PRINCE OF LIGHT, PRINCE OF DARKNESS: Cambodia Ex King Sihanouk Dies Aged 89


PRINCE OF LIGHT, PRINCE OF DARKNESS: Cambodia Ex King Sihanouk Dies Aged 89
by Darius Kadivar

Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who was a key figure through decades of upheaval, has died. The former king died at a hospital in the Chinese capital, Beijing, after having a heart attack. Mercurial, vain, contradictory, with an impossibly twisting career; Sihanouk was all these things, so summing up his legacy is tricky. (Source:

Related Photo Essay: Life in pictures: Norodom Sihanouk (bbc)

Cambodia King Norodom Sihanouk Dies Aged 89 (BBC,Oct 14, 2012) :

Ex-leader reportedly died of natural causes in a Beijing hospital eight years after abdicating due to poor health

Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who remained an influential figure in his country's politics through a half-century of war, genocide and upheaval, has died. He was 89. The BBC's Guy Delauney looks back at the life of the former Cambodian king.

Cambodia's ex-king Norodom Sihanouk dies in Beijing (AFP, Oct 15, 2012):

Cambodia's former king Norodom Sihanouk, whose life mirrored the turbulent history of his nation where he remained a revered figure, dies in Beijing at the age of 89.

(NOTE:To Watch Double Click Here







Roland Joffé’s Movie about A photographer is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot's bloody "Year Zero" cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million "undesirable" civilians .

Trailer of « The Killing Fields » (1984):

Directed by Roland Joffé Starring Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor and John Malkovich

Related :

Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime (bbc)






Jonathan Head’s Portrait of the Former King

South East Asia correspondent, BBC News

Mercurial, vain, contradictory, with an impossibly twisting career; Sihanouk was all these things, so summing up his legacy is tricky.

He was a very different King from Bhumibol Adulyadej in neighbouring Thailand, who revived a traditional, ritualistic form of monarchy in the post World War II era. Sihanouk chose instead to be a charismatic, autocratic ruler in the style of other post-colonial leaders like Sukarno of Indonesia. There was little democracy in his Cambodia, but there was little anywhere else in South East Asia.

Then there were his constant switches of allegiance, from the West towards China in the 1960s; from suppressing the Khmer Rouge in the 1960s, to allying himself with the movement in the 1970s and 80s. He was at heart a Cambodian nationalist, struggling, and often failing, to protect his small, impoverished country from the storm of the Vietnam War and the pressure from larger neighbours and Cold War superpowers.

He often promised far more than he could deliver. Sihanouk was as much at the mercy of the cruel waves of history that washed over Cambodia as were its people. From the 1960s he believed communist victories were inevitable in South East Asia, and was resigned to working with whatever regimes emerged. He was a survivor, more than a nation-builder.

He did use his authority to play a pivotal role in bringing the warring parties in Cambodia's civil war to the talks that ended the conflict in 1991. And in a country that has lost so much, he was always there, embodying the hope of a better Cambodia, freed from the turmoil of its recent history.



               NORODOM SIHANOUK

  (October 31st, 1922- October 14th, 2012)



Cambodia former king Norodom Sihanouk dies aged 89 (bbc)

Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who was a key figure through decades of upheaval, has died. The former king died at a hospital in the Chinese capital, Beijing, after having a heart attack. He had been in poor health for several years.Sihanouk, who was 89, came to the throne in 1941 and led Cambodia to independence from France in 1953.

Despite long periods of exile and his abdication in 2004 due to ill health, he remained an influential figure. Sihanouk abdicated in 2004 in favour of his son, King Norodom Sihamoni.

"His death was a great loss to Cambodia," said his assistant and relative Prince Sisowath Thomico. "King Sihanouk did not belong to his family, he belonged to Cambodia and to history." His body is expected to be returned to Cambodia and go on display for three months in the capital Phnom Penh before an official funeral at the royal palace.

King Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen have flown to Beijing to accompany the late king home. A statement from China's foreign ministry hailed Sihanouk as a "great friend of the Chinese people". Japan's top government spokesman said without him "there could not have been success in the Cambodian peace process".

Political broker

Born in 1922, Sihanouk was the eldest son of King Norodom Suramarit and Queen Kossamak.

Educated at French schools in Saigon and in Paris, the Nazi-controlled Vichy government in France crowned Sihanouk king of Cambodia in 1941, bypassing his father in the hope that the 18-year-old could easily be manipulated.

