Cambodian genocide as well as the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.[123] Sihanouk subsequently sought asylum in China after making two unsuccessful asylum applications with the US and France.[124]


Sihanouk (right) accompanied by his son, Norodom Ranariddh on an ANS inspection tour during the 1980s.

After the Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown, a new Cambodian government supported by Vietnam, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) was established. The Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping was unhappy[125] with Vietnam's influence over the PRK government. Deng proposed to Sihanouk to corporate with the Khmer Rouge to overthrown the PRK government, an idea which Sihanouk rejected[126] as he was against the genocidal policies pursued by the Khmer Rouge, while they were in power.[125] In March 1981, Sihanouk established a resistance movement, FUNCINPEC together with a small resistance army known as the ANS (Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste).[127] He appointed In Tam, who had briefly served as the Prime Minister of the Khmer Republic, as the Commander-in-chief of the ANS.[128] Around this time, Sihanouk started tripartite talks between FUNCINPEC with the Khmer Rouge and the Son Sann-led Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF)[129] as Deng pressured him to collaborate with the Khmer Rouge as a precondition to receiving military aid for ANS.[130]

After several rounds of tripartite talks, Sihanouk presided over the establishment of a government exile, known as the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) in June 1982.[130] The CGDK consisted of FUNCINPEC, KPNLF and the Khmer Rouge, and China mediated additional tripartite talks between the three CGDK factions between 1982 and 1987, but was unable to bring progress to ending the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.[131] During this period of time, Sihanouk appointed two of his sons, Norodom Chakrapong and Norodom Ranariddh, to leading roles in the ANS. Chakrapong was appointed as the deputy chief-of-staff for the ANS in March 1985,[132] while Ranariddh was minted to the twin positions of commander-in-chief and the chief-of-staff of the ANS in January 1986, replacing In Tam.[133] In December 1987, the Prime Minister of the PRK government, Hun Sen first met with Sihanouk to discuss about the ending of the protracted Cambodian–Vietnamese War.[134] The following July, the then-foreign minister of Indonesia, Ali Alatas brokered the first series of discussion known as the Jakarta Informal Meetings (JIM). The JIMs were held near Jakarta, and involved the four warring Cambodian factions consisting of FUNCINPEC, Khmer Rouge, KPNLF and the PRK government over the future of Cambodia.[135]

Two more rounds of JIMs were held in February and May 1989. After which in July 1989, Ali Alatas together with French foreign minister Roland Dumas, convened the Paris Peace Conference to discuss plans for Vietnamese troop withdrawal and power sharing arrangements for a future Cambodian government.[135] The following month, Sihanouk resigned as president of FUNCINPEC,[136] but remained in the party as an ordinary member.[137] In September 1990, the United Nations (UN) sponsored the establishment of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC), an administrative body responsible for overseeing sovereign affairs of Cambodia for an interim period until UN-sponsored elections are held.[138] The creation of the SNC was subsequently ratified with United Nations Security Council Resolution 668.[139] In July 1991, Sihanouk left FUNCINPEC altogether, and was elected as the chairperson of the SNC.[140]

UNTAC administration era

The Paris Peace Accords were signed on 23 October 1991, which gave formal recognition to the SNC and also provided for the creation a transitional government of Cambodia, known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).[141] The accords empowered the UNTAC to station peacekeeping troops in Cambodia to supervise the disarmament of the four warring Cambodian factions and carry out free and fair national elections in the country.[142] Sihanouk returned to Phnom Penh on 14 November 1991, and city folks lined the streets of Phnom Penh as he rode on an open top limousine with Hun Sen to celebrate his return to the country.[143] The UNTAC administration was established in February 1992, but soon faced resistance from the Khmer Rouge in enforcing peacekeeping operations.[144] Sihanouk responded by calling to abandon the Khmer Rouge from the peacekeeping process in July and September 1992. During this period of time, Sihanouk spent most of the time in Siem Reap and making helicopter trips to supervise election preparations in KPNLF, FUNCINPEC and Khmer Rouge resistance bases.[145]

