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Cambodia & Royalty: Birthday of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni

On Tuesday 14 May, Cambodia will celebrate the 71st birthday of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, son of the late King-father Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath.

His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni (នរោត្តម សីហមុនី) is the elder of the two sons of the late King-father Norodom Sihanouk and the Queen, Norodom Monineath. The name Sihamoni is derived from the contraction of Sihanouk and Monineath.

At the time of Norodom Sihamoni's birth, Cambodia was emancipating itself from France, which until then had maintained a protectorate status over the kingdom.

Unfortunately, the brand new nation was also at the dawn of a long period of war and unrest in the region, and Prince Sihamoni spent much of his life outside Cambodia.

Early years

From an early age, Norodom Sihamoni showed an aptitude for the arts. The young prince went to study in Czechoslovakia at the age of 9 and, at 14, he played in "The Little Prince", a fiction film directed by his father, a great lover of the 7th art.

After King Sihanouk was deposed in the 1970 coup d'état, the Prince remained in Prague, where he attended the National Conservatory and the Academy of Musical Arts, concentrating on dance, music and theatre. A documentary directed by Vladimir Sís was filmed about the prince in Prague in 1967, entitled "The other little prince (Jiný malý princ)".

See an extract below:

1975

In 1975, the prince joined his father in North Korea to study film. He then followed his parents back to Phnom Penh during the totalitarian Khmer Rouge regime. He was kept under house arrest at the royal palace. Several of his brothers and sisters were murdered during this dark period in the kingdom's history.

After the Khmer Rouge

After the fall of Pol Pot, the family was evacuated to China, where Norodom Sihamoni worked with his father for two years. In 1981, he moved to Paris and became a classical dance teacher. He formed his own dance troupe, called Ballet Deva.

The sovereign choreographed some of the troupe's finest performances and made two films about dance. In 1992, he was appointed Cambodia's permanent representative to the United Nations.

In 1993, the year his father returned to the kingdom, Norodom Sihamoni became Cambodia's permanent representative to UNESCO, a post he held until 2004. A committed Francophile, the monarch is also fluent in English, Czech and Russian.

Coronation

On 14 October 2004, Norodom Sihamoni will be appointed by a special nine-member council, as part of a selection process quickly put in place after the surprise abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk. The selection will be approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the President of the National Assembly, Prince Norodom Ranariddh (the new King's half-brother). Norodom Sihamoni will be officially appointed King on 29 October 2004.

As a constitutional monarch, his prerogatives are defined by the constitution of 24 September 1993, article 7 of which stipulates that the King of Cambodia reigns but does not exercise power. Fears that the young monarch might find it difficult to live up to the reputation of his charismatic and politically astute father were allayed when, at the start of his reign, he showed himself to be a dignified sovereign, humble towards his people and keen to reach out to Cambodians.

In addition to numerous diplomatic trips abroad, the King regularly visits villages in rural provinces to provide aid and talk to local people. During the period of the pandemic and the lock-out, the Sovereign and the Queen Mother made numerous donations to the poorest people affected by the problems arising from the health crisis.

CG - Photographs AKP

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