View Full Version : Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk dies at 89

16 Oct 12,, 01:22
Good fucking riddance - this piece of garbage outlived his victims by decades.

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk dies at 89
By SOPHENG CHEANG | Associated Press – 2 hrs 16 mins ago

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk dies at 89 - Yahoo! News (http://news.yahoo.com/cambodias-former-king-norodom-sihanouk-dies-89-001213282.html)

A Cambodian family members ride on a motorbike as they head back from their home village, passing by portraits of former King Norodom Sihanouk, left, and his wife Queen Monineath, Monday, Oct.15, 2012, at the outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sihanouk, the revered former king who was a towering figure in Cambodian politics through a half-century of war, genocide and upheaval, died Monday. He was 89. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)Enlarge Photo

A Cambodian family members ride …
FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2006 file photo, Cambodia's retired King Norodom Sihanouk greets well-wishers before departing for China from Phnom Penh International Airport, in Cambodia. Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who was never far from the center of his country's politics through a half-century of war, genocide and upheaval, has died. He was 89. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)Enlarge Photo

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2006 file …

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — He was many things to the Cambodia he helped navigate through half a century of war and genocide — revered independence hero, ruthless monarch and prime minister, communist collaborator, eccentric playboy, avid filmmaker.

Most of all, perhaps, Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk was a cunning political survivor who reinvented himself repeatedly throughout his often flamboyant life.

On Monday, aged 89, Sihanouk died of a heart attack in Beijing, where he had been receiving medical treatment since January for a variety of ailments.

First crowned king by the French in 1941 at the age of 18, Sihanouk saw his Southeast Asian nation transformed from colony to kingdom, from U.S.-backed regime to U.S. bombing zone, from Khmer Rouge killing field to what it remains today — a fragile experiment in democracy.

He ruled as a feudal-style absolute monarch, but called himself a democrat. He was a man who sang love songs at elaborate state dinners, brought his French poodle to peace talks, and charmed foreign dignitaries such as Jacqueline Kennedy.

He also painted, fielded a palace soccer team, composed music and led his own jazz band. His appetite extended to fast cars, food and women. He married at least five times — some say six — and fathered 14 children.

When the murderous Khmer Rouge seized power in the 1970s, he was reviled as their collaborator. Yet he himself ended up as their prisoner and lost five of his children to the regime. Later, in the 1990s — after a U.N.-brokered deal to end Cambodia's long civil war — he recast himself as a peacemaker and constitutional monarch.

In the twilight of his life, Sihanouk suffered colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Prince Sisowath Thomico, a royal family member who also was Sihanouk's assistant and nephew, said the former king passed away before dawn Monday.

"His death was a great loss to Cambodia," Thomico said, adding that Sihanouk had dedicated his life "for the sake of his entire nation, country and for the Cambodian people."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent condolences and acknowledged Sihanouk's "long dedication to his country and his legacy as a unifying national leader who is revered by Cambodians and respected internationally," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

"The secretary-general also hopes that the legacy of the former king will allow Cambodia to advance the national healing process, including through continued commitment to justice," Nesirky said.

In 2004, Sihanouk abdicated the throne, citing his poor health. The move paved the way for his son Norodom Sihamoni to take his place.

On Monday, Sihamoni flew to China with Prime Minister Hun Sen to retrieve Sihanouk's body. State flags flew at half-staff, and Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said a week of official mourning would be held once the former king's body is repatriated on Wednesday. A cremation ceremony will be held in three months, according to Buddhist tradition.

While officials said they expect as many as 100,000 to line the route from the airport to the Royal Palace for the return of Sihanouk's body, the immediate reaction in the capital seemed muted, partly because it was a holiday, which took many people out of town.

One of those mourning was 67-year-old Yos Sekchantha, who said she offered prayers that his soul would rest in peace.

"I don't know much about politics, but the king father was really a good leader and cared about his county and people," she said as tears welled in her eyes.