Sihanouk left Cambodia for Beijing in November 1992,[146] where he would stay on for the next six months until he returned to Cambodia on the eve of elections in May 1993.[147] While in Beijing, Sihanouk proposed a Presidential system government for Cambodia to then-UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, but soon dropped the idea after the Khmer Rouge opposed his proposal.[148] The general elections were held in May 1993, with FUNCINPEC headed by Sihanouk's son Norodom Ranariddh garnering the most votes while the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) headed by Hun Sen came in second.[149] CPP leaders were unhappy with the election results and on 3 June 1993, Hun Sen and Chea Sim called on Sihanouk to assume all state power. Sihanouk complied, and announced the formation of a Provisional National Government (PRG) headed by him with Hun Sen and Ranariddh as his deputies.[150] Ranariddh was not informed of Sihanouk's plans, and joined the Australia, China, United Kingdom and United States in opposing the PRG plan. Sihanouk dropped the PRG plan the following day through a national radio broadcast.[151]

On 14 June 1993, a constituent assembly session presided by Ranariddh nullified the 1970 coup d'état which overthrew Sihanouk, and reinstated the latter as Cambodia's Head of State.[152] In the first few days of his appointment, Sihanouk renamed the Cambodian military to its pre-1970 namesake, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. On 29 June 1993, Sihanouk issued another order to officially rename the country from the State of Cambodia to simply "Cambodia". He also reinstated Nokor Reach as the National Anthem of Cambodia with some minor modifications to its lyrics, and also the Cambodian flag to its pre-1970 design.[153] Sihanouk also appointed Ranariddh and Hun Sen as the Co-Prime Ministers of Cambodia with equal powers in a provisional government,[154] which was ratified by the Constituent Assembly on 2 July 1993.[152] On 30 August 1993,[155] Ranariddh and Hun Sen met Sihanouk presented two draft constitutions, one of them stipulating a constitutional monarchy headed by a King and another a republican state led by a Head of State. Sihanouk chose the option of making Cambodia a constitutional monarchy,[156] and was ratified by the constituent assembly on 21 September 1993.[157]

Second reign

File:SIhanouk Quinn.jpg
Sihanouk granting an audience to US ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn in March 1996.

The new constitution was proclaimed on 24 September 1993, and Sihanouk was reinstated as the King of Cambodia.[158] A permanent coalition government was formed between FUNCINPEC, CPP and BLDP, and Ranariddh and Hun Sen assumed the positions of First and Second Prime Ministers respectively.[159] Shortly after that, Sihanouk took leave to Beijing where he spent several months for cancer treatment.[160] In April 1994, Sihanouk returned to Cambodia,[161] and the following month, he penned public letters to persuade the government to hold fresh elections and appoint Khmer Rouge representatives into the government. Both Ranariddh and Hun Sen rejected his suggestions,[162][163] but Sihanouk pressed on, further proposing a national unity government that would see the participation of FUNCINPEC, CPP and Khmer Rouge forces, with him as the Head of State and government.[164] Again, both Prime Ministers rejected Sihanouk's proposal, and cited the Khmer Rouge's past intransigent attitude would make the proposal unrealistic.[165][166] Sihanouk became very frustrated, and lamented that the government have been rejecting whatever he had proposed. As Norodom Sirivudh[167] and Julio Jeldres, his younger half-brother and official biographer respectively saw it, this was a clear sign that the monarchy's ability to exert control over national affairs had diminished, vis-a-vis the government.[168]

In July 1994, one of his sons Norodom Chakrapong, led a failed coup attempt to topple the government.[169] After the government discovered the plot, Chakrapong took refuge in a hotel in Phnom Penh, but government troops soon discovered his hideout and surrounded the hotel. Chakrapong contacted his father, who negotiated with the government to allow Chakrapong to go into exile in Malaysia.[170] The following November, Sirivudh was accused of plotting to assassinate Hun Sen and thrown into prison. Sihanouk intervened to have Sirivudh be detained at the interior ministry's headquarters, convinced that there was a secret plan to kill the latter if he were to remain in prison.[171] After Sirivudh was relocated to the interior ministry's headquarters, Sihanouk appealed to Hun Sen, requesting that Sirivudh be allowed to go into exile in France. Hun Sen accepted Sihanouk's offer.[172]

