King Norodom Sihanouk

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Posted by: | Posted on: February 20, 2013

Hun Sen Cites ‘Miracle’ for His Role in Royal Cremation

Hun Sen Cites ‘Miracle’ for His Role in Royal Cremation

By Neou Vannarin – February 17, 2013, The Cambodia Daily

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said that the brief delay in lighting the casket at the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s cremation on February 4 was a “miracle” that allowed him alone to finally ignite the flame after four failed attempts by others.

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony at Phnom Penh’s Svay Por Pe pagoda, in his first public speech since the cremation, Mr. Hun Sen said the delay in cremating the form­er King’s body—scheduled to be burned at 6 p.m. but not ignited un­til shortly after 6:30—was be­cause Norodom Sihanouk’s spirit was waiting for the prime minister to personally light the casket.

“This is a miracle of the late King Father’s sacred power; an impossible thing occurred at the time,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Ig­niting the royal flame was attempted five times before it worked, this is a sacred power.”

Mr. Hun Sen said that King No­rodom Sihamoni and Queen Mo­th­er Norodom Monineath were un­successful in their first three at­tempts to set the casket alight. For the fourth try, the Queen Mo­ther in­vited the two supreme patriarchs of the Mahanikaya and Dha­m­mayuttika Nikaya Buddhist sects to join the monarchs in igniting the flame, but this also failed.

“For the fifth time, it was me alone,” said Mr. Hun Sen.

“I knelt down to the feet of his majesty [the King Father] and prayed that I was sorry for setting [his body] on fire, but I had no choice. So, I brought forth the fire, and the flame finally ignited.

“I told the Queen Mother that his majesty did not want to leave his children. In response, the Queen Mother said ‘[the King Father] was waiting for you,’” he said.

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Posted by: | Posted on: January 31, 2013

Beyond the Killing Fields

Cambodia 1.jpg

Op-Ed: The Economist: Intelligent Life

Nearly 50 years ago, Nicholas Shakespeare’s family was forced to flee Cambodia. Now he and his father return for the first time since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, and find ordinary Cambodians enduring a new kind of agony

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, January/February 2013


Excited, my father starts climbing it. We are in the air-conditioned residence of America’s ambassador to Phnom Penh, formerly the British embassy. On a humid day in 1964—in an incident unreported at the time because Western journalists were banned—my father walked down this staircase to confront about 1,000 angry students who had come to trash the building. They were acting on instructions from Cambodia’s ruler, Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

The British ambassador, Peter Murray, was away that morning and had left my father, John Shakespeare, the first secretary, in charge. Three days later, Murray sent a confidential despatch back to the foreign secretary, Rab Butler. This year, on the eve of our first visit to Cambodia since our abrupt departure nearly half a century ago, my father found a copy of Murray’s message in a damp cardboard box in his Wiltshire garage, along with letters, receipts, maps and photographs. Murray’s despatch begins: “I regret to report that the official premises of Her Majesty’s Embassy in Phnom Penh were attacked and badly damaged by a mob on the morning of the 11th of March 1964…As for what happened in my absence, I have the honour—and this for once is no formal phrase—to refer you, Sir, to Mr Shakespeare’s account.”

My father, now 82, reaches the top step. He has rarely spoken about his part in Sihanouk’s sacking of our embassy. The details come back as he looks down the staircase.

He remembers crowds of people assembling in the street out of a clear blue sky. “I saw somebody painting on the wall outside the embassy ‘US go home’ and I went and told him, ‘Look, you’ve got the wrong place. The American embassy is down there.’” More people turned up with placards bearing the words “Perfide Albion”, and in one case “Perfide Albino”. The shouts grew louder. My father instructed all the embassy staff, about 20 of them, to go up these stairs, to a safe area where secret papers were kept in a strong room. Then the crowd surged into the grounds.

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Posted by: | Posted on: December 25, 2012

Monarchic manipulation in Cambodia

Monarchic manipulation in Cambodia
By Geoff Gunn
Source: Asia Times
The survival of the monarchy in Cambodia is little short of remarkable in the light of that country’s modern history. French manipulation of the monarchy and attempts to buttress religion and culture alongside the rise of nationalist youth and Buddhist radicalism was an important precursor to postwar events.

No less momentous for modern Cambodian history was the Vichy French installation of Norodom Sihanouk as king and the elevation under Japan of the putative republican Son Ngoc Thanh. Facing down an armed Issarak-Viet Minh challenge also joined by a dissident prince, it is no less significant that the young King Sihanouk successfully trumped French ambitions by mounting his own “royal crusade” for independence even ahead of the Geneva Settlement of 1954.

Undoubtedly the passing of Norodom Sihanouk on October 15, 2012, at the age of 89 after six decades of close involvement in Cambodian politics has served to refocus attention upon the status of the monarchy in that country, facts not diminished by the actual succession in October 2004 to his son Norodom Sihamoni (b. 1953).

