Norodom Sihanouk

Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk in 1972 during a visit to the Socialist Republic of Romania
King of Cambodia (Colonial and independent Cambodia) (1st Term)
Reign 25 April 1941 – 2 March 1955
Coronation September 1941
Predecessor Sisowath Monivong
Successor Norodom Suramarit
King of Cambodia (2nd Term)
Reign 24 September 1993 – 7 October 2004
Predecessor Chea Sim
Successor Norodom Sihamoni
Spouse 7 wives, currently Norodom Monineath Sihanouk
14 children
Full name
Preah Karuna Preah Bat Sâmdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Preahmâhaviraksat
House House of Norodom
Father Norodom Suramarit
Mother Sisowath Kosamak
Born 31 October 1922 (1922-10-31) (age 89)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Religion Theravada Buddhism
Norodom Sihanouk
1st Prime Minister of Cambodia
1st Prime Minister of Protectorate of Cambodia
In office
18 March 1945 – 13 August 1945
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Son Ngoc Thanh
12th Prime Minister of Cambodia
2nd Prime Minister of Protectorate of Cambodia
In office
28 April 1950 – 30 May 1950
Preceded by Yem Sambaur
Succeeded by Samdech Krom Luong Sisowath Monipong
16th Prime Minister of Cambodia
6th Prime Minister of Protectorate of Cambodia
In office
16 June 1952 – 24 January 1953
Preceded by Huy Kanthoul
Succeeded by Penn Nouth
20th Prime Minister of Cambodia
3rd Prime Minister of Kingdom of Cambodia
In office
7 April 1954 – 18 April 1954
Preceded by Chan Nak
Succeeded by Penn Nouth
23rd Prime Minister of Cambodia
6th Prime Minister of Kingdom of Cambodia
In office
3 October 1955 – 5 January 1956
Preceded by Leng Ngeth
Succeeded by Oum Chheang Sun
25th Prime Minister of Cambodia
8th Prime Minister of Kingdom of Cambodia
In office
1 March 1956 – 24 March 1956
Preceded by Oum Chheang Sun
Succeeded by Khim Tit
27th Prime Minister of Cambodia
10th Prime Minister of Kingdom of Cambodia
In office
15 September 1956 – 15 October 1956
Preceded by Khim Tit
Succeeded by San Yun
35th Prime Minister of Cambodia
17th Prime Minister of Kingdom of Cambodia
In office
9 April 1957 – 7 July 1957
Preceded by Sam Yun
Succeeded by Sim Var
36th Prime Minister of Cambodia
1st Prime Minister of Monarchy-Regency of Cambodia
In office
3 April 1960 – 19 April 1960
Preceded by Himself
(as PM of Independent Kingdom of Cambodia
Succeeded by Pho Proeung
Personal details
Political party Independent
Profession Politician

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Norodom Sihanouk Sihanouk3.png regular script Sihanouk4.png (born October 31, 1922) was the King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his semi-retirement and voluntary abdication on 7 October 2004 in favor of his son, the current King Norodom Sihamoni. Since his abdication, he has been known as The King-Father of Cambodia (Khmer: Preahmâhaviraksat), a position in which he retains many of his former responsibilities as constitutional monarch.

The son of King Norodom Suramarit and Queen Sisowath Kossamak, Sihanouk has held so many positions since 1941 that the Guinness Book of World Records identifies him as the politician who has served the world's greatest variety of political offices.[1] These included two terms as King, two as Sovereign Prince, one as president, two as prime minister, and one as Cambodia's non-titled head of state, as well as numerous positions as leader of various governments-in-exile.

Most of these positions were only honorific, including the last position as constitutional King of Cambodia. Sihanouk's actual period of effective rule over Cambodia was from 9 November 1953, when France granted independence to Cambodia, until 18 March 1970, when Lon Nol and the National Assembly deposed Sihanouk.