Many Cambodians, though, are too young to have emotional bonds to a man who in the past two decades has been overshadowed by Hun Sen, the country's current political strongman.

In January, Sihanouk requested he be cremated in the Cambodian and Buddhist tradition. He asked that his ashes be put in an urn, preferably made of gold, and placed in a stupa at the Royal Palace.

Born Oct. 31, 1922, Sihanouk enjoyed a pampered childhood in French colonial Indochina. In 1941, the French crowned him king instead of other relatives closer in line to the throne because they thought the pudgy, giggling prince would be easy to control.

They were the first of many to underestimate him, and by 1953 the French were out.

In 1955, Sihanouk stepped down from the throne, organized a mass political party and went on to hold various positions as head of government and state.

Through those years, he steered Cambodia toward uneasy neutrality at the height of the Cold War and was a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement.

In 1965, he broke off relations with Washington as U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War shifted into high gear. But by 1969, worried about increasing Vietnamese communist use of Cambodian soil, he made new overtures to America and turned away from China.

Sihanouk's top priority was to keep Cambodia out of the war, but he could not. U.S. aircraft bombed Vietnamese communist sanctuaries in Cambodia with increasing regularity, over his public protests. Privately, U.S. officials believed, he had given tacit permission for the attacks on Vietnamese communist sanctuaries near Cambodia's eastern border.

Internally, Cambodia was a one-man show. Sihanouk's sharpest critics accused him of running a medieval state as an ancient Khmer ruler reincarnated in Western dress.

"I am Sihanouk," he once said, "and all Cambodians are my children."

Indeed, many adored Sihanouk as a near-deity.

In 1970, though, Sihanouk was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup that came while he was abroad on a trip that included a stay at a French weight-loss clinic. He spent years of lonely, if lavish, exile in Beijing.

Seeking to regain the throne, he joined the communist Khmer Rouge-dominated rebels after his overthrow. Only a few years earlier, his government had been suppressing them in the city and countryside.

They had numbered only a few hundred until the coup, but his presence gave them a legitimacy they had never before enjoyed.

The alliance left Sihanouk open to subsequent criticism that he opened the way for the Khmer Rouge holocaust. But his relations with the communist group were always strained.

"The Khmer Rouge do not like me at all, and I know that. Ooh, la, la ... It is clear to me," he said in a 1973 interview. "When they no longer need me, they will spit me out like a cherry pit."

When the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, Sihanouk returned home. But he was detained and the former rebels ordered his execution. Only the personal intervention of Chinese leader Zhou Enlai saved him.

With Sihanouk under house arrest in the Royal Palace, the Khmer Rouge ran an ultra-radical Maoist regime from 1975 to 1979, emptying the cities to create a vast network of forced labor camps. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were executed or died of disease and hunger under their rule.

Vietnam invaded in 1978 and toppled the Khmer Rouge. Freed as the Vietnamese advanced on Phnom Penh, Sihanouk found exile in Beijing and North Korea.

From there, he nominally headed an unlikely coalition of three guerrilla groups — including his former Khmer Rouge captors — fighting the Vietnamese-installed puppet government. The war lasted a decade.

Sihanouk remained a unifying figure, though, going on to lead the U.N.-supported interim structure that ran Cambodia until 1993 elections.

The same year, Sihanouk re-ascended the throne in a traditional Khmer coronation. Restored to his palace and travelling the countryside with personal bodyguards on loan from North Korea, he assumed a new role as beloved father of the country — even though many adoring, older Cambodians expressed hope for a return of his previous direct rule.

But the bright promise of the elections soon faded.

Four years after the polls, Hun Sen launched a violent coup, and he remains in power to this day.

In the last years of his life, Sihanouk's profile and influence receded. While older people in the countryside still held him in reverence, the young generation regarded him as a figure of the past and one partly responsible for Cambodia's tragedy.