Relations between the two co-Prime Ministers, Ranariddh and Hun Sen started to deteriorate from early 1996[173] when Ranariddh accused the CPP in repeatedly delaying the allocation process of low-level government posts to FUNCINPEC officials.[174] At the FUNCINPEC congress in March 1996, Ranariddh threatened to pull out of the coalition government[175] and hold national elections in 1996,[176] which stoked unease from Hun Sen and other CPP officials.[176] The following month, Sihanouk presided over a meeting between some royal family members and senior FUNCINPEC officials in Paris. Sihanouk attempted to tone down the tensions between FUNCINPEC and the CPP by issuing statements, assuring that FUNCINPEC would not leave the coalition government and there were no reactionary elements to bring down Hun Sen or the CPP.[177]

In March 1997, Sihanouk offered to abdicate the throne, and his suggestion prompted Hun Sen to call for constitutional amendments to prohibit members of the royal family from participating in politics.[178] In July 1997, violent clashes erupted in Phnom Penh between infantry forces separately allied to the CPP and FUNCINPEC, which effectively led to Ranariddh's ouster after FUNCINPEC forces were defeated.[179] Sihanouk voiced displeasure against Hun Sen for orchestrating the clashes, but refrained from calling Ranariddh's ouster a "coup d'etat", a term which FUNCINPEC members used.[180] When the National Assembly elected Ung Huot as the First Prime Minister to replace Ranariddh on 6 August 1997,[181] Sihanouk charged that Ranariddh's ouster was illegal and renewed his offer to abdicate the throne, a plan which did not materialise.[182] In September 1998, Sihanouk meditated political talks in Siem Reap after the FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) staged demonstrations against the CPP-led government for irregularities over the 1998 general elections. The talks broke down at the end of the month, after Hun Sen narrowly escaped an assassination attempt which he accused Sam Rainsy of masterminding the attack.[183] Two months later in November 1998, Sihanouk brokered a second round of political talks between the CPP and FUNCINPEC,[184] whereby an agreement was reached for another coalition government between the CPP and FUNCINPEC.[183]

Sihanouk maintained a monthly bulletin, which he wrote commentaries over governance issues and posted photo souvenirs of Cambodia in the 1950s and 1960s. Around 1997, a character known by the name of "Ruom Rith" started to appear in the monthly bulletin and became extremely critical of Hun Sen and the government. Hun Sen reportedly became extremely unhappy with the commentaries, and called on the king to stop publishing the commentaries on two occasions in 1998 and 2003.[185][186] According to Ranariddh, Ruom Rith was an alter ego of Sihanouk, a claim which the latter vehemently denies.[187] In July 2002, Sihanouk expressed concern over the absence of detailed constitutional provisions over the organisation and functioning of the Cambodian throne council.[188] When Hun Sen rejected Sihanouk concern, the latter issued a letter in September 2002 threatening to abdicate so as to force the throne council to convene and elect a new monarch.[189]

General elections were held again in July 2003, whereby the CPP won the most votes but failed to secure two-thirds of all parliamentary seats as required by the constitution to form a new government. The two runner-up parties of the election, FUNCINPEC and SRP[190] filed complaints over alleged electoral irregularities with the Constitutional Council, which were turned down in August 2003[191] When FUNCINPEC and SRP announced their decision to attend the swearing in ceremony of parliamentarians, Sihanouk attempted to pressure both parties to change their decision by threatening to abstain from presiding the ceremony if they did not follow through his wishes.[192] The Constitutional Council subsequently advised Sihanouk to preside over the swearing-in ceremony,[193] which was held later in October 2003 with Sihanouk presiding over the ceremony.[194] The CPP, FUNCINPEC and SRP held additional talks into 2004 and Sihanouk proposed a tripartite unity government consisting of the three political parties, which was rejected by Hun Sen and Ranariddh. At the same time, political stalemate persisted until June 2004 due to conflicting demands from the three political parties.[195][196]