Names and titles

Since his abdication, Sihanouk's official Cambodian title is:
Preah Karuna Preah Bat Sâmdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Preahmâhaviraksat

In Khmer:
ព្រះករុណាព្រះបាទសម្តេចព្រះ នរោត្តម សីហនុ ព្រះមហាវីរក្សត្រ

The literal translation of the title :

  • Preah ("Sacred,")
  • Karuna ("Compassionate," referring to the Buddhist concept Karuna)
  • Bat ("Foot", from Sanskrit Pāda, cognate to Latin Pes, pedis, French pied, English foot)
  • Sâmdech ("Lord, Prince, Excellency")
  • Preah ("Sacred")
  • Norodom (given name of Norodom of Cambodia, used as a family name by his descendants. from Narottam in Sanskrit meaning best in quality (Uttam) among men(Nar).
  • Sihanouk (given name of Sihanouk; it is a contraction of Siha-, "Lion," from Sanskrit Siṃha, cognate of Singa- in Singapore; and -Hanouk, from Sanskrit Hanu, "Jaws")
  • Preahmâhaviraksat (Preah, "Sacred"; -Mâha-, Sanskrit "Great," Maha- in Maharaja; -Vira-, Sanskrit vīra "brave or eminent man; hero; chief," this Sanskrit word is cognate to many words e.g. Latin Vir, English virile and Greek hero; -Ksat, "Warrior, Ruler," cognate of the Indian word Kshatriya).

The word "father" does not appear in the Cambodian title, but in Western languages his title is translated as "His Majesty King-Father Norodom Sihanouk," to distinguish from the title of his son the new King, which is "His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni."

Despite the great ritualism surrounding the Cambodian monarchy, Sihanouk has always maintained close relations with the Cambodian people, and when addressing him, or talking about him, they most often call him Sihanouk9.png, Sâmdech Euv, which literally means "Prince Dad," "My Lord Dad" (French: Monseigneur Papa).

Early life

Sihanouk received his primary education in a Phnom Penh primary school. He pursued his secondary education in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam at "Lycée Chasseloup Laubat" until his coronation and then later attended Cavalry military school in Saumur, France. When his maternal grandfather, King Sisowath Monivong, died on April 23, 1941, the Crown Council selected Prince Sihanouk as King of Cambodia. At that time, colonial Cambodia was part of French Indochina. His coronation took place on September 1941. In March 1945, the Empire of Japan deposed the French colonial administration and took control of French Indochina. Under pressure from the Japanese, Sihanouk proclaimed Cambodia's independence. Unlike the Vietnamese Emperor Bảo Đại, Sihanouk was careful not to compromise himself too much in collaboration with Japan. The Japanese imposed Son Ngoc Thanh as foreign minister then, in August, as prime minister of Cambodia.[2] After Japan's surrender, the French gradually retook control of French Indochina: Son Ngoc Thanh was arrested in October 1945, while Sihanouk, considered by the French a valuable ally in the chaotic Indochinese situation, retained his throne.

Leadership turmoil

Prime Minister

After World War II and into the early 1950s, King Sihanouk's aspirations became much more nationalistic and he began demanding independence from the French colonists and their complete departure from Indochina. This echoed the sentiments of the other fledgling nations of French Indochina: the State of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the Kingdom of Laos. He went into exile in Thailand in May 1953 because of threats on his life by the French and only returned when independence was granted on 9 November 1953. Whilst independent, Cambodia retained an alliance with the French Union, until the end of the First Indochina War and the subsequent official end of French Indochina. On 2 March 1955, Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his father, established the Sangkum and took the post of Prime Minister a few months later, after having obtained an overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections on September 1955.

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

On August 31, 1959, Ngo Dinh Nhu, the younger brother and chief adviser of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem, failed in an attempt to assassinate Sihanouk. He ordered his agents to send parcel bombs to the Cambodian leader. Two suitcases were delivered to the Sihanouk's palace, one addressed to the head of state, and the other to Prince Vakrivan, his head of protocol. The deliveries were labelled as originating from an American engineer who had previously worked in Cambodia and purported to contain gifts from Hong Kong. Sihanouk's package contained a bomb, but the other did not; however, Vakrivan opened both on behalf of the monarch and was killed instantly, as was a servant. The explosion happened adjacent to a room in the palace where Sihanouk's parents were present.[3][4]

Following his father's death in 1960, Sihanouk won general election as head of state, but received the title of Prince rather than King. In 1963, he made a change in the constitution that made him head of state for life. While he was not officially King, he had created a constitutional office for himself that was exactly equal to that of the former Kingship.