Rarely at a loss for words, he became for a time a prolific blogger, posting his musings on current affairs and past controversies. Most of his writing was literally in his own hand — his site featured images of letters, usually in French in a cramped cursive script, along with handwritten marginalia to news clippings that caught his interest.

His production tailed off, however, as he retreated further from the public eye, spending more and more time under doctors' care in Beijing.

The hard-living Sihanouk had suffered ill health since the early 1990s. He endured cancer, a brain lesion and arterial, heart, lung, liver and eye ailments.

In late 2011, on his return from another extended stay in China, Sihanouk dramatically declared that he never intended to leave his homeland again. But true to his mercurial reputation, he flew off to Beijing just a few months later for medical care.


Associated Press writers Kay Johnson, Grant Peck, Denis Gray and Todd Pitman in Bangkok contributed to this report.

16 Oct 12,, 03:36
Hard to feel sad about this. Just wish it had happened 40+ years ago. Its impossible to know if the Khmer Rouge would have come to power wihtout Sihanouk's help - very possibly. Regardless, he will always be judged as somebody whose ego was so overweening that he was prepared to help Pol Pot to power. Indeed, it was that ego that blighted the last few years of his government and began the process of undoing the undoubted good he did for Cambodia while he was still in power. Perhaps there is an odd sort of justice in the fact that he had to live for almost 40 years knowing that his actions not only ruined his nation, but led to the deaths of his own children. Sadly he was just the sort of person who could convince himself he wasn't really responsible. lets hope he didn't.

Nasty, self-obsessed & stupid. Should have been strung up decades ago.

17 Oct 12,, 02:17
Even if in his own mind he could blame shift - I sure hope colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension hurt.

He went out of his way to weaken the Cambodian Army at a time when the NVA was in control of chunks of his nation, then wanted the Chinese, KR and NVA to put him back in power and was fine with towns and cities being shelled so long as he could rule "his" country.

Just waiting on Kissinger...

03 Nov 12,, 00:54
Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk, the former King of Cambodia, who has died aged 89, was only intermittently a monarch; for more than half a century, though, he played a leading part in the tragic post-war history of his country.
King Sihanouk of Cambodia
Sihanouk with French generals in Paris in 1946 Photo: REX

5:55PM BST 15 Oct 2012

As king from 1941 to 1955 he outwitted the French government to win independence for Cambodia, before abdicating to gain political power. As ruler between 1955 and 1970 he strove to make Cambodia “a haven of peace” amid the fury of the Vietnam War.

Subsequently, as an exile, he conspired with Chinese communists to liberate Cambodia from “the imperialist clique” which had replaced him. He must therefore bear some responsibility for the murderous domination of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1978.

Even so, during the 1980s, when a Vietnamese government ruled Cambodia, Sihanouk remained the sole figure capable of uniting the opposition. In 1991 he finally returned to Phnom Penh as chairman of the Supreme National Council. Two years later, after an election under United Nations auspices, the National Assembly restored him as monarch, albeit one who would “reign not rule”.

Sihanouk’s character was as unpredictable as his fortunes, for he combined the characteristics of an educated Frenchman and an Oriental despot. His generosity and good humour were genuine, and enabled him to pose with some conviction as the father of his people. On the other hand he was capable of ruthlessness and a disregard for the processes of law, as in the execution of political opponents.

In his palmy days Sihanouk edited magazines, directed films, conducted jazz bands, and crooned songs of his own composing. Yet he was shrewd enough to remember, even in the wake of his metropolitan indulgences, that the source of his power lay in the loyalty of the Cambodian peasantry.

If his evenings were dedicated to hedonism, the next morning would find him listening patiently to the complaints of villagers, for whom he represented the quasi-religious authority of his ancestors, the “god-kings” of Angkor.

Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk was born in Phnom Penh on October 31 1922, the scion of two much-intermarried royal families, the Norodoms and the Sisowaths, who had ruled Cambodia for several hundred years. His father, Prince Suramarit, was the grandson of King Norodom, ruler of the turbulent vestigial kingdom when the French first imposed their protectorate in 1863.

