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Sihanouk, Norodom (b. 1922)

Justin Corfield


Prince Norodom Sihanouk has been the most prominent figure in Cambodian politics from his accession to the Cambodian throne in 1941. He was involved in a large number of protest movements to the early twenty-first century and was an opponent of armed struggle until 1970. Born on October 31, 1922, in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, Sihanouk was the only son of Prince Norodom Suramarit and Princess Sisowath Kossamak. Having been educated in Phnom Penh, Sihanouk was studying in Saigon in 1941 when his maternal grandfather, King Monivong, died. He was summoned back to Phnom Penh by Admiral Jean Decoux, the French pro-Vichy governor-general, and appointed king. In choosing Sihanouk, the French overlooked his two uncles, Prince Sisowath Monireth and Prince Sisowath Monipong, hoping that they could exercise their influence over the young king as they had over Bao Dai in Vietnam when they made him emperor in 1926. Both Monireth and Monipong were to guide Sihanouk in his early years as king. They persuaded him to modernize the country and reform the administrative service, including the removal of Thiounn, the minister at the palace for the previous 39 years, who was considered a corrupting force. Sihanouk also tried to modernize the Khmer (Cambodian) language using a western-style script, a reform that was opposed by the Buddhist establishment and rapidly abandoned. Following World War ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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