When the Vietnam War raged, Sihanouk promoted policies that he claimed to preserve Cambodia's neutrality and most importantly security. While he in many cases sided with his neighbors, pressures upon his government from all sides in the conflict were immense, and his overriding concern was to prevent Cambodia from being drawn into a wider regional war. In so doing he made difficult choices of alliances in pursuit of the least dangerous course of action, within a political environment where genuine neutrality was likely impossible at the time. In the spring of 1965, he made a pact with the People's Republic of China and North Vietnam to allow the presence of permanent North Vietnamese bases in eastern Cambodia and to allow military supplies from China to reach Vietnam by Cambodian ports. Cambodia and Cambodian individuals were compensated by Chinese purchases of the Cambodian rice crop by China at inflated prices. He also at this time made many speeches calling the triumph of Communism in Southeast Asia inevitable and suggesting Maoist ideas were worthy of emulation. In 1966 and 1967, Sihanouk unleashed a wave of political repression that drove many on the left out of mainstream politics. His policy of friendship with China collapsed due to the extreme attitudes in China at the peak of the Cultural Revolution. The combination of political repression and problems with China made his balancing act impossible to sustain. He had alienated the left, allowed the North Vietnamese to establish bases within Cambodia and staked everything on China's good will. On 11 March 1967, a revolt in Battambang Province led to the Cambodian Civil War.

Deposed, exile, return

On March 18, 1970, while Sihanouk was out of the country travelling, Prime Minister Lon Nol convened the National Assembly which voted to depose Sihanouk as head of state and gave Lon Nol Emergency powers. Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, Sihanouk's cousin who had been passed over by the French government in 1941, retained his post as Deputy Prime Minister. The new Khmer Republic was immediately recognized by the United States.

After he was deposed, Sihanouk fled to Beijing, formed the National United Front of Kampuchea (Front Uni National du Kampuchéa - FUNK) and began to support the Khmer Rouge in their struggle to overthrow the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh. He initiated the Gouvernement Royal d'Union Nationale du Kampuchéa (Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea), which included Khmer Rouge leaders. After Sihanouk showed his support for the Khmer Rouge by visiting them in the field, their ranks swelled from 6,000 to 50,000 fighters. Many of the new recruits for the Khmer Rouge were apolitical peasants who fought in support of the King, not for communism, of which they had little understanding. King Sihanouk would later argue (1979) that the monarchy being abolished, he was only fighting for his country's independence, "even if [his] country had to be Communist."[5] During Lon Nol's regime, Sihanouk mostly lived in exile in North Korea, where a 60-room palatial residence which even had an indoor movie theater, was built for him. He would later return to his Pyongyang palace after the 1979 Vietnamese invasion.[6]

In Khmer Rouge captivity

When the Khmer Republic fell to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975, Prince Sihanouk became the symbolic head of state of the new régime while Pol Pot remained in power. Sihanouk, who had imagined living like a retired country gentleman and perhaps being 'a public relations man for [his] country and have [...] jazz parties and do some filming'[7] was to spend the next few years virtually as a hostage of the Khmer Rouge. The next year, on April 4, 1976, the Khmer Rouge forced Sihanouk out of office again and into political retirement. During the Vietnamese invasion, he was sent to New York to speak against Vietnam before The United Nations. After his speech, he sought refuge in China and in North Korea.

The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 ousted the Khmer Rouge. While welcoming the ousting of the Khmer Rouge government, he remained firmly opposed to the Vietnamese-installed Heng Samrin government of People's Republic of Kampuchea. Hence, Sihanouk demanded Cambodia's seat in the UN be left vacant, since neither Pol Pot regime nor Heng Samrin represented the Khmer people.[8] Although claiming to be wary of the Khmer Rouge and demanding that the Khmer Rouge representatives that still held Cambodia's UN seat be expelled,[9] Sihanouk again joined forces with them in order to provide a united front against the Vietnamese occupation. It has been argued that one of the reasons was the US pressure to work with the Khmer Rouge.[10] In 1982, he moved completely into opposition of the Vietnam-supported government, becoming President of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), which consisted of his own Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste (ANS), Son Sann's Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), and the Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese withdrew in 1989, leaving behind a pro-Vietnamese government under ex-Khmer Rouge cadre Hun Sen to run the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).