However, after the war Sihanouk embarked on an international campaign aimed at ensuring independence for Cambodia. It was achieved without bloodshed in 1953 - after nearly a century of French rule. Two years later Sihanouk abdicated in favour of his father and became both prime minister and foreign minister of his country.

He tried - but failed - to keep the country from the Cold War conflict that engulfed South East Asia in the 1970s.

When a US-backed coup installed Lon Nol as Cambodia's leader, Sihanouk - by then alienated by US bombing raids on Vietnamese communist guerrillas inside Cambodia - was forced into exile in Beijing.

It was from there that he struck an ill-fated deal with the emerging Maoist rebel force, the Khmer Rouge. When the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, Sihanouk returned as head of state but was subsequently detained. He remained confined to the royal palace for most of the four years of the regime's rule, during which time an estimated 1.7 million people died.

People were killed or worked and starved to death, as the Khmer Rouge emptied cities and forced Cambodians to work on the land. Sihanouk later condemned the Khmer Rouge for the deaths of the Cambodians, including of several of his own children.

When Vietnamese forces ousted the Khmer Rouge, Sihanouk went again to Beijing. He was to remain outside the country for 13 years, as Cambodia faced civil war and the struggle to rebuild from economic devastation. When the UN in 1991 persuaded the Vietnamese to withdraw and set Cambodia on the road to democracy, Sihanouk returned, and was again crowned king in 1993.

His role was increasingly one of broker between Cambodia's warring political factions. But as the country slowly worked its way towards political stability, Sihanouk's health steadily worsened.

In 2004, he announced he would step down in favour of one of his sons, the little-known Norodom Sihamoni. The former ballet dancer was crowned king in October 2004.

After that, Sihanouk spent much of his time overseas, in Beijing and Pyongyang.

But he remained a prominent national figure who - although criticised as autocratic and elitist, and blamed by some for his initial endorsement of the Khmer Rouge - symbolised constancy through Cambodia's years of violence.

Recommended Readings:

Obituary: Norodom Sihanouk

Recommended Book:

 of Light, Prince of Darkness by Milton Osborne

Sihanouk: Prince of Light, prince of
darkness is the first full-length
English-language account of one of the most
remarkable and controversial Asian
leaders of the 20th century. This critical,
unauthorised biography, gives due
credit to the achievements of Norodom
Sihanouk but also looks behind the myths
of his claims to have ruled a
'fairytale kingdom' that was an 'oasis of peace'.

Related Pictory:

Iranian Nurses Provide Help to Injured Vietnamese (1966)

Other Related Blogs on Asian Monarchies:

Shah of Iran 
Receives Thai Honorary Doctorate at Bangkok University 1968 

REFORM: Thai Court Rejects Petition Against Constitutional Change

Thailand jails US Citizen Joe Gordon 
for royal insult

princess at royal funeral held 10 months after her actual death

 King of Nepal Warns Monarchy MayCome Back

South Pacific
of Tonga holds funeral of King George Tupou V

: Bhutan King Marries Commoner Bride in Elaborate Ceremony


 Abdul Halim
 Mu'adzam Shah crowned Malaysia's new king


Shah of 
Iran meets Japan's Hirohito (1958)

Japan’s Emperor
Speaks To Nation In Rare TV Speech

: Akira Kurusawa’s 1980 Palme D’Or Film "Kagemusha"


 Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" (1987)

Related Blogs on Asian Republics :

Shah Greets China’s Party Chairman Hua Kuo Feng (1978)

Yeoh is Burma’s
 Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson’s Bio Epic


 Lady Arrives at Persepolis 


more from Darius Kadivar
Darius Kadivar

Photos: Cambodians mourn former king

by Darius Kadivar on

Darius Kadivar

Body of ex-king back in Cambodia

by Darius Kadivar on

Body of ex-king back in Cambodia (bbc, video)


The body of former King Norodom Sihanouk has been returned to Cambodia for a week of official mourning.

His coffin was flown from the Chinese capital, Beijing, where he died on Monday of a heart attack at age 89.

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets near the airport in the capital, Phnom Penh, as the plane carrying Sihanouk's body touched down.

Grieving Cambodians wore white shirts with black ribbons, and flags flew at half-mast after the news of his death.

"There are more than 100,000 people lining the streets. More are coming," Khieu Kanharith, a government spokesman, told reporters at the airport.

In the capital, students sang songs before offering flowers at the royal palace.


Darius Kadivar

Cambodia set for week of mourning

by Darius Kadivar on

Cambodia set for week of mourning (bbc)


The body of former King Norodom Sihanouk returns to Cambodia on Wednesday, marking the start of a week of mourning.