News / Asia

    Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk Dies

    Cambodian students hold portraits of former King Norodom Sihanouk during an Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 9, 2011.Cambodian students hold portraits of former King Norodom Sihanouk during an Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 9, 2011.
    x
    Cambodian students hold portraits of former King Norodom Sihanouk during an Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 9, 2011.
    Cambodian students hold portraits of former King Norodom Sihanouk during an Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 9, 2011.
    Ron Corben
    Chinese state media reports that Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk, one of Southeast Asia's defining leaders, has died in Beijing.  He was 89. King Sihanouk led Cambodia to independence, but war and his role in the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge marred his life and times. 
     
    Flamboyant monarch, politician, film and music maker, King Norodom Sihanouk brought his ancient kingdom through independence from France, war and genocide to form a fragile democracy.
     
    Sihanouk, born in 1922, was an only child whose parents were estranged. He was educated in Saigon and Paris, and came to the throne as a shy student of 19 in 1941.  
     
    In October 2004, in fading health, he abdicated in favor of his son, Norodom Sihamoni.
     
    Another of Sihanouk's sons, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, spoke in 2002 of his father's artistic gifts and broad interests. 
     
    "He has made 21 movies. But not only is my father a filmmaker, but he is a great politician, even unique … and also great French cuisine amateur, great musician, composer. No one can imitate my royal father," he said. 
     
    Sihanouk quickly developed into a flamboyant, tough politician whose support came mainly from the people in the provinces. He ruled his kingdom off and on more than 60 years, and was an important symbol for his people, who witnessed one of the most tragic genocidal reigns of the 20th century. 
     
    Author and commentator on Cambodia, David Chandler says Sihanouk was a powerful link between ancient traditions and modern times. 
     
    "He brought Cambodia into the world, whereas the French had kept it cocooned and isolated for … 90 years ….  But (he) was also … a figure of the old Cambodia," he said. 
     
    While Cambodia was still under French rule in 1947, he issued a constitution promising parliamentary government. Cambodia gained partial independence within the French Union in 1949, but Sihanouk campaigned for the total independence that came peacefully in November 1953.
     
    Two years later, Sihanouk abdicated the throne to his father, while remaining head of the government. In that position, Sihanouk held a monopoly on power for the next 15 years in what became known as the "Sihanouk Era." 
     
    On the world stage, Sihanouk was a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement, which was meant to serve as ballast in the Cold War between the Sino-Soviet bloc and the West.
     
    Sihanouk, however, failed to fend off insurrections by both communist rebels and from within his own government. During the Vietnam War, rebels backed by China and other communist governments built strength, and the North Vietnamese army also frequently crossed into Cambodia as they fought the United States. Eventually, he was overthrown. 
     
    Carl Thayer, a U.S. expert on Southeast Asia, explains. "He was overthrown when he was overseas begging Moscow and Beijing to stop their support for it (the Vietnam War)," he said. 
     
    Stripped of his power, Sihanouk fled to China in 1970 where his agitation against the new government started an internal conflict that paved the way for the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge.
     
    After the Khmer Rouge swept into Phnom Penh in early 1975, Sihanouk aligned himself with the radical communists, believing it was a key to power.  But by 1976, he was sidelined and fearing for his life. 
     
    The Khmer Rouge fell in early 1979, after Vietnam invaded. But Sihanouk's name was soiled by his association with the movement, which took the lives of almost two million Cambodians.  
     
    Cambodia's civil strife continued after Vietnam withdrew its troops in 1989, and in 1991, warring factions agreed to a cease-fire and signed a U.N.-backed peace agreement. 
     
    The deal enabled Sihanouk to return to Phnom Penh in 1991 from exile. He regained his throne in 1993, and became a central figure the country's political development over the past decade.  
     
    Norodom Sihanouk was one of Southeast Asia's defining leaders during some of the most turbulent years of the 20th century.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    October 14, 2012 8:23 PM
    He was truly a master of playing all sides politically! My experience of living in Cambodia is that the role of the King is just followed now and not even respected, and does not have any role or influence in the lives of Cambodians. Very different from the influence and respect the King of Thailand receives.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    October 15, 2012 8:12 AM
    You are right. He was a master of playing all sides, but look what it did to his country as a result. And you are right again in comparing the two kings.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.