Happy Birthday to King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia, who turns 70 today! The only son of King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath, the Prince had fourteen half-siblings and one full brother. Beginning his education at the Norodom School, followed by Lycée Descartes School in Phnom Penh, the future King developed a keen interest in the arts early on in his life, being sent to complete his education in Prague, with a degree in classical dance and music at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, followed by a stint studying filmmaking in North Korea, where the Royal Family was settled during periods of exile through the 1970s.
In 1976, Prince Sihamoni was deceived into returning to Cambodia when King Norodom Sihanouk allied himself with the Khmer Rouge, who while they made him the nominal Head of State, kept the Royal Family in house arrest and subjected them to a political re-education program. Some of the Prince’s siblings and cousins were executed, while Prince Sihamoni and his parents were only saved through foreign intervention, when the remaining Royal Family were allowed to flee to China in 1979, remaining in exile until 1991.
The Prince moved to France, where he taught ballet as a professor of classical dance and artistic pedagogy for two decades, later becoming the President of the Khmer Dance Association. With the return of the Royal Family to Cambodia in 1991, Prince Sihamoni was selected as Cambodia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, and two years later as the permanent representative to UNESCO, while refusing the position of the Cambodian Ambassador to France.
In 2004, after the surprise abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk, Prince Sihamoni was selected by a nine-member council to succeed as the King of Cambodia, with a formal Coronation Ceremony later that month. As King, he has been celebrated for his neutral and impartial approach to politics, while being noted as an ardent advocate for Cambodian arts and culture. We wish HM a very happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns!