News / Asia

Cambodia Unveils Statue of Former King Sihanouk

A bird stands on the head of a statue of the late King Norodom Sihanouk during the statue's unveiling ceremony in central Phnom Penh, Oct. 11, 2013.
A bird stands on the head of a statue of the late King Norodom Sihanouk during the statue's unveiling ceremony in central Phnom Penh, Oct. 11, 2013.
Robert Carmichael
Nearly one year ago Cambodia’s former head of state, King Father Norodom Sihanouk, died in Beijing at the age of 89. On Friday, hundreds of dignitaries watched as a statue of the father of Cambodian independence was unveiled in central Phnom Penh.
 
The death in October 2012 of Norodom Sihanouk - a dominant figure in 20th century Cambodia - was a seminal moment for the kingdom.
 
On October 17 last year, tens of thousands of people lined Phnom Penh’s streets to witness the return of his body from China, where he had been receiving medical treatment. Sihanouk’s body lay in state for three months and was cremated in February in accordance with Buddhist rites.
 
On Friday, the city inaugurated a giant statue of the late king in a park alongside a boulevard bearing Sihanouk’s name.
 
Sihanouk’s nephew and long-time personal assistant, Prince Sisowath Thomico, said the statue is a fitting memorial.
 
“He was the symbol of Cambodia, he was the symbol of the nation. That’s the reason why during his funeral ceremonies so many people came to the Royal Palace, were on the streets, because they felt, each one of them, they felt they were part of the Cambodian nation,” said Thomico.
 
However, there is one element of the statue that puzzles Thomico; as far as he is concerned, it barely resembles his late uncle.
 
 “I don’t know who it does look like, but it doesn’t look like the King Father. I think there are some disproportions, you know in the body and in the head,” explained Thomico.
 
Friday’s opening ceremony was attended by Sihanouk’s widow, Queen Mother Monineath, and by the couple’s son, the current monarch, King Norodom Sihamoni, as well as many ruling party politicians.
 
18-year-old Kom Ratha, a member of Cambodia’s Boy Scouts movement, attended Friday’s ceremony as well.
 
“It has meaning for people in Cambodia because people always love him - so we make it to remind the people to know him - that he [has] made a lot of things for Cambodia. He has spent his life for Cambodia… I am happy to see this because the statue, it looks like him - it looks like he is alive,” said Ratha.
 
Norodom Sihanouk’s legacy remains mixed, but many view his rule during the 1950s and 1960s as the country’s Golden Age, as the time Sihanouk secured independence for Cambodia and significantly improved health and education.
 
However, after parliament ousted Sihanouk in a bloodless coup in 1970, he aligned himself with Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge and called on his people to join the Communists. Thousands obeyed, and five years later the Khmer Rouge took control, ushering in an era of mass killings, starvation and slavery.
 
That alliance cost Sihanouk and his country dearly, and remained his biggest regret.
 
Prince Thomico says Sihanouk’s death showed the ruling party how popular the former king still was among ordinary people, and as a result the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has tried to co-opt the symbolism of the monarchy.
 
Thomico, who joined the opposition party earlier this year, said much of the rationale for erecting the statue is to boost the ruling CPP’s image.
 
“Well, I would say 99 percent. I don’t believe that the CPP’s really monarchist, royalist. I would rather believe that they are more opportunist than really royalist. So I think that 99 percent of their intentions were to control the monarchy, and what the monarchy symbolizes in Cambodian society,” said Thomico.
 
Cambodia’s opposition is still boycotting the National Assembly sessions in protest over July elections that they say were deeply flawed. The 55 opposition lawmakers-elect say their absence makes any decision by the 68 ruling party lawmakers unconstitutional. Party leader Sam Rainsy continues to lobby international groups to not recognize the new government led by long serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Khmer living abroad
October 15, 2013 12:50 AM
Statue for the communist king of Cambodia, he's the enemy of the kingdom.


by: Lon nol from: Cambodia
October 11, 2013 3:06 PM
The statue should not have been erected. 2 millions of my country men, women, and children have died in vain. Sihanouk should have been executed.

In Response

by: lon nol baby
October 12, 2013 2:38 PM
hey you lon nol relax okay no one need executed okay. that bad not way of khmer buddha

In Response

by: Anonymous
October 12, 2013 12:39 PM
90% of Cambodians know of cpp gvt fed propaganda.

Some of the recent facts:
$5 millions for his state funerals footed by China... $1.2 for memorial statue for a man who embraced Red China and the Khmer Rouge that nearly killed 2 millions Cambodians...(WHERE is their memorial MONUMENT?) Even dead Vietnamese soldiers, the "liberators" (from one communist system to another communist one) have one dedicated monument and a national holiday!

Actually, since 1975 Cambodia was and is always being governed by a communist regime: China backed Sihanouk and Vietnam backed CPP and Hun Sen.

The Cambodian constitution, the "supreme law", that dictates the principles of democracy, is USELESS in a royal communist
country...unless the people start to READ and DEMAND their constitutional rights.

Half the people is waken up to demand their constitutional rights, but the other half still lives in the past, indolent, gregarious, oppressive system.

And why is the need of such statue when the Cambodians can always look up a likely King's face on the moon!

In Response

by: Gaston from: Cambodia
October 12, 2013 9:32 AM
as you are the fan of enemy of King Sihanouk so you though that is useless to use 2M to build his statue but most of 90% of Cambodian want this in this country.


by: Anonymous
October 11, 2013 2:42 PM
Sihanouk is the first to be a royal communist, living in a lap of luxury and ruling the people under a communist regime.
In the last 28 years this has been the model for all CPP party living as Samdechs ruling the people with communist policies without any benefits.

LONG LIVE CPP!

In Response

by: anonymous
October 11, 2013 7:25 PM
What a shame ! Only poor country like Cambodia is spending that much $$ for a king that failed his people.


by: Ly horn from: Phnom penh
October 11, 2013 10:40 AM
I love to heard this news.

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