Abdication and final years

On 6 July 2004 Sihanouk, who was unhappy being ignored by Hun Sen and Ranariddh in his attempts to broker the political stalemate, penned an open letter in stating his intention to abdicate. At the same time, Hun Sen and Ranariddh had agreed to introduce a constitutional amendment that provided for an open voting system, which requires parliamentarians to select cabinet ministers and the President of the National Assembly by a show of hands. Sihanouk disapproved of the open voting system, and called on Senate President Chea Sim not to sign the amendment. When Chea Sim heeded his advice, he was ferried out of the country shortly before the National Assembly convened to vote on the amendment 15 July.[197] A new coalition government was formed on the 17 July 2004 between the CPP and FUNCINPEC, while the SRP remained as an opposition party.[198] On 6 October 2004, Sihanouk wrote a letter calling for the throne council to convene and select a successor. The National Assembly and Senate held emergency meetings to pass laws allowing for the abdication of the monarch, and on 14 October the throne council unanimously voted to select Norodom Sihamoni as Sihanouk's successor.[199] Sihamoni was crowned as the King of Cambodia on 29 October 2004.[200]

In March 2005, Sihanouk expressed concerns over allegations of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam of delineating borders at the expense of Cambodian territory. Two months later, Sihanouk formed the Supreme National Council on Border Affairs (SNCBA) to address concerns over Cambodian borders with its neighbours, and appointed himself as the chairman.[200] The SRP and Chea Sim expressed support for Sihanouk for the formation of the SNCBA, while Hun Sen formed a separate body, National Authority on Border Affairs (NABA) to deal with border concerns and stated that the SNCBA may only serve as an advisory body.[201] In October 2005, Sihanouk dissolved the SNCBA, around the same time Hun Sen signed a border treaty with Vietnam.[202] In August 2007, a US based human rights NGO called for Sihanouk's State immunity to be lifted, so as to allow him to testify in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).[203] Sihanouk responded to the call by inviting the ECCC public affairs officer, Peter Foster for a discussion session on his personal experience under the Khmer Rouge regime.[204] Both Hun Sen and FUNCINPEC criticized the suggestion, with the latter calling the NGO as disrespectful to Sihanouk.[203] The ECCC subsequently rejected his invitation.[205]

The following year, bilateral relations between Thailand and Cambodia became strained due to overlapping claims of the land area surrounding the Preah Vihear Temple. Sihanouk issued a communique in July 2008 to emphasise the Khmer architecture of the temple as well as ICJ's 1962 ruling of the temple in favour of Cambodia.[206] In August 2009, Sihanouk stated that he would stop posting messages on his personal website due to his advancing age, which made it difficult for him to keep up with his personal duties.[207] Sihanouk spent most of his time in Beijing for medical treatment. He made a final public appearance in Phnom Penh on his 89th birthday and 20th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords on 30 October 2011. Thereafter, Sihanouk expressed his intent to stay in Cambodia indefinitely,[208] but returned to Beijing in January 2012 for further medical treatment at the advise of his Chinese doctors.[209]

Death and funeral

Funeral procession of King Norodom Sihanouk.

In January 2012, Sihanouk issued a letter to express his wish to be cremated following his death, and that his ashes were to be placed in a golden urn.[210] A few months later in September 2012, Sihanouk stated his intent not to return to Cambodia from Beijing for his 90th birthday, citing fatigue as the reason.[211] On 15 October 2012, Sihanouk died of a heart attack at 1.20 am, Phnom Penh time.[212] King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen led a delegation of officials to Beijing on the same day.[213] The Cambodian government announced an official mourning period of 7 days between 17 October 2012 and 24 October 2012, and state flags were told to fly at one-third of the mast height. Two days later, Sihanouk's body was brought back from Beijing on an Air China flight,[214] and about 1.2 million people lined the streets from the airport to the royal palace to witness the return of Sihanouk's cortege.[215]