The boy’s mother called him “Thoul”, or “Tubby”. All his life he would be obliged to alternate his gourmet indulgences with slimming sessions in French health clinics.

Sihanouk was educated in Saigon, Vietnam and Paris. In 1941, when he was chosen to succeed his grandfather, King Monivong, he was still at the Lycée Chasseloup Laubat in Saigon; his fellow pupils remembered him as friendly and timid, and far from enthusiastic at the prospect of becoming king.

French Indo-China was then under Japanese hegemony, though the influence of Tokyo was kept precariously at arm’s length by the pro-Axis policy of Vichy. Sihanouk had been trained by his advisers to support Marshal Pétain, but after the end of the Second World War, as Indo-Chinese independence became imminent under the auspices of the Viet Minh communists, he skilfully disentangled himself from the French.

The Cambodians, regarded by the French as too backward and incompetent to conduct their own affairs, were agitating for freedom. But the main group making this demand, the Democratic Party, combined its anti-French stance with hostility to the monarchy, which it regarded as a tool of Paris.

Sihanouk exchanged the easy, futile life of puppet king for the risky role of national leader. Aware that the national assembly, in which the Democratic Party held a massive majority, was effectively powerless, he highhandedly dismissed them.

But though he did not hesitate to use French help in the form of Senegalese troops brought from Saigon, he promptly embarked on his own “Crusade for National Independence”.

At first the French refused to give Cambodia the full independence which Sihanouk was demanding. But in February 1953, after they had tried to fob him off with a lunch at the Elysée with President Auriol, he flew to Canada, the United States and Japan to ventilate his grievances, notably in a flamboyant interview with The New York Times.

Back in Cambodia, Sihanouk stayed out of French control and moved to his villa at Siem Rep, close to Angkor, the capital of his ancient Khmer ancestors. There, in a daring bluff, he stirred up the population in his support.

His threat sufficed to persuade the French to give in, and to grant Cambodia full independence on November 9 1953. They had been vanquished by the theatrical antics of a king whom they had believed to be their own creature. And by 1955, when Cambodia became financially viable in its own right, Sihanouk’s reputation had been further enhanced.

Sihanouk, though, proceeded to abdicate his throne in favour of his father, Prince Norodom Suramarit. His aim, to give himself a more solid political base, abundantly succeeded, for the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, or Popular Socialist Community, which he set up, won 83 per cent of the vote in the election of 1955.

From then until 1970 Sihanouk ruled supreme. When his father died in 1961, he assumed the office of Head of State, but retained only the title of Samdech Upayuvareach, “His Royal Highness the former King”, styled as Monseigneur. His mother became the ceremonial representative of the ancient monarchy.

Sihanouk strove to solve Cambodia’s economic and social problems through the idiosyncratic ideology of “Royal Buddhist socialism”. His aim was “a democracy comprehensible to the people”, in which the untutored masses would exercise “a real, direct and continuous control of institutions”.

At the biennial national congresses of Sangkum Reastr, citizens were encouraged to pillory officials and ministers with their grievances. The proceedings were dominated by the ebullient Prince, whose high-pitched voice could be heard through loudspeakers (and on the national radio system), goading officials and sharing jokes with his rustic audience.

Throughout the late 1950s and the 1960s Sihanouk’s most serious concern was to keep Cambodia out of the escalating war in Vietnam. This aim involved a hardening of the anti-American prejudice he had inherited from the French — even if he continued to accept American aid, and to proclaim himself “friend to all, ally of none”.

Jealous of Cambodia’s neutrality, Sihanouk refused to place the country under the protection of SEATO. Instead, he tightened relations with Prime Minister Nehru of India, President Sukarno of Indonesia and President Tito of Yugoslavia. Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Communist leader, became a close friend.

In November 1963 Sihanouk, convinced that the South Vietnamese and the Thais were preparing, with American approval, to invade Cambodia, ordered an end to the US military aid programme, so cutting off 15 per cent of the national budget. In March 1964 he organised a “spontaneous” demonstration of anger against the British and American embassies. The British chancery building and the premises of the British Council were sacked by mobs carrying cane-knives.

Trade was nationalised; private banks were closed. As a result the business community traded clandestinely, and a large part of Cambodia’s rice crop was smuggled out and sold at inflated prices to the communist insurgents in Vietnam.

To prevent this, the army was ordered in 1967 to collect much of the rice harvest at an official price, and to store it in government warehouses. At Samlaut, near Battambang, peasant resentment turned into armed revolt during which some 10,000 fleeing farmers were killed.

Sihanouk was convinced that the Vietnamese communists and Cambodian leftists were behind these troubles. He tried in vain to renew relations with Washington and to obtain the restoration of economic and military aid to a country now sinking into an economic morass.

As the situation deteriorated, Sihanouk seemed to lose his political instinct. He cancelled valuable West German aid when Bonn criticised his recognition of East Germany. He allowed Chinese from Macau to open a casino in Phnom Penh which became a ruinous temptation to its citizens.

He also devoted much time to making sentimental feature films, of which he was author, producer, director and principal actor, and awarded himself an Oscar for his film Twilight.

In March 1970, during Sihanouk’s absence in Europe, the National Assembly in Phnom Penh withdrew its support, and he was removed from office by a coup d’état planned by his pro-Western cousin Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak and executed by the previously loyal General Lon Nol, the Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. The monarchy was abolished and Cambodia declared a republic. Sihanouk fled to Beijing , and Sihanouk proceeded to denounce “the tools of American imperialism” and to ally himself with the extreme pro-Chinese communist group of Cambodian revolutionaries, the Khmer Rouge, whom he himself had driven into exile. His “Royal Government of National Unity” (known as GRUNK), based in Beijing, was dedicated to the defeat of Lon Nol.

Sihanouk’s Khmer Rouge minder was Ieng Sary, later one of the most feared men in Cambodia. In Beijing, Sihanouk amused himself by embarrassing the puritanical communist with pornographic films, borrowed from the French embassy. “Ieng Sary will have to go through terrible self-criticism tomorrow”, he would say.

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge, with North Vietnamese military assistance, captured Phnom Penh and instituted their genocidal regime. The city population was forced out into the countryside — “the Killing Fields” — where perhaps more than a million Cambodians died in massacres ordered by the Khmer Rouge President Khieu Samphan and his Prime Minister Pol Pot.

Sihanouk, though nominally head of state, had become a catspaw in their hands. He was allowed to return to Phnom Penh, but confined with his wife Monique to a modest villa in the Royal Palace compound, where he was required to do his own cooking. Six of his children, as well as other members of the royal family, were either killed or died from maltreatment.

In 1978 Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia, in a war provoked by Pol Pot. Only hours before the Vietnamese occupation of Phnom Penh, Sihanouk was freed, probably at Chinese instigation, and flown to Beijing, where he gave a six-hour press conference in which he denounced both the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnam invasion.

His attitude to the ousted Khmer Rouge was unpredictable: one day he promised to serve them; soon afterwards he would attack Pol Pot as a murderer. In truth, he had no illusions about the Khmer Rouge — “I don’t believe you can turn a tiger into a cat,” he remarked when the Chinese urged that they might behave more gently in future.

Nevertheless, he believed that co-operation with the Khmer Rouge was necessary if the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, the puppet regime which Cambodia’s traditional enemy Vietnam had established in Phnom Penh, was to be removed.

Sihanouk retreated to a palace provided by the North Korean government in Pyongyang — he even succeeded in making friends with President Kim Il Sung — but remained the focus of Cambodian national resistance to the Phnom Penh regime.

Under pressure from Beijing, he agreed in 1982 to a political marriage of convenience with Khieu Samphan, chief of the Khmer Rouge, whom he had condemned to death in the 1960s, and Son Sann, a Right-wing Buddhist who expressed a profound contempt for his former king.

Their squabbles continued through a series of abortive international negotiations until, in June 1991, at the Thai seaside resort of Pattaya, Sihanouk finally persuaded the various Cambodian factions — including the Vietnamese puppet government, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea — to declare a ceasefire.

It was a considerable achievement, which Sihanouk celebrated by treating the delegates to showings of two of his old films. That October the accord was ratified at a Paris conference, which restored Sihanouk as head of state.

It was also agreed that, while elections were being organised, the UN should take over the functions of government, and that Cambodian refugees should be repatriated. Soon afterwards Sihanouk returned in triumph to Phnom Penh.

His attitude to the Khmer Rouge remained equivocal. One Monday he advocated trying their leaders for genocide; on Wednesday he called them “monsters... but intelligent”; on Thursday he called for an exhibition of their atrocities to be dismantled; and on Saturday (after they had recognised him as head of state) he pronounced himself “touched and moved” by their loyalty.

As the violence continued throughout 1992, Sihanouk protested against the terrorist tactics of his opponents; nevertheless, in the election of May 1993 Funcinpec, the royalist party led by his son Ranariddh, won 45 per cent of the vote, although the Cambodian People’s Party gained almost as many seats.

There was a fortnight of political chaos, which Sihanouk resolved by declaring himself head of state, Prime Minister and chief of the armed forces. By early July he had succeeded in establishing an interim government, with Ranariddh and Hun Sen, leader of the Cambodian People’s Party, as joint Prime Ministers.

Sihanouk modestly pledged that he would resist the popular clamour (led by his son Ranariddh) to return to the throne, but in September, when the National Assembly restored the monarchy, he found himself compelled to accept their decision.

Already suffering from cancer, he still spoke optimistically of a liberal democracy in which human rights would be respected — but in the West his North Korean bodyguards and his continued flirtation with the Khmer Rouge did not inspire confidence. In 1997 Hun Sen led a successful coup, and remains in power to this day. Sihanouk’s influence diminished, and he abdicated in 2004, citing ill health.

Sihanouk had two official wives, Princess Thavet Norleak (his first cousin) and Princess Monique. He and Norleak separated in 1968, and they had no surviving children . Monique, née Izzi, daughter of a French entrepreneur of Italian origin and a Phnom Penh divorcee, became Sihanouk’s closest companion.

The elder of her two sons, Sihamoni (born in 1953) became a ballet coach at the Paris Opera, and succeeded his father as king in 2004. The second is Narindrapong (born in 1954) .

The young king also fathered several children out of wedlock, including two by a dancer in the royal ballet. These were Princess Bopha Devi (born 1943), who herself became the star dancer in the ballet, and Prince Ranariddh, who studied law in France.

Princess Monikessan, Sihanouk’s young aunt, bore him a son, Naradipo (born 1946) , who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

Another aunt, Princess Pongsamoni, bore him four sons: Yuvanath (born 1943); Ravivong (born 1944) who died during the Khmer Rouge period; Chakrapong (born 1945); and Khemanurakh (born 1949), who was also a Khmer Rouge victim. Princess Pongsamoni had three daughters: Soriyaraingsey (born 1947) and Botumbopha (born 1951), both of whom were killed by the Khmer Rouge; and Kantha Bopha, who died in infancy — the inconsolable Sihanouk carried her ashes with him on all his travels.

Mam Manivann, a Laotian, bore him two daughters, Sucheatvateya (born in 1953), killed by the Khmer Rouge, and Arunrasmey (born in 1955).

Norodom Sihanouk, former King of Cambodia, born October 31 1922, died October 15 2012

Norodom Sihanouk - Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/politics-obituaries/9610196/Norodom-Sihanouk.html)