|King of Cambodia|
|Reign||24 April 1941 – 3 March 1955|
|Coronation||3 May 1941|
|Reign||24 September 1993 – 7 October 2004|
|Coronation||24 September 1993|
|Predecessor||Chea Sim (Regent)|
31 October 1922|
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
|Died||15 October 2012
|Issue||Norodom Buppha Devi
Norodom Kantha Bopha
|House||House of Norodom|
|1st Prime Minister of Cambodia|
17 November 1961 – 13 February 1962
|Preceded by||Penn Nouth|
|Succeeded by||Nhiek Tioulong (acting)|
10 July 1958 – 19 April 1960
|Preceded by||Sim Var|
|Succeeded by||Pho Proeung|
9 April 1957 – 7 July 1957
|Preceded by||Sam Yun|
|Succeeded by||Sim Var|
15 September 1956 – 15 October 1956
|Preceded by||Khim Tit|
|Succeeded by||Sam Yun|
1 March 1956 – 24 March 1956
|Preceded by||Oum Chheang Sun|
|Succeeded by||Khim Tit|
3 October 1955 – 5 January 1956
|Preceded by||Leng Ngeth|
|Succeeded by||Oum Chheang Sun|
7 April 1954 – 18 April 1954
|Preceded by||Chan Nak|
|Succeeded by||Penn Nouth|
16 June 1952 – 24 January 1953
|Preceded by||Huy Kanthoul|
|Succeeded by||Penn Nouth|
28 April 1950 – 30 May 1950
|Preceded by||Yem Sambaur|
|Succeeded by||Sisowath Monipong|
18 March 1945 – 13 August 1945
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Son Ngoc Thanh|
|Leader of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum|
24 March 1955 – 18 March 1970
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||None (party dissolved)|
|Head of State of Cambodia|
14 June 1993 – 24 September 1993
|Preceded by||Chea Sim
as Chairman of the Council of State
|Succeeded by||Himself as King|
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|
17 April 1975 – 2 April 1976
|Preceded by||Sak Sutsakhan
as Chairman of the Supreme Committee
|Succeeded by||Khieu Samphan|
|Political party||FUNCINPEC (1981–1991)|
|Alma mater||Armoured Cavalry Branch Training School|
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 his overthrow in 1970 by Lon Nol and Sisowath Sirik Matak. A new government, the Khmer Republic, was instituted after Sihanouk's ouster as the Head of State.
Sihanouk 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 front. The following year in 1982, the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) was formed which brought together the three anti-Vietnamese resistance factions consisting of FUNCINPEC, Khmer Rouge and Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), and Sihanouk was appointed as the President of the CGDK.
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.
- 1 Early life and first reign
- 2 Sangkum era
- 3 Deposition, GRUNK and Khmer Rouge years
- 4 FUNCINPEC and CGDK years
- 5 UNTAC administration era
- 6 Second reign
- 7 Abdication and final years
- 8 Death and funeral
- 9 Artistic works
- 10 Titles and styles
- 11 Personal life
- 12 References
- 13 Bibliography
Early life and first reign
Sihanouk was the only child born of the union between Norodom Suramarit and Sisowath Kossamak. 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. When his maternal grandfather Sisowath Monivong, died on 23 April 1941, the Crown Council appointed Prince Sihanouk as King of Cambodia the following day. Sihanouk was officially crowned on 3 May 1941. During the Japanese occupation of Cambodia, he dedicated most of his time to sports, filming and the occasional tour to the countryside. 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 and assumed the position of Prime Minister while serving as king at the same time.
As the Prime Minister, Sihanouk revoked a decree issued by the last resident superior of Cambodia, Georges Gautier to romanise the Khmer alphabet. 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. When the French returned to Cambodia in October 1945, Thanh was deposed from his position and was replaced by Sihanouk's uncle Sisowath Monireth. 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. A joint French-Cambodian commission was set up after that to write Cambodia's constitution, 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. The first constitution was signed into effect by Sihanouk in May 1947. 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.
In early 1949, Sihanouk travelled to Paris with his parents to negotiate for more autonomy to Cambodia, which led to the signing of a Franco-Khmer treaty that cancelled the Modus Vivendi signed in 1946. In September 1949, Sihanouk dissolved the National Assembly and ruled by decree until September 1951 when the Democrat Party pressured Sihanouk to hold national elections. 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. 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.