United States support

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Sihanouk's opposition forces drew limited military and financial support from the United States, which sought to assist his movement as part of the Reagan Doctrine effort to counter Soviet and Vietnamese involvement in Cambodia. One of the Reagan Doctrine's principal architects, the Heritage Foundation's Michael Johns, visited with Sihanouk's forces in Cambodia in 1987, and returned to Washington urging expanded U.S. support for the KPLNF and Sihanouk's resistance forces as a third alternative to both the Vietnamese-installed and supported Cambodian government and the Khmer Rouge, which also was resisting the government.[11]

Restoration as King

Peace negotiations between the CGDK and the PRK commenced shortly thereafter and continued until 1991 when all sides agreed to a comprehensive settlement which they signed in Paris. Prince Sihanouk returned once more to Cambodia on 14 November 1991 after thirteen years in exile.

Billboard of King Norodom Sihanouk at Angkor International Airport.

In 1993, Sihanouk once again became King of Cambodia. During the restoration, however, he suffered from ill health and traveled repeatedly to Beijing for medical treatment.

Sihanouk's leisure interests include music (he has composed songs in Khmer, French, and English) and film. He has become a prodigious filmmaker over the years, directing many movies and orchestrating musical compositions. He became one of the first heads of state in the region to have a personal website, which has proven a cult hit. It draws more than a thousand visitors a day, which constitutes a substantial portion of his nation's Internet users. Royal statements are posted there daily.

Self-exile and abdication

Sihanouk went into self-imposed exile in January 2004, taking up residence in Pyongyang, North Korea[12] and later in Beijing, People's Republic of China. Citing reasons of ill health, he announced his abdication of The Throne on October 7, 2004. Sihanouk was diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoma in his prostate in 1993; the disease recurred in his stomach in 2005, and a new cancer was found in December 2008. Sihanouk also suffers from diabetes and hypertension.[13]

The constitution of Cambodia has no provision for an abdication. Chea Sim, the President of the Senate, assumed the title of acting Head of State (a title he has held many times before), until the Throne Council met on October 14 and appointed H.R.H. Prince Norodom Sihamoni, one of Sihanouk's sons, as the new King.


Monarchical styles of
King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia
Royal Arms of Cambodia.svg
Reference style His Royal Majesty
Spoken style Your Royal Majesty
Alternative style Sir
Princess Buppha Devi performing a ceremonial dance

Sihanouk reportedly has had several wives and concubines, producing at least fourteen children in a period of eleven years. According to Time (June 30, 1956), however, his only legal wives have been Princess Samdech Norleak (married 1955) and Paule Monique Izzi (married 1955), who is a step-granddaughter of HRH Prince Norodom Duongchak of Cambodia and the younger daughter of Pomme Peang and her second husband, Jean-François Izzi, a banker. A profile of Sihanouk in The New York Times (June 4, 1993, page A8) stated that the King met Monique Izzi in 1951, when he awarded her a prize in a beauty pageant.

According to Royal Ark's genealogy of the Cambodian Royal Family, however, Sihanouk has been married seven times, his consorts being:[14]

  1. Neak Moneang Phat Kanhol (1920–1969, a member of the Royal Cambodian Ballet; married 1942, later divorced)
    • HRH Samdech Preah Ream Bopha Devi (1943-)
    • HRH Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh (1944-)
  2. HRH Princess Sisowath Pongsanmoni (1929–1974; married 1942, divorced 1951)
    • HRH Samdech Borom Reamea Norodom Yuvaneath (1943-)
    • HRH Samdech Norodom Racvivong Sihanouk (1944–1973)
    • Samdech Preah Mohesarra Norodom Chakrapong (1945-)
    • HRH Samdech Princess Norodom Sorya Roeungsay (1947–1976)
    • HRH Princess Norodom Kantha Bopha (1948–1952)
    • HRH Samdech Norodom Khemanourak Sihanouk (1949–1975)
    • HRH Samdech Princess Norodom Botum Bopha (1951–1976)
  3. Anak Munang Thach (married 1943)
  4. HRH Princess Sisowath Monikessan (née HRH Princess Sisowath Naralaksha Munikesara, 1929–1946; married 1944)
    • HRH Samdech Norodom Naradipo (1946– ????) Adopted son, the real Biological Father is Prince Norodom Chantaraingsey
  5. HRH Princess Samdech Preah Reach Kanitha Norodom Norleak (née Princess Devisa Naralakshmi, born 1927; married 1946 and "more formally" on March 4, 1955)
  6. Mam Manivan Phanivong (née Mam Munivarni Barni Varman, 1934–1975; married 1949)
    • HRH Princess Norodom Socheatha Sujata (1953–1975)
    • HRH Samdech Preah Anoch Norodom Arunrasmy (1955-)
  7. HM Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk (née Paule Monique Izzi, born June 18, 1936; married April 12, 1952 and "more formally" on March 5, 1955)