A phoenix float carries the casket of Sihanouk

Though much exoticized and othered as a peaceful realm under the French protectorate, at least alongside the challenges imposed by Vietnamese nationalists, dissent always simmered beneath the surface calm in Cambodia, whether from the overburdened-over taxed peasantry, from the major immigrant communities, from religious radicals within and without the Buddhist hierarchies, or even from scheming royal princes.

Given French manipulations of religion, tradition and even the royal line, a complex political picture emerges, even prior to the Japanese occupation. Japan was even more successful in Cambodia than in the other Indochina states in installing an anti-French republican demagogue, an enigmatic figure whose name recurs in Cambodian history down until the US-backed military coup in Phnom Penh of March 1970.

Thanks to Anglo-French intervention, and Sihanouk’s personality, the post-war outcome in Cambodia was a “royal road to independence” although even that pathway was severely challenged by the Viet Minh and their sometime Issarak (Free Khmer) allies. Yet the royal ascendancy around the Vichy French-anointed monarch, Sihanouk, would also come back to haunt Cambodia, not only in striking a neutral course in the maelstrom of the American war, but also in lending his name to the China-backed anti-Vietnamese communist movement that triumphed in Phnom Penh in 1975.

As this article develops, below the politics of culture or the tendency of the French to buttress neo-traditionalist trends wherever they saw them, emerges a byzantine crossover of royal dynasties, powerful families and cliques that, in many ways, continued to define Cambodian politics through the modern period. It is also true, as Roger Kershaw (2000; 6; 17; 19-20) unveils in a comparative study on the “fortunes” of monarchy in Southeast Asia, that analysis of surviving monarchies (as with Thailand and Brunei alongside Cambodia), should at least account for the “synthetic” alongside the “authentic traditional values” (not excepting even Britain from this analysis).

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Posted by: | Posted on: October 16, 2012

For sincere condolence, love and shared responsibility of Cambodian nation: special collection of news outlets regarding Somdech Ta King Norodom Sihanouk

For sincere condolence, love and shared responsibility of Cambodian nation: special collection of news outlets regarding Somdech Ta King Norodom Sihanouk

Cambodia’s Mercurial Former King, Norodom Sihanouk, Dies at 89

Cambodia’s former King Norodom Sihanouk greets his subjects at the annual crop-planting ceremony outside the royal palace in Phnom Penh on April 30, 2002 (Chor Sokunthea / Files / Reuters)
Cambodia’s former King Norodom Sihanouk, pictured in July 1941 (AP)
The former monarch, who died Monday in Beijing at 89, was at various times a playboy prince, a teenage King, an independence leader, an elected Prime Minister, an exile and, later, a peace negotiator
By Kay Johnson | October 15, 2012
Time Magazine (USA)
In the end, he couldn’t script a happy ending for Cambodia.
Filmmaking was a favorite hobby of Cambodia’s former King Norodom Sihanouk, and in his long, extraordinary life, he played enough roles to fill a Hollywood epic. The former monarch, who died Monday in Beijing at 89, was at various times a playboy prince, a teenage King, an independence leader, an elected Prime Minister, an exile and, later, a peace negotiator. Along the way, he found time to compose jazz tunes, throw champagne-soaked soirées and rub shoulders with the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, Charles de Gaulle, Mao Zedong, Jacqueline Kennedy, Sukarno and Kim Il Sung. The part he loved to play most, though, was that of Samdech Euv, or Papa King, to the Cambodian people, known as the Khmer. “My people love and admire me and respect me so very much,” he once said. “They continue to believe I am a god-king.”
Though he cast himself as heroic, Sihanouk, like the country he once led and long symbolized, was most defined by tragedy. His carefully cultivated status as a benevolent and glamorous ruler wasmarred by his cooperation with the murderous Khmer Rouge, whose “killing fields” regime of the 1970s left 1.7 million dead. It was a decision that cost him dearly: he himself was held prisoner by the Khmer Rouge, who killed five of his 14 children. His passing is a reminder of a long-past era when Southeast Asia, not Afghanistan and Pakistan, was the focus of a protracted U.S. war. During the Vietnam War, Cambodia was carpet bombed by the Nixon Administration trying to root out “safe havens” across the border, an eerie precursor to today’s drone campaign in northwestern Pakistan.
The mercurial Sihanouk was a man of contradictions — an avowed Cambodian patriot who wrote mostly in French, a man who sought peace for his people, but whose decisions seemed to lead them, time and again, to disaster. “Sihanouk was certainly one of the most interesting leaders of the 20th century,” said Milton Osborne, author of the critical biography Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness. “But I wouldn’t say he was one of the best leaders.”