Sisowath Monivong

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Sisowath Monivong
Preah Bat Sisowath Monivong.jpg
King of Cambodia
Reign9 August 1927 – 24 April 1941
Coronation20 July 1928
SuccessorNorodom Sihanouk
Born27 December 1875
Khemarin Palace
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Died24 April 1941(1941-04-24) (aged 65)
Phnom Bokor, Cambodia
SpouseNorodom Kanviman Norleak Tevi (m. 1894; d. 1912)
IssueSisowath Pinnareth
Sisowath Thavet Roeungsi
Sisowath Sariletlak
Sisowath Kossamak
Sisowath Nearirakh
Sisowath Monireth
Sisowath Monipong
HouseHouse of Sisowath
MotherVarni Van

Sisowath Monivong (Khmer: ស៊ីសុវត្ថិ មុនីវង្ស, Khmer pronunciation: [siːsoʔʋat muʔniːʋoə̯ŋ])[1] (27 December 1875 – 24 April 1941) was the King of Cambodia from 1927 until his death in 1941. During his reign, Cambodia was a French protectorate. Monivong was the grandson of the poet-king Ang Duong, grandfather of Norodom Sihanouk and the great-grandfather of the current king, Norodom Sihamoni. His full regnal title and style was ព្រះបាទសម្តេចព្រះសិរីមុនីវរ្ម័នក្រុមហ្លួងចៅចក្របាងស្ស ស៊ីសុវត្ថិ មុនីវង្ស នៃព្រះរាជាណចក្រកម្ពុជា (Preah Bat Samdach Preah Serei Monivarman Krom Luang Chao Chakarbangsa Sisowath Monivong Nai Preah Reacheanachak Kampuchea) which can be literally translated from Khmerized Sanskrit as "His majesty, glorious lord scholar-protector; His highness, lord of land and sea, Sisowath Monivong of the Kingdom of Kampuchea".


Born in Phnom Penh in 1875, Sisowath Monivong was the sixth child and the second son of King Sisowath.[2] His mother was Neak Moneang Van, later titled Samdeach Preah Voreachini, the fifth child-bearing wife of Sisowath. At that time his uncle King Norodom ruled from Odong, the capital of Cambodia. Norodom was a puppet king for the French colonial protectorate. In 1884, after the French conquered Laos and occupied Vietnam, Cambodia became a direct colonial possession. The royal family then moved from Odong to the new capital of Phnom Penh, where Sisowath Monivong resided.

In 1904, both of his uncles and his elder brother Essaravong died, resulting in Sisowath Monivong becoming the Crown Prince of Cambodia. In 1906, he traveled with his father, King Sisowath, to France.[2] There he was admitted to the Military School of Saint-Maixent. He graduated two years later with the rank Sous Lieutenant in the Foreign Legion. He was then posted to Brive and later to Paris. In 1909, he returned to Cambodia. In 1910, he was promoted to Lieutenant, in 1916 to Captain, and finally, in 1922, to Chief of Battalion. The same year he was released from military service. During the First World War, he actively recruited volunteer military personnel and workers. These services were recognized with the Cross of Commander of the Foreign Legion and the Cambodian title of Samdech Preah Keofea. He was then appointed Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers and President of the Council of the Royal Family.

Monivong had many consorts, at least six of whom were granted official recognition, having borne children to him.[2] One of these was a woman named Meak, a member of the Royal Ballet, who was given the title Khun Preah Moneang Bopha Norleak Meak. Meak bore Monivong's son, Prince Sisowath Kusarak, in 1926. Around 1934-1935, two of her young cousins came to live with her, a common Cambodian custom.[3] The youngest, 6–7 years old, had been given the name Saloth Sar at birth, but would later adopt the name Pol Pot.

Monivong died on 24 April 1941 at the age of 65 at Bokor Mountain which was renamed Preah Monivong National Park in his honour.


In 1927, Sisowath Monivong's father died, so at age 52 Sisowath Monivong ascended to the throne. Like his father and his uncle, Monivong was simply a figurehead for the French administration and, in the words of one author, Monivong "caused the French no trouble".[4] The real power was in the hands of the French Resident General. The King was surrounded by his Royal Council composed of his cousins: Sisowath Rathary (father of Sisowath Sirik Matak), Sisowath Watchayavong, Norodom Phanouvong, Norodom Suramarit and Norodom Singhara.

It was during Monivong's rule that Cambodia became open to outside communist influences. In 1930, the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh founded the Indochina Communist Party which subsequently obtained popularity in Cambodia. The Cambodian communists' primary objective was to overthrow the French.

In 1940, when France fell to Nazi Germany, the "Vichy France" regime took power in the unoccupied parts of France in its overseas colonies, including Cambodia. In the late 1930s, a powerless Monivong noticed that Japan was making inroads in Vietnam. Japan then invaded and occupied Cambodia in early 1941. The Japanese allowed Cambodian Vichy French officials to administer, but only under Japanese protection. The Cambodian king was beholden to the Vichy French, who were in turn beholden to the Japanese. In western Cambodia, Thailand, now an ally of the Japanese, occupied territory. As the Japanese and Thai oppression of Cambodians became evident, Sisowath Monivong retired to Kampot in late 1941 and died at Bokor the same year.[5] He died taking the posthumous title of Preah Karuna Preah Sisowath Monivong Preah Khatiyakot

His son Sisowath Monireth was the heir to the throne, but the French authorities chose Sisowath Kosamak's nineteen-year-old son Norodom Sihanouk to succeed him instead, mistakenly believing that he would be more pliable than Monireth.[6]


  1. ^ Headly, Robert K.; Chhor, Kylin; Lim, Lam Kheng; Kheang, Lim Hak; Chun, Chen. 1977. Cambodian-English Dictionary. Bureau of Special Research in Modern Languages. The Catholic University of America Press. Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-8132-0509-3
  2. ^ a b c Jeldres, Julio A., 2003, The Royal House Of Cambodia, Monument Books, Phnom Penh
  3. ^ Chandler, David P., 1992, Brother Number One: A political biography of Pol Pot, Silkworm Books, Thailand: 8
  4. ^ Volkert, Kurt; T. Jeff Williams (2001). A Cambodian Odyssey. Lincoln, NE: Writer's Showcase;, Inc. p. 8. ISBN 0595166067. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  5. ^ Corfield, Justin (2009). The History of Cambodia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LCC. p. 144. ISBN 9780313357220.
  6. ^ Volkert, Kurt; T. Jeff Williams (2001). A Cambodian Odyssey. Lincoln, NE: Writer's Showcase;, Inc. p. 9. ISBN 0595166067. Retrieved 16 January 2014.

External links[edit]

Media related to Sisowath Monivong at Wikimedia Commons

Sisowath Monivong
House of Sisowath
Born: 27 December 1875 Died: 24 April 1941
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Cambodia
Coat of arms of Cambodia (1935–70).svg

1927 – 1941
Succeeded by
Norodom Sihanouk