The Cambodian Royal Palace

October 27th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

We’re in Phnom Penh for a day and a half, so started off with a tour around the Royal Palace.

The former King of (then known as the King-Father) died just a few days ago, so his portrait is up everywhere. He was extremely popular and beloved.  Norodom Sihanouk became King at age 19 in 1941, until 1955 and then from 1993 to 2004. He was the great grandson of King Norodom, the King from 1860 to 1904 – regarded as the first modern Khmer King. By becoming a French protectorate he got out from under the rule of Vietnam and Siam. King Norodom had 62 sons and daughters!

Personally I find the record of Norodom Sihanouk rather blemished. He was not just King, but at various times also President and Prime Minister and a puppet head of state for the Khmer Rouge. He was the effective ruler from 1953 to 1970 when the National Assembly voted to depose him. He then began his support of the Khmer Rouge. Many joined the Khmer Rouge to support him, not because they were communists. He had no real power during the Pol Pot regime, but he did help bring it about. Despite that, very few Cambodians blame him in any way.

Part of the Palace.

A memorial for one of the former Kings.

The current King, Norodom Sihamoni, is 59 but looks around 40. He is also very popular. Interestingly it appears he is gay, not that they state that outright. His late father said he “loves women as his sisters” and he is a bachelor and ballet dance teacher! Quite progressive for them to elect him King.

They have 600 metres of this mural. Faded but fascinating.

Generally one could not go into the Palace, or if you could not take photos. In one room is a Buddha made of 70 kgs of gold, and huge diamonds also. I was amused that the lock on his display case was a $2 small padlock.

The original King Norodom.

4 Responses to “The Cambodian Royal Palace”

  1. pq (728 comments) says:

    Very interesting Farrar, and it is surprising to Westerners how much these people can adulate the King, or King father
    regardless of that history in Cambodia. Over here in Thailand the King is similarly idolised.
    When you realise how much he could progress this country it is quite shocking.
    The people would obey as 64 million souls. The people look up to King because everywhere else they see institutional corruption.
    But the King he is mostly silent.

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  2. GraemeB (77 comments) says:

    Enjoy yourself. Cambodia is a wonderful place with very friendly people.
    Last time I was there the Royal Palace was lit up like a Christmas tree at night and they had fantastic fireworks displays.

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  3. Johnboy (20,823 comments) says:

    If King Norodom Sihamoni was ever deposed and became a refugee no doubt a a position as NZ Labour Party list MP could be found for him! 🙂

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  4. libertyscott (355 comments) says:

    Sihanouk also bled North Korea, he had a mansion just outside Pyongyang provided through the slavery of the North Korean people, as he was a friend of Kim Il Sung.

    This playboy lived the high life most of his life, and he paid a little for backing the Khmer Rouge by being kept virtually under house arrest during its regime. However, before and after he lived a life of state funded luxury, except after 1978 it was both China and North Korea that protected the parasite.

    Bear in mind though he was deposed not by democratic means in 1970, but by US backed coup overthrowing his regime because he led the north Vietnamese forces use Cambodia as a transit point to south Vietnam. The hated Lon Nol regime that replaced him was corrupt and authoritarian, but a holiday compared to the Khmer Rouge. Sihanouk has always been a slippery character.

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