In late November 2012, Hun Sen announced plans for Sihanouk's funeral and cremation to be held in February 2013. Sihanouk's body lay in state at the royal palace for[216] the next three months until the funeral was held on 1 February 2013.[217] A 6,000 metre street procession was held, and Sihanouk's body was subsequently kept at the royal crematorium until 4 February 2013 when his body was cremated.[218] The following day, the royal family scattered some of Sihanouk's ashes into the Tonle Sap river while the rest were kept in the palace's throne hall for about a year.[219] In October 2013, a stupa featuring a bronze statue of Sihanouk was inaugurated next to the Independence Monument.[220] In July 2014, Sihanouk's ashes were interred at the silver pagoda next to those of one of his daughters, Kantha Bopha.[221]

Artistic works

File:Sihanouk statue at night.jpg
Statue of Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh.

Film making

Sihanouk produced about 50 films throughout his lifetime.[222] He developed an interest for the cinema from a young age, which he attributed to frequent trips to the cinema with his parents.[1] Shortly after becoming king in 1941, Sihanouk began experimenting with film making,[223] and sent students to study filmmaking in France.[224] When the film Lord Jim was released in 1965, Sihanouk became vexed with the negative portrayal the film gave of Cambodia.[225] Sihanouk responded by producing his first feature film, Apsara in 1966 which was marked with a positive portrayal of Cambodia. Sihanouk went on to produce, direct and act in another eight more films between 1966 and 1969, and roped in members of the royal family and military generals to star in his films.[226] Sihanouk had expressed that his films were created with the intent of portraying Cambodia in a positive light,[227] and Australian historian Milton Osborne also noted that the films were filled with Cold War[228] and nationalist propaganda themes.[229] Sihanouk former adviser, Charles Meyer had that criticised his films created from the 1960s were of amateurism standards, while the director of Reyum Institute, Ly Daravuth had similarly commented in 2006 that his films lacked artistic qualities.[223]

In 1967, one of Sihanouk films, The Enchanted Forest obtained a nomination at the 5th Moscow International Film Festival.[230] In 1968, Sihanouk launched the Phnom Penh International Film Festival, which was later held for a second time as well in 1969. In both years, a special award category was designated, the Golden Apsara Prize which Sihanouk became the only nominee and winner.[229] Sihanouk stopped making films following his ouster in 1970, but started to produce films again from 1987 onwards.[231] In 1997, Sihanouk received a special jury prize from the International Film Festival of Moscow, and revealed that he received a budget ranging from $20,000 to $70,000 for each of his film production from the Cambodian government. Six years later in 2004, Sihanouk donated his film archives to the École française d'Extrême-Orient in France and Monash University in Australia.[223] Sihanouk produced his last film, Miss Asina in 2006,[224] and went on to state that he was ending all film production activities four years later in May 2010.[232]


Sihanouk wrote at least 48 musical compositions between the late 1940s until the early 1970s,[233] which combined elements of traditional Khmer and Western music.[234] From the 1940s until the 1960s, Sihanouk's compositions were mostly based on sentimental, romantic and patriotic themes. Sihanouk's romantic songs were reflected the numerous romantic relations that he had experienced, particularly to that of his wife Monique,[235] and compositions including "My Darling" and "Monica" were dedicated to her. His patriotic compositions were written with a view to highlight the positive aspects of particular places, and at the same time foster a sense of patriotism and national unity in the Cambodian people. Notable compositions, such as "Flower of Battambang", "Beauty of Kep City", "Phnom Kulen", and "Phnom Penh" were written with patriotic themes. A few of his other compositions, including "Luang Prabang", "Nostalgia of China" and "Goodbye Bogor" were sentimental songs[236] about neighbouring countries including Laos, Indonesia and China.[237]

Following his overthrow as the head of state in 1970, Sihanouk wrote several revolutionary-style songs[238] that praised the leaders of Communist countries, including "Hommage Khmer au Maréchal Kim Il Sung" and "Merci, Piste Ho Chi Minh". Sihanouk's revolutionary-style songs were written as a reflection of his gratitude to the Communist leaders, which had supported his GRUNK between 1970 and 1975.[239] From a young age,[1] Sihanouk learnt to play several musical instruments such as the clarinet, saxophone, piano and accordion[230] Sihanouk led a musical band in the 1960s consisting members of the royal family, who would perform French songs and his own personal compositions to diplomats at the royal palace.[240] In his tours across Cambodian provinces, Sihanouk was accompanied by the royal military orchestra and Cambodian pop singers.[237] Later as Sihanouk lived in exile during the 1980s, Sihanouk hosted concerts to entertain diplomats whenever he was in New York City to visit the United Nations Headquarters.[241] After he was reinstated as king in 1993, Sihanouk continued to perform in concerts held at the royal palace on an occasional basis.[242]