Sihanouk returned to Cambodia in June 1953, and took up residence in Siem Reap. 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. 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, and on 9 November 1953 Cambodia officially declared independence from France. In May 1954, Sihanouk sent Nhiek Tioulong and Tep Phan to participate in the Geneva Conference. 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 which was unhappy with his intervention in politics and held a majority of seats in the National Assembly. In February 1955, a 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.
On 2 March 1955, Sihanouk announced his abdication from the throne on 2 March 1955 over Phnom Penh radio, and the throne council nominated his father, Suramarit to succeed him. A month later in April 1955, Sihanouk announced the formation of the Sangkum, a political organisation with a stated goal on forging national unity. Four right-wing political parties led by Lon Nol, Sam Sary, Oum Cheang Sun and Dap Chhuon merged to join the Sangkum at Sihanouk's advice. 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. Sihanouk was subsequently sworn in as Prime Minister the following month.
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 and making Cambodia a Constitutional monarchy by vesting policy making powers to the Prime Minister rather than to the King. 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. 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, as cabinet ministers repeatedly disputed over public policy matters.
In January 1956, Sihanouk left Cambodia for the Philippines. The Manila Chronicle published an editorial that falsely claimed that Sihanouk would sign an agreement that put Cambodia under Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) protection. When Sihanouk denied the claims made by the Manila Chronicle, the United States through its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives, attempted to persuade him to reconsider his offer, but failed. The following month, Sihanouk visited China where he was received by its leader Mao Zedong. While he viewed the Philippines' association with the United States with contempt, Sihanouk praised China's independence vis-à-vis its relations with the Soviet Union and United States in the Cold War. In China, Sihanouk signed a friendship treaty with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, which led to Cambodia receiving 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. 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.
In December 1958, Ngo Dinh Nhu–Diem's younger brother and chief adviser, mooted the idea of orchestrating a coup to overthrow Sihanouk. Nhu contacted Dap Chhuon, Sihanouk's Interior Minister who was known for his pro-American sympathies, to lead the coup attempt against Sihanouk. To prepare for the coup, Chhuon received covert financial and military assistance from Thailand, South Vietnam and the CIA. In January 1959, Sihanouk learnt of the coup plans through his intermediaries who had contact with Chhuon. The following month, Sihanouk sent the army to capture Chhuon, who was summarily executed and effectively ending the coup attempt. Following Chhuon's execution, Sihanouk accused South Vietnam and the United States of orchestrating a coup attempt to overthrow him. 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, and Sihanouk went on to accuse Ngo Dinh Nhu of masterminding the bomb attack as an assassination attempt against him.
Head of State (1960–1970)
Suramarit died on 3 April 1960 after suffering from several months of poor health, which Sihanouk attributed to the fright that his father received from parcel bomb attack. The following day, Monireth was sworn in as the Regent of Cambodia, 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. As the Head of State, Sihanouk took over various ceremonial responsibilities of the king, such as holding public audiences 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.
In 1962, Sihanouk's relations with the leaders of the Western world started to deteriorate. While attending an United Nations summit at New York in the same year, Sihanouk felt aggrieved for not being accorded the same level of decorum as with other visiting national leaders. When Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom invited Sihanouk to visit his country, he rebuffed the offer when it was pointed out that the visit would not be treated as an official state visit. At the same time, Sihanouk have had held deep suspicion of the CIA continuously supporting efforts by the Khmer Serei to overthrow his regime, and in November 1962, threatened to reject all American economic aid if CIA did not withdraw its support for the Khmer Serei. One year later in November 1963, Sihanouk announced that Cambodia would reject all forms of economic aid from the US. He also announced that Cambodia's entrepot trade, banking sector and distillery industry would be nationalised. A statutory board, SONEXIM was set up to oversee policy and regulatory matters on the country's entrepot trade.
The following year, Sihanouk signed a secret agreement with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong resistance which allowed Chinese military aid delivered to be delivered to the Viet Cong 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. 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. When the US learnt of Vietcong presence in eastern Cambodia, they started a bombing campaign in this region, which spurned Sihanouk to sever diplomatic ties with the US in May 1965. 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.
