Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Time in office:|| April 24, 1941-March 3, 1955; |
November 20, 1991-October 7 2004
(King from September 24, 1993)
|Predecessor:|| Sisowath Monivong (first time); |
Chea Sim (second time)
|Successor:|| Norodom Suramarit (first time); |
Norodom Sihamoni (second time)
|Date of Birth:||October 31, 1922|
|Place of Birth:||Phnom Penh|
Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman (born October 31, 1922 in Phnom Penh, the son of King Norodom Suramarit and Queen Sisowath Kossamak ) reigned as King of Cambodia until he announced his abdication on October 7 2004. Having abdicated, he now has the official style The Great Heroic King Sihanouk, and is also known as "His Majesty the King Father."
During Cambodia's turbulent history since the 1940s he has held so many positions that the Guinness Book of World Records identifies him as the politician who has occupied the world's greatest variety of political offices. These included two terms as king, two as sovereign prince, one as president, two as prime minister, and one as Cambodia's non-titled head of state, as well as numerous positions as leader of various governments in exile.
Norodom Sihanouk received his primary education in a Phnom Penh primary school, the École François Baudoin . He pursued his secondary education in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam and then attended military school in Saumur, France. When his maternal grandfather, King Sisowath Monivong, died on April 23, 1941, the Crown Council selected Prince Sihanouk as King of Cambodia, his coronation taking place in September of the same year. Rumors abounded during this period that the influence of France (the regional colonial power) accounted for his accession.
After World War II and into the early 1950s, King Sihanouk's politics became more nationalistic and he began demanding that the French grant the country independence and depart, echoing the sentiments of many nations in the region, including Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. He went into exile in Thailand in 1952 and refused to return until the granting of independence. He returned when his overtures met with success and Cambodia became independent on November 9, 1953. On March 2, 1955, King Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his father, taking the post of prime minister a few months later. Following his father's death in 1960, he gained election as head of state, but without the title of 'King', merely receiving the title of Prince.
While the Vietnam War raged, Sihanouk sought to preserve Cambodia's neutrality. Alternately taking sides with the People's Republic of China, supporting the United States and espousing Third Way policies, he nevertheless could not prevent the war from spilling over into his country. On March 18, 1970, while he was travelling out of the country, Lon Nol orchestrated a coup d'état and ousted him from power. After the coup Prince Sihanouk fled to Beijing and organized forces to resist the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh. When the Khmer Republic fell to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975, Prince Sihanouk became the symbolic head of state of the new régime while Pol Pot remained the power behind the throne. The next year, on April 4 1976, the Khmer Rouge forced Sihanouk out of office again and into political retirement. He then sought refuge in the People's Republic of China and in North Korea.
The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 ousted the Khmer Rouge. Although wary of the Khmer Rouge, Prince Sihanouk eventually joined forces with them in order to provide a united front against the Vietnamese. In 1982, he became president of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), which consisted of his own FUNCINPEC party, Son Sann 's KPNLF and the Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese withdrew in 1989, leaving behind a pro-Vietnamese government under Prime Minister Hun Sen to run the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).
Peace negotiations between the CGDK and the PRK commenced shortly thereafter and continued until 1991 when all sides agreed to a comprehensive settlement which they signed in Paris. Prince Sihanouk returned once more to Cambodia on November 14, 1991 after thirteen years in exile.
In 1993, His Royal Majesty Norodom Sihanouk became once again King of Cambodia. During his restoration, however, he suffered ill health and traveled repeatedly to Beijing, China, for medical treatment.
Although the King had very limited political power, in mid-February 2004, after watching scenes of jubilant gay and lesbian couples receiving marriage licenses in San Francisco, California, he announced that Cambodia, too, should recognize same-sex marriage. In the same statement, he also expressed support for transvestites. While carrying no legal force, this proclamation (in which he states that God loves a "wide range of tastes") held considerable moral weight in a nation where the King continued to enjoy substantial popularity for a lifetime of efforts on behalf of his country's independence.
Sihanouk's leisure interests include music and films. He has become a prodigious filmmaker over the years, directing many movies and orchestrating musical compositions. He became one of the first heads of state in the region to have a personal website, which has proven a cult hit, drawing more than a thousand visitors a day, a substantial portion of his nation's Internet users. Royal statements usually appear posted there on a daily basis for his subjects' perusal.
King Sihanouk went into self-imposed exile in January 2004, taking up residence in Pyongyang, North Korea, and later in Beijing, China. Citing reasons of ill-health, he announced his abdication of the throne on October 7, 2004. The Cambodian constitution made no provision for such a move, but the establishment took the announcement in its stride. Samdech Chea Sim, the President of the Senate assumed the title of acting Head of State (a title he has held many times before), until the throne council met on October 14 and appointed Norodom Sihamoni, one of Sihanouk's sons, as the new King.
- Official site
- Review of his memoirs
- Norodom Sihanouk's movies and music
- News release regarding gay marriage
- News release regarding his website
|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Norodom Suramarit | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Prince of Cambodia
1960-1970 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
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