Titles and styles

Styles of
King Norodom Sihanouk
Coat of arms of Cambodia.svg
Reference style His Royal Majesty
Spoken style Your Royal Majesty
Alternative style Sir

When Sihanouk was crowned as the King of Cambodia in 1941, he was bestowed with the official title of "Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman", which he used for both reigns between 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 to 2004.[4] He subsequently reverted to the title of Prince following his abdication from the throne in 1955, and was bestowed the title of "Samdech Preah Upayuvareach" by his father and successor in 1955.[21] The title translates to as "The Prince who has been King" in English.[243]

In 2004, Sihanouk became known as the King Father of Cambodia,[244] with the official title of "Preah Karuna Preah Bat Sâmdach Preah Norodom Sihanouk Preahmâhaviraksat" (Khmer: ព្រះករុណាព្រះបាទសម្តេចព្រះ នរោត្តម សីហនុ ព្រះមហាវីរក្សត្រ) when he abdicated for a second time.[245] He was also referred to by another honorific, "His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk The Great Heroic King King-Father of Khmer independence, territorial integrity and national unity" (ព្រះករុណា ព្រះបាទសម្ដេចព្រះ នរោត្តម សីហនុ ព្រះមហាវីរក្សត្រ ព្រះវររាជបិតាឯករាជ្យ បូរណភាពទឹកដី និងឯកភាពជាតិខ្មែរ).[246] When Sihanouk passed away in October 2012, he was bestowed by his son Sihamoni with the posthumous title of "Preah Karuna Preah Norodom Sihanouk Preah Borom Ratanakkot" (Khmer: ព្រះករុណាព្រះនរោត្តម សីហនុ ព្រះបរមរតនកោដ្ឋ), which literally translates as "The King who lies in the Diamond Urn" in English.[247]

Sihanouk was affectionately known as "Samdech Euv" to most Cambodians,[248] starting from the early 1960s when he became the Head of State.[249] ("Samdech Euv" is a Khmer title which translates as the Prince Father in English.)[245] In 2004, he issued a royal decree requesting to be called "Samdech Ta" or "Samdech Ta-tuot",[250] which translates as "Grandfather" and "Great-grandfather" respectively in English.[251] Sihanouk was known by many state and political titles throughout his lifetime,[252] and the Guinness Book of World Records identifies Sihanouk as the royal who has served the greatest variety of state and political offices.[245]

Personal life

Sihanouk's name is derived from two Sanskrit words "Siha" and "Manu", which translates as "Lion" and "Jaws" respectively in English.[253][254] He is fluent in Khmer, French as well as English,[255] and also learnt Greek and Latin in high school.[256] In his high school days, Sihanouk played soccer, basketball, volleyball and also took up horse riding.[1] He suffered from diabetes and depression in the 1960s,[257] which flared up again in the late 1970s while living in captivity under the Khmer Rouge.[258] In November 1992, Sihanouk suffered a stroke[259] caused by the thickening of the coronary arteries and blood vessels.[260] The following year he was diagnosed with B cell lymphoma in the prostate[261] and was treated with chemotherapy and surgery.[262] Sihanouk's lymphoma went into remission in 1995,[263] but returned again in 2005 in the gastric region. He suffered a third bout of lymphoma in 2008[261] and after prolonged treatment, it went into remission the following year.[264]