In September 1966, general elections were held, 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. In response, Sihanouk set up a shadow government in October 1966 which made up of Sangkum legislators with left-wing sympathies to counterbalance right-wing influences. At the end of the month, Lon Nol offered to resign from his position, which Sihanouk rejected. In April 1967, fighting broke out between government troops and local peasants in Samlaut, Battambang Province. The fighting, which became known as the Samlaut Uprising was quickly put down, but Sihanouk soon developed a suspicion that three left-wing legislators–Khieu Samphan, Hou Yuon and Hu Nim had incited the rebellion. 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.
Lon Nol resigned as Prime Minister at the beginning of May 1967, and Sihanouk appointed Son Sann in his place. At the same time, Sihanouk replaced conservative-leaning ministers appointed by Lon Nol with technocrats and left-leaning politicians, calling it an "Exceptional Government". In mid-May 1967, Sihanouk accused China of supporting local Chinese Cambodians in engaging in "contraband" and "subversive" activities. 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. Sihanouk subsequently sent his Foreign Minister, Norodom Phurissara in August 1967 and urge Zhou Enlai to stop the Chinese embassy for disseminating Communist propaganda, but failed. In response, Sihanouk closed the Cambodia-Chinese Friendship Association in September 1967. When the Chinese government protested Sihanouk's action, he followed up by threatening to close the Chinese embassy in Cambodia. Subsequently, Zhou Enlai stepped in to placate Sihanouk, and Chinese embassy agreed to send its publications to the Information Ministry before they are to be distributed for circulation.
Sihanouk subsequently pursued rapprochement with the US, and hosted a private visit of Jacqueline Kennedy to Cambodia in October 1967. He met with the US ambassador to India Chester Bowles, in January 1968 and acknowledged the presence of Viet Cong troops in the Cambodia while also indicating that he would not stop US forces from crossing into Cambodia to attack Viet Cong forces. Diplomatic relations between Cambodia and US were restored at the end of 1968. When Henry Kissinger laid out plans to bomb parts of eastern Cambodia in 1969, Sihanouk refrained from protesting against them. Around this time, Cambodia suffered a decline in agricultural productivity due to the drift of Agent Orange from South Vietnam and widespread corruption. In August 1969, Sihanouk approved of a new government led by Lon Nol and with Sisowath Sirik Matak as his deputy. When Lon Nol left Cambodia in October to seek medical treatment, Sirik Matak instituted policy changes that ran contrary to Sihanouk's wishes, such as re-establishing Cambodian troop presence in the northeastern provinces where the Viet Cong were based in, and also relaxed state control of the entrepot trade. In September 1969, Lon Nol and Sirik Matak secretly contacted Son Ngoc Thanh to discuss the possibility of overthrowing Sihanouk.
Deposition, GRUNK and Khmer Rouge years
In early January 1970, Sihanouk left Cambodia for medical treatment in France. The following month, Lon Nol de-monetised all 500-riel banknotes in circulation to deprive Viet Cong troops of the ability to buy rice and supply goods. Lon Nol and Sirik Matak also encouraged demonstrations to be held outside the North Vietnamese embassy to protest the presence of Viet Cong troops in Cambodia. On 16 March 1970, the half-brother of Monique, Oum Mannorine was summoned to the National Assembly over corruption charges. 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 Sirik Matak's troops. Two days later on 18 March, troops were stationed at Pochentong airport and the National Assembly building. The assembly voted to endorse a military government headed by Lon Nol and provide emergency powers. A secret ballot was cast whereby the assembly voted to depose Sihanouk.
Sihanouk was in Moscow on the day of his overthrow and the Soviet foreign minister Alexei Kosygin, was tasked to informed him of the news. Sihanouk flew to Beijing where he was received by the Chinese premier Zhou Enlai. Sihanouk also met with the Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, and on 23 March 1970 Sihanouk announced a resistance front known as National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK). Sometime later on 5 May 1970, Sihanouk announced the formation of a government-in-exile known as GRUNK and led Communist countries including China, North Vietnam, and North Korea to break relations with the Lon Nol regime. In Phnom Penh, a military trial convened on 2 July 1970 and Sihanouk was sentenced to death in absentia three days later.
