News / Asia

Cambodia Mourns Former King Who Shaped Decades of History

Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk holds a glass during a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (not seen) in Beijing, October 30, 2006.
Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk holds a glass during a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo (not seen) in Beijing, October 30, 2006.
Irwin Loy
Cambodians awoke Monday to the news that their country’s revered former king, Norodom Sihanouk, died overnight in Beijing. The 89-year-old leaves behind a colorful but tumultuous legacy.  To many Cambodians who mourned his death Monday, he will forever be remembered as the father of a nation.
 
Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk

  • Born in 1922, educated in Saigon and Paris
  • Came to the throne in 1941
  • Founded Non-Aligned Movement
  • Was briefly overthrown during Vietnam War and fled to China
  • Aligned with Khmer Rouge to oppose Vietnam's influence in Cambodia
  • Returned from exile in 1991 and to the throne in 1993
  • Abdicated to his son, Norodom Sihamoni, in 2004
  • Had been receiving medical treatment in China since January, 2012
Sihanouk’s death came amid one of the country’s most important religious festivals, Pchum Ben, when Cambodians pay respect to their ancestors.
 
At a pagoda in the capital, monks chanted while people made symbolic offerings of food to deceased relatives. Kong Sidoeun waited while his elderly mother prayed. He says the death of the man known to Cambodians as the "King-Father", came as a shock to his entire family. 

“I feel shock, and unbelievable … our King-Father passed away. It’s very, very sad. I read this information to my family, and my family, my mother, my relative very shocked,” he said.

For half a century, Cambodia’s history was intertwined with Sihanouk’s. He led the country to independence from France in 1953. But his public support of the Khmer Rouge, following the 1970 coup that unseated him, also bolstered support for the communist movement that would devastate the country five years later.

  • Mourners offer prayers to the late former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, January 31, 2013.
  • The royal funeral convoys are prepared for late former King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, January 31, 2013.
  • Buddhist monks offer prayers to late former King Norodom Sihanouk ahead of his cremation in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, January 26, 2013.
  • Cambodian honor guards welcome the body of the late former King Norodom Sihanouk at Phnom Penh International Airport, October 17, 2012. (Heng Reaksmey/VOA)
  • Bou Kry, one of Cambodia's two Buddhist patriarchs, sits in a royal truck leading the procession that carries the coffin and body of late former King Norodom Sihanouk from the airport to the Royal Palace.(Heng Reaksmey/VOA)
  • A Buddhist monk holds flowers as he joins others waiting for the coffin of the former king Norodom Sihanouk to arrive at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh October 17, 2012.
  • Thousands of mourners gather at the gates of the Royal Palace minutes after the coffin of former king Norodom Sihanouk arrived in Phnom Penh October 17, 2012.
  • Cambodian royal officers carry the coffin of former king Norodom Sihanouk on a royal truck during its arrival at Phnom Penh international airport October 17, 2012.
  • Thousands of mourners pray at the gates of the Royal Palace after the coffin of former king Norodom Sihanouk entered in Phnom Penh October 17, 2012.
  • People pray as they see the coffin of former king Norodom Sihanouk on a royal truck along a street in Phnom Penh October 17, 2012.
  • Mourners burn incense and offer prayers at the Royal Palace displaying a portrait of their former King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 17, 2012.

Still, Sihanouk remains revered by many here. That is particularly true among older Cambodians, who associate him with the country’s post-independence years.
 
“I heard from my father, my mother and also I observed from the people, nationwide, they think during his period, under his control, the country is very developed. People live with safety during that time," Sidoeun stated. "It mean that in the region, Cambodia is one of developed countries at that time so it’s a very good achievement.”
 
At some government buildings in the capital, flags were flown at half-mast. Local television stations aired tributes to Cambodia’s former king. Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith says Sihanouk ushered his nation into the modern world.
 
“You know, when I was a young one. I used to quote his work. Now when I am old, the relationship is more than personal … It’s a great loss for the whole country,” Kanharith added.
 
Kanharith says officials are making preparations for a royal funeral. Sihanouk’s son and the current monarch, King Norodom Sihamoni, flew to Beijing, along with Prime Minister Hun Sen, to repatriate the King-Father’s remains.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
October 15, 2012 11:43 AM
Seihaouk died but his legacy will remain in history in particularly his collarboration with the Khmer Rouge in wich 2 millions of Khmer were killed, starved and toutured. History will alwys remember his good and bad deeds in leading Cambodia to where it is right now.
In Response

by: rama
October 15, 2012 1:58 PM
A weak king who aligned himself with thugs that led to the murder of 2 million Cambodians. Why mourn his passing?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs