Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk dies at 89

TNI Bureau: Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk died on October 15 at the age of 89. His irregular rule was marked by shifting alliances, decades of strife and the near-destruction of his country as per reports. The monarch breathed his last in a Beijing hospital after a heart attack. He was sick of cancer and other ailments in recent years.

Sihanouk was one of the senior survivors of modern Asian politics. He came to power in 1941 and led Cambodia to independence from France in 1953 without bloodshed.  He sporadically ruled Cambodia for around seven decades. He was crowned as the king and abdicated twice.

Conversely, coming to the shortcomings, Sihanouk was well known for being erratic and temperamental and the quality was so high that an adjective, “mercurial” was attached to his name. Nevertheless, it is equally true that he was revered in Cambodia as a good king and despite long periods of exile and his abdication in 2004 due to ill health, he remained an influential figure in the history of Cambodia.

Born in 1922, Sihanouk was the eldest son of King Norodom Suramarit and Queen Kossamak. In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated in favor of his father and became both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Cambodia. However, during the Cold War period of the South East Asia in the seventies, he was alienated by US bombing raids on Vietnamese communist guerrillas inside Cambodia and was forced into exile in Beijing. The fate of Cambodia then decided by the emerging Maoist rebel force led by the Khmer Rouge.

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge seized power and Sihanouk returned as a titular head of state in his country. During the four year period of this rule he had to remain confined to the royal palace and a huge number of Cambodian people to the tune of 1.7 million died then. They were actually killed or worked and starved to death, as the Khmer Rouge emptied cities and forced Cambodians to work on the land. Then, after the attack by the Vietnamese forces Sihanouk went again to Beijing for 13 years exile.

Later the UN in 1991 persuaded the Vietnamese to withdraw from the country to allow them to have a democracy of their own, Sihanouk returned, and was again crowned king in 1993. Then, in 2004, he announced he would step down in favor of his son Norodom Sihamoni.

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