Sihanouk alternately lived in Beijing and Pyongyang between 1970 and 1975, where custom-made, large residences were built for him to live. 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 faced constant bombardment of American planes from Operation Freedom Deal throughout his visit to Khmer Rouge–controlled areas of Cambodia. Sihanouk travelled across the provinces of Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, and Siem Reap. At Siem Reap, Sihanouk visited the temples of Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, and Bayon. 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.
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 Democratic Kampuchea regime. He continued to live in Beijing until September 1975 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. He subsequently went abroad to recommend the diplomatic recognition of Democratic Kampuchea, and visited several Communist countries before returning to Cambodia on 31 December 1975. After presiding a meeting to endorse the constitution of the Democratic Kampuchea, 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. Sihanouk asked to resign from his position as the head of state, which Pol Pot rejected. However, his request to resign was subsequently accepted in mid-April 1976 and retroactively dated back to 2 April 1976.
From this point of time onwards, Sihanouk was placed under house arrest until January 1979, and his requests to travel overseas were turned down by the Angkar. Sihanouk was taken to Beijing from Phnom Penh on 6 January 1979, one day before Vietnamese troops occupied Phnom Penh. From Beijing, Sihanouk flew 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. Sihanouk subsequently sought asylum in China after making two unsuccessful asylum applications with the US and France.
FUNCINPEC and CGDK years
A new government supported by Vietnam, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) was established shortly after the overthrow of Democratic Kampuchea. The Chinese government led by Deng Xiaoping was unhappy with Vietnam's role in the establishment of the PRK government. Deng proposed to Sihanouk to corporate with the Khmer Rouge, an idea which Sihanouk rejected. In March 1981, Sihanouk established a resistance movement, FUNCINPEC together with a small resistance army known as the ANS (Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste). 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) as China applied diplomatic pressure for him to collaborate with the Khmer Rouge as a precondition to receiving material aid for FUNCINPEC.
After several rounds of tripartite talks, Sihanouk presided over the establishment of a government exile, the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) in June 1982. Several rounds of tripartite talks were hosted by China between 1982 and 1987, but yielded little diplomatic progress to ending the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia. From 1986 onwards, Vietnam faced political pressure from the Soviet Union to withdraw its troops from Cambodia. 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. 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.
Two more rounds of JIMs were held in February and May 1989, Ali Alatas and the then-French foreign minister Roland Dumas convened the Paris Peace Conference between July and August 1989 to discuss plans for Vietnamese troop withdrawal and power sharing arrangements for a future Cambodian government. In August 1989, Sihanouk resigned as president of FUNCINPEC. 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. The creation of the SNC was subsequently ratified with United Nations Security Council Resolution 668. In July 1991, Sihanouk left FUNCINPEC altogether, and was elected as the chairperson of the SNC.
UNTAC administration era
The Paris Peace Accords were signed on 23 October 1991, which formally recognised the SNC and provided for the creation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). The UNTAC was empowered 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. 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. The UNTAC administration was established in February 1992, but soon faced resistance from the Khmer Rouge in enforcing peacekeeping operations. 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.
Sihanouk left Cambodia for Beijing in November 1992, where he would stay on for the next six months until he returned to Cambodia on the eve of elections in May 1993. While in Beijing, Sihanouk briefly proposed a Presidential system government for Cambodia to then-UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, but dropped the idea after facing opposition from the Khmer Rouge. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. Sihanouk also appointed Ranariddh and Hun Sen as the Co-Prime Ministers of Cambodia with equal powers in a provisional government, which was ratified by the Constituent Assembly on 2 July 1993. On 30 August 1993, 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, and was ratified by the constituent assembly on 21 September 1993.
The new constitution was proclaimed on 24 September 1993, and Sihanouk was reinstated as the King of Cambodia. 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. Shortly after that, Sihanouk took leave to Beijing where he spent several months for cancer treatment. In May and June 1994, Sihanouk wrote a series of public letters to the government, starting with a call for fresh elections and giving government posts to end the ongoing insurgency with the Khmer Rouge based in Pailin and Anlong Veng. When Hun Sen rejected the suggestions, Sihanouk proposed 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. Hun Sen rejected Sihanouk's proposal for the second time, and cited the Khmer Rouge's past intransigent attitude would make the proposal unrealistic. In July 1994, Sihanouk arranged the exile of another son, Norodom Chakrapong after he was threatened by government forces over an alleged coup attempt against the government. The following November, Sihanouk made a similar arrangement for his younger half-brother, Norodom Sirivudh to be exiled to France after the latter was implicated in an assassination plot to kill Hun Sen.
