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.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    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.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora