Yesterday was King Norodom Sihamoni’s Coronation Day and citizens from different corners of the Kingdom gathered in the capital to celebrate his 15th anniversary as King. We spoke to some in Phnom Penh to get their take on his legacy.
Ten Pheng sat on a bench along the riverbank in front of the Royal Palace. She murmured a few words as she prayed for King Norodom Sihamoni to have good health and happiness.
“His Majesty the King is our shade,” Ms Pheng said, raising her head to look up to a large portrait of King Sihamoni.
The 69-year-old hails from Prey Veng province where she tends to her farm. Yesterday, she was in the capital to visit her children who reside here and visit the Royal Palace and to take a picture with the King’s portrait.
“I am very proud to have our King who is serving the Kingdom,” Ms Pheng said. “I also love the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and the monarchy.”
Even though she has only seen the King on TV, she wishes she could touch his hand at least once in her life.
“Sadly, I have only seen His Majesty the King on TV. I wish my beloved King longevity,” Ms Pheng said.
A portrait of the King was displayed yesterday in front of major institutions, such as government ministries and the Royal Palace, and people from all walks of life were congratulating the King on his special day.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in a letter praised the King and wished him good health. Mr Hun Sen said he is grateful for the King’s humanitarian efforts in the Kingdom.
“My wife and I, and on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, civil servants and all members of the armed forces, wish His Majesty the King good health and longevity…so he shall reign and fulfil his great honour as the symbol of national unity, stability, happiness and prosperity,” