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Prince Norodom Sihamoni Chosen as Cambodia's New King - 2004-10-14


A week after Cambodian monarch King Norodom Sihanouk's surprise abdication, a new king has been chosen - his son Norodom Sihamoni.

Fifty-one-year-old Prince Norodom Sihamoni was selected by a special nine-member council to succeed his revered father, King Norodom Sihanouk.

His half-brother, politician Prince Norodom Ranariddh, hailed the selection process that was quickly put in place last week after the surprise abdication of the king.

"It's a new page for the monarchy's history and the history of the kingdom," said Prince Ranariddh.

Trained as a ballet dancer, Prince Norodom Sihamoni is a political neophyte - like his father was in 1941 when he first took the title of king.

Prince Sihamoni has lived in France for nearly 20 years and has spent most of his life outside Cambodia. Until recently, he was Cambodia's ambassador to the United Nations cultural agency.

King Sihanouk stunned the nation last week when he announced from Beijing, where he is undergoing medical treatment, that he would abdicate because of poor health. During his long reign, the king transformed a largely ceremonial monarchy into one that was powerful and popular. He played a leading role in Cambodia's often-acrimonious politics.

Some analysts say Prince Sihamoni is weak compared to powerful Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Wacharin Yongsiri is a researcher at the Asian Studies Institute of Thailand's Chulalongkorn University. She says Prince Sihamoni is not expected to have much influence in politics because he has little experience, and that his role will be mostly symbolic.

The Cambodian throne is not hereditary, although a king must have royal lineage.

Prince Sihamoni is not married and has no children. He will probably be crowned later this month.

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