See also

  • Ruler of Cambodia


  1. ^ "King Father Sihanouk holds ECCC at bay". The Phnom Penh Post. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-13. "King Father Norodom Sihanouk has held so many positions since 1941 that the Guinness Book of World Records identifies him as the politician who has occupied the world's greatest variety of political offices." [dead link]
  2. ^ Pierre Montagnon, La France coloniale, vol. 2, Pygmalion-Gérard Watelet, 1990, p. 126
  3. ^ Osborne, p. 112.
  4. ^ Clymer, pp. 74–76.
  5. ^ Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia. Interviews and talks with Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Hamburg 1985. p. 14.
  6. ^ Dining with the Dear Leader. By Bertil Lintner - Asian Times, 2007. Accessed on 15 August 2009.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia. Interviews and talks with Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Hamburg 1985. p. 85.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Thailand's Response to the Cambodian Genocide. By Dr. Puangthong Rungswasdisab
  11. ^ "Cambodia at a Crossroads," by Michael Johns, The World and I magazine, February 1988.
  12. ^ Norodom Sihanouk has retained cordial relations with North Korea since early 1960s, when he got acquainted Kim Il-Sung at the movement of non-aligned countries. See also It should be noted that North Korea never recognized the Vietnamese-installed government in Cambodia, despite immense pressure from Moscow.
  13. ^ Cambodia's Ex-King Cites Progress Against His Cancer Yahoo news, 2 March 2009
  14. ^

Further reading

External links

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
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Son Ngoc Thanh
Preceded by
Yem Sambaur
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Krom Luong 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
Norodom Suramarit
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
Head of State of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Khieu Samphan

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Norodom Sihanouk — Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman (* 31. Oktober 1922 in Phnom Penh) war von 1941 bis 1955 und von 1993 bis 2004 König sowie von 1960 bis 1970, von 1975 bis 1976 und von 1991 bis 1993 Staatschef von Kambodscha. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • NORODOM SIHANOUK — (1922 ) roi du Cambodge (1941 1955, 1993) Fils de Norodom Suramarit et de Kossamak Nearireath, le jeune prince Norodom Sihanouk fait des études à Saigon puis à Paris. Appelé à succéder à son grand père le roi Sisowath Monivong le 23 avril 1941… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Norodom Sihanouk — Dans ce nom khmer, le nom de famille, Norodom, précède le prénom. Norodom Sihanouk Norodom Sihanouk en 1972 pendant une visite en Roumanie. Titre …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Norodom Sihanouk — Este artículo o sección sobre biografías y política necesita ser wikificado con un formato acorde a las convenciones de estilo. Por favor, edítalo para que las cumpla. Mientras tanto, no elimines este aviso puesto el 25 de junio de 2007. También… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Norodom Sihanouk — /nawr euh dom see euh nook , deuhm/ Prince, born 1922, Cambodian statesman: premier 1952 60; chief of state 1960 70 and 1975 76. * * * in full Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk born Oct. 31, 1922, Phnom Penh, Camb. Cambodia s king (1941–55 …   Universalium

  • Norodom Sihanouk — Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman (nacido el 31 de octubre de 1922) nació en Phnom Penh, hijo del rey Norodom Suramarit y la reina Sisowath Kossamak. A lo largo de la historia de Camboya ha ocupado diversos cargos ejecutivos en el… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Norodom Sihanouk — Norodọm Sihanouk   [ sia nuk], König von Kambodscha, Sihanouk …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Norodom Sihanouk — /ˈnɒrədɒm ˈsiənʊk/ (say noruhdom seeuhnook) noun → Sihanouk …   Australian English dictionary

  • Norodom Sihanouk — No•ro•dom Si•ha•nouk [[t]ˈnɔr əˌdɒm ˈsi əˌnʊk, dəm[/t]] n. big Prince, born 1922, Cambodian statesman: premier 1952–60; chief of state 1960–70 and 1975–76 …   From formal English to slang

  • Norodom Sihanouk — /nawr euh dom see euh nook , deuhm/ Prince, born 1922, Cambodian statesman: premier 1952 60; chief of state 1960 70 and 1975 76 …   Useful english dictionary