Norodom Sihamoni

Norodom Sihamoni is the King of Cambodia since 29 October 2004.

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Norodom Sihamoni (Khmer: នរោត្តម សីហមុនី, born 14 May 1953) is the King of Cambodia since 29 October 2004.[1] He is the eldest son of Norodom Sihanouk and his second wife Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. Previously Cambodia's ambassador to UNESCO, he was named by a nine-member throne council to become the next king after his father Norodom Sihanouk abdicated in 2004. Before ascending the throne, Sihamoni was best known for his work as a cultural ambassador in Europe and as a classical dance instructor.


King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Phnom Penh.

Sihamoni was born in 1953. At the time of his birth and that of his younger brother, his mother, a Cambodian citizen of French-Corsican and Khmer ancestry, had been one of King Norodom Sihanouk's consorts after being a constant companion since the day they met in 1951, when the young Monique Izzi won first prize in a national beauty contest.[2] She was granted the title of Neak Moneang and the name of Monineath at the time of her marriage to King Norodom Sihanouk in 1952. Furthermore, Queen Monineath is a step-granddaughter of the late Prince Norodom Duongchak of Cambodia, and the daughter of Pomme Peang and of her second husband, Jean-François Izzi, a French-Italian banker.[3] The Royal Ark website entry about the genealogy of the Cambodian royal family states that Sihanouk and Monineath were married twice, once on 12 April 1952, when she was 15, and again ("more formally", according to the website) on 5 March 1955. She is described as Sihanouk's seventh wife.

King Norodom Sihamoni has 14 half-brothers and half-sisters by his father's various relationships; his only full sibling, a younger brother, HRH Samdech Norodom Narindrapong (born 1954) died in 2003.

He has spent most of his life outside Cambodia. As a child, Sihamoni was sent to Prague, Czechoslovakia, by his father in 1962, where he, while attending elementary school, high school and Academy of Music Arts, studied classical dance and music until 1975. He is fluent in French and Czech, as well as being a good speaker of English and Russian. During the 1970 coup d'état by Lon Nol, Sihamoni remained in Czechoslovakia. In 1975, he left Prague and began to study filmmaking in North Korea, and in 1977 returned to his native Cambodia. Immediately, the ruling Khmer Rouge government turned against the monarchy, and Sihamoni was put under house arrest by the Khmer Rouge with the rest of the royal family until the 1979 Vietnamese invasion. In 1981, he moved to France to teach ballet and was later president of the Khmer Dance Association. He lived in France for nearly 20 years, but even then he regularly visited Prague, where he spent his childhood and youth. He is the only ruling monarch who speaks Czech.

In 1993, the prince was appointed Cambodia's delegate to UNESCO, the UN cultural body based in Paris, where he became known for his hard work and his devotion to Cambodian culture. He previously refused an appointment as Cambodia's ambassador to France.[4]

On 14 October 2004, he was selected by a special nine-member council, part of a selection process that was quickly put in place after the surprise abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk a week before. Sihamoni's selection was endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly Speaker Prince Norodom Ranariddh (the new king's half brother), both members of the privy council. He was inaugurated and formally appointed as King on Friday, 29 October 2004.[5] King Sihamoni and his parents, King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath specifically requested that the ceremonies be kept low-key because they did not wish for the impoverished country to spend too much money on the event.

The original gold and diamond encrusted crown, a sacred symbol of Mount Meru, used in official coronation ceremonies in Cambodia for centuries dating back to the ancient Angkorian Empire, disappeared along with many other items of Royal Regalia during the Lon Nol regime in the early 1970s. As stated by Julio A. Jeldres, King Father Norodom Sihanouk's official biographer, "The King did not want a crown remade because of Cambodia's poverty."[6]

Sihamoni remains a bachelor. His father Norodom Sihanouk has stated that Sihamoni "loves women as his sisters".[7] Sihamoni has no children, but this does not pose much of a problem because the Royal Family is numerous.


Before he was crowned king, his royal title was: Sdech Krom Khun (ស្តេចក្រុមឃុន), equating him to the rank of Great Prince. As king, his title is: Preah Karuna Preah Bat Sâmdach Preah Bâromneath Norodom Sihamoni Nai Preah Reacheanachak Kampuchea (in romanized Khmer); roughly translating to: His Majesty, King Norodom Sihamoni of the Kingdom of Cambodia. His given name, Sihamoni, comprises two morphemes from his parent's given names, Sihanouk and Monineath.

Advisory court

On 12 December 2008, Sihamoni selected twenty-six members of the Cambodian royal family to his advisory court, among them his half-brother Prince Norodom Ranariddh as chief advisor. Other choices included Prince Sisowath Sirirath, Princess Norodom Marie (estranged wife of Prince Ranariddh) and Prince Sisowath Thomico.[8]



  • Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Cambodia
  • Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Monisaraphon
  • Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor (2010; Grand Officer 2004)
  • Honorary Citizen of the City of Prague (2006)
  • Silver Medal of the City of Paris
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum (2010)[7]

Further reading

  • Miroslav Nožina, Jiří Šitler, and Karel Kučera. Royal Ties: King Norodom Sihamoni and the History of Czech-Cambodian Relations. Prague: Knižní klub, 2006. ISBN 978-80-86938-75-2


  1. "People and Society ::Cambodia".
  2. "The First Lady of the Kingdom"; The Royal House of Cambodia by Julio A. Jeldres, 2003 ISBN 974-90881-0-8
  3. King's biography[dead link]
  4. The Weekend Australian, 16–17 October 2004
  5. "In Pictures: King Sihamoni's coronation". BBC News. 2004-10-29. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  6. Cambodia's real crown long gone, October 15, 2004. Accessed March 5, 2010.
  7. "CAMBOA21". Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  8. More royals could face political exit Phnom Penh Post, 12 December 2008