Relations between the two co-Prime Ministers, Ranariddh and Hun Sen started to deteriorate from early 1996 as Ranariddh became unhappy with repeated delays from the CPP in awarding low-level government posts to FUNCINPEC officials. At the FUNCINPEC congress in March 1996, Ranariddh threatened to pull out of the coalition government and hold national elections in 1996, which stoked unease from Hun Sen and other CPP officials. 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.
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. In July 1997, violent clashes erupted in Phnom Penh between forces loyal to the CPP and FUNCINPEC, which effectively led to Ranariddh's ouster. 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. When the National Assembly elected Ung Huot as the First Prime Minister to replace Ranariddh on 6 August 1997, Sihanouk charged that Ranariddh's ouster was illegal and renewed his offer to abdicate the throne. 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.
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. According to Ranariddh, Ruom Rith was an alter ego of Sihanouk, a claim which the latter vehemently denies. In July 2002, Sihanouk expressed concern over the absence of detailed constitutional provisions over the organisation and functioning of the Cambodian throne council. 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.
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 filed complaints over alleged electoral irregularities with the Constitutional Council, which were turned down in August 2003 When FUNCINPEC and SRP announced their decision to attend the swearing in ceremony of parliamentarians, Sihanouk announced his decision to abstain from presiding the swearing-in ceremony, unless all parliamentarians from the three political parties agreed to attend. The Constitutional Council subsequently advised Sihanouk to preside over the swearing-in ceremony, which was held later in October 2003. The CPP, FUNCINPEC and SRP held additional talks into 2004 and Sihanouk proposed a tripartite unity government, but political stalemate persisted until June 2004 due to conflicting demands from the three political parties.
Abdication and final years
Sihanouk made another call to abdicate on 6 July 2004. At the same time, Hun Sen and Ranariddh had agreed to introduce a constitutional amendment that allowed an open voting system for the selection of the government ministers as well as the President of the National Assembly. Sihanouk disproved 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. A new coalition government was formed on the 17 July 2004 between the CPP and FUNCINPEC, while the SRP remained as an opposition party. 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. Sihamoni was crowned as the King of Cambodia on 29 October 2004.
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. 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. In October 2005, Sihanouk dissolved the SNCBA, around the same time Hun Sen signed a border treaty with Vietnam. 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). 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. Both Hun Sen and FUNCINPEC criticized the suggestion, with the latter calling the NGO as disrespectful to Sihanouk. The ECCC subsequently rejected his invitation.
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. 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. 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. Sihanouk expressed his intent to stay in Cambodia indefinitely, but returned to Beijing in January 2012 for further medical treatment at the advise of his Chinese doctors.
Death and funeral
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. 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. On 15 October 2012, Sihanouk died of a heart attack at 1.20 am, Phnom Penh time. King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen led a delegation of officials to Beijing on the same day. 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, and about 1 million people lined the streets from the airport to the royal palace to witness the return of Sihanouk's cortege.
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 the next three months until the funeral was held on 1 February 2013. 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. 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. In October 2013, a stupa featuring a bronze statue of Sihanouk was inaugurated next to the Independence Monument. In July 2014, Sihanouk's ashes were interred at the silver pagoda next to those of one of his daughters, Kantha Bopha.
Sihanouk produced about 50 films throughout his lifetime. He developed an interest for the cinema from a young age, which he attributed to frequent trips to the cinema with his parents. Shortly after becoming king in 1941, Sihanouk began experimenting with film making, and sent students to study filmmaking in France. When the film Lord Jim was released in 1965, Sihanouk became vexed with the negative portrayal the film gave of Cambodia. 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. Sihanouk had expressed that his films were created with the intent of portraying Cambodia in a positive light, and Australian historian Milton Osborne also noted that the films were filled with Cold War and nationalist propaganda themes. 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.
In 1967, one of Sihanouk films, The Enchanted Forest obtained a nomination at the 5th Moscow International Film Festival. 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. Sihanouk stopped making films following his ouster in 1970, but started to produce films again from 1987 onwards. 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. Sihanouk produced his last film, Miss Asina in 2006, and went on to state that he was ending all film production activities four years later in May 2010.