In 1960, Sihanouk built a personal residence at Chamkarmon District where he would live in over the next ten years as the Head of State.[265] Following his overthrow in 1970, Sihanouk took up residence in Beijing, where he lived at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in the first year of his stay. In 1971, Sihanouk moved to a larger residence in the city which once housed the French embassy.[266] The residence was equipped with a temperature-adjustable swimming pool,[107] cinema[267] and seven chefs to cook his meals.[268] In 1974, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung built Changsuwon, a 40-room mansion for Sihanouk.[269] Changsuwon was built near an artificial lake, and Sihanouk spent time taking boat trips there and also shot a few films within its compound.[270] In August 2008, Sihanouk declared his assets on his website, which according to him consisted of a small house in Siem Reap and 30,000 Euros of cash savings stored in a French bank. He also stated that his residences in Beijing and Pyongyang were guesthouses owned by the governments of China and North Korea respectively and that they did not belong to him.[271]


File:Cambodge - Roi et mère cropped.JPG
Sihanouk's spouse, Norodom Monineath and their son Norodom Sihamoni photographed at Sihanouk's funeral. To the extreme left is Sihanouk's half-brother, Norodom Sirivudh.

Sihanouk married Paule Monique Izzi in April 1952, the daughter of Pomme Peang–a Cambodian lady, and Jean-François Izzi, a French banker of Italian ancestry.[272] Monique became Sihanouk's lifelong partner,[95] and in the 1990s she changed her name to Monineath.[273] Prior to his marriage to Monique, Sihanouk had married five other women including Phat Kanhol, Sisowath Pongsanmoni, Sisowath Monikessan, Mam Manivan Phanivong and Thavet Norleak.[274] Monikessan died of childbirth in 1946 while his marriages to other women all ended in divorce.[275] Sihanouk sired fourteen children with five different wives except for Thavet Norleak, who bore him no children.[276] Five children and fourteen grandchildren disappeared during the Khmer Rouge years, which Sihanouk concluded that they were killed by the Khmer Rouge leadership.[277][278]

Sihanouk had the following issue:

Name Year of birth Year of death Mother Cause of death
Norodom Buppha Devi 1943 Phat Kanhol
Norodom Yuvaneath 1943 Sisowath Pongsanmoni
Norodom Ranariddh 1944 Phat Kanhol
Norodom Ravivong 1944 1973 Sisowath Pongsanmoni Malaria[279]
Norodom Chakrapong 1945 Sisowath Pongsanmoni
Norodom Naradipo 1946 1976 Sisowath Monikessan Disappeared under Khmer Rouge[280]
Norodom Sorya Roeungsi 1947 1976 Sisowath Pongsanmoni Disappeared under Khmer Rouge[280]
Norodom Kantha Bopha 1948 1952 Sisowath Pongsanmoni Leukemia[279]
Norodom Khemanourak 1949 1975 Sisowath Pongsanmoni Disappeared under Khmer Rouge[281]
Norodom Botum Bopha 1951 1975 Sisowath Pongsanmoni Disappeared under Khmer Rouge[281]
Norodom Sujata 1953 1975 Mam Manivan Disappeared under Khmer Rouge[281]
Norodom Sihamoni 1953 Monique Izzi (Monineath)
Norodom Narindrapong 1954 2003 Monique Izzi (Monineath) Heart attack[282]
Norodom Arunrasmy 1955 Mam Manivan



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Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sisowath Monivong
King of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Norodom Suramarit
Preceded by
Chea Sim
(Chairman of the Council of State)
King of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Norodom Sihamoni
Political offices
Preceded by
New office
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Son Ngoc Thanh
Preceded by
Yem Sambaur
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Sisowath Monipong
Preceded by
Huy Kanthoul
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Penn Nouth
Preceded by
Chan Nak
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Penn Nouth
Preceded by
Leng Ngeth
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Oum Chheang Sun
Preceded by
Oum Chheang Sun
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Khim Tit
Preceded by
Khim Tit
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
San Yun
Preceded by
San Yun
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Sim Var
Preceded by
Sim Var
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Pho Proeung
Preceded by
Chuop Hell
Head of State of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Cheng Heng
Preceded by
Penn Nouth
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Nhiek Tioulong
Preceded by
Sak Sutsakhan
President of the State Presidium
Succeeded by
Khieu Samphan