Sihanouk was an avid singer and song composer, and learnt to play several musical instruments such as the clarinet, saxophone, piano and accordion from a young age. Songs which Sihanouk wrote were usually based on patriotic themes appraising various aspects of Cambodia, nostalgic songs of foreign countries and romantic songs dedicated to Monique. Sihanouk led a musical band in the 1960s consisting members of the royal family, who would perform French songs and his own personal compositions. He organised concerts throughout Cambodia in his nationwide tours. In the 1980s, Sihanouk regularly held concerts to entertain diplomats while visiting the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, He continued the practice of holding concerts at the Cambodian Royal Palace in the 1990s and 2000s.
Titles and styles
King Norodom Sihanouk
|Reference style||His Royal Majesty|
|Spoken style||Your Royal Majesty|
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. 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. The title trnslates to as "The Prince who has been King" in English.
In 2004, Sihanouk became known as the King Father of Cambodia, 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. 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). 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.
Sihanouk was affectionly known as "Samdech Euv" to most Cambodians, starting from the early 1960s when he became the Head of State. ("Samdech Euv" is a Khmer title which translates as the Prince Father in English.) In 2004, he issued a royal decree requesting to be called "Samdech Ta" or "Samdech Ta-tuot", which translates as "Grandfather" and "Great-grandfather" respectively in English. Sihanouk was known by many state and political titles throughout his lifetime, and the Guinness Book of World Records identifies Sihanouk as the royal who has served the greatest variety of state and political offices.
Sihanouk's name is derived from two Sanskrit words "Siha" and "Manu", which translates as "Lion" and "Jaws" respectively in English. He is fluent in Khmer, French as well as English, and also learnt Greek and Latin in high school. In his high school days, Sihanouk played soccer, basketball, volleyball and also took up horse riding. He suffered from diabetes and depression in the 1960s, which flared up again in the late 1970s while living in captivity under the Khmer Rouge. In November 1992, Sihanouk suffered a stroke caused by the thickening of the coronary arteries and blood vessels. The following year he was diagnosed with B cell lymphoma in the prostate and was treated with chemotherapy and surgery. Sihanouk's lymphoma went into remission in 1995, but returned again in 2005 in the gastric region. He suffered a third bout of lymphoma in 2008 and after prolonged treatment, it went into remission the following year.
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. 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. The residence was equipped with a temperature-adjustable swimming pool, cinema and seven chefs to cook his meals. In 1974, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung built Changsuwon, a 40-room mansion for Sihanouk. Changsuwon was built near an artificial lake, and Sihanouk spent time taking boat trips there and also shot a few films within its compound. 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.
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. Monique became Sihanouk's lifelong partner, and in the 1990s she changed her name to Monineath. 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. Monikessan died of childbirth in 1946 while his marriages to other women all ended in divorce. Sihanouk sired fourteen children with five different wives except for Thavet Norleak, who bore him no children. Five children and fourteen grandchildren disappeared during the Khmer Rouge years, which Sihanouk concluded that they were killed by the Khmer Rouge leadership.
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|
|Norodom Chakrapong||1945||Sisowath Pongsanmoni|
|Norodom Naradipo||1946||1976||Sisowath Monikessan||Disappeared under Khmer Rouge|
|Norodom Sorya Roeungsi||1947||1976||Sisowath Pongsanmoni||Disappeared under Khmer Rouge|
|Norodom Kantha Bopha||1948||1952||Sisowath Pongsanmoni||Leukemia|
|Norodom Khemanourak||1949||1975||Sisowath Pongsanmoni||Disappeared under Khmer Rouge|
|Norodom Botum Bopha||1951||1975||Sisowath Pongsanmoni||Disappeared under Khmer Rouge|
|Norodom Sujata||1953||1975||Mam Manivan||Disappeared under Khmer Rouge|
|Norodom Sihamoni||1953||Monique Izzi (Monineath)|
|Norodom Narindrapong||1954||2003||Monique Izzi (Monineath)||Heart attack|
|Norodom Arunrasmy||1955||Mam Manivan|
|Ancestors of Norodom Sihanouk|
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Norodom Sihanouk|
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- Burchett, William G. and Norodom, Sihanouk (1973). My War with the CIA: Cambodia's fight for survival. United States of America: Penguin Books. ISBN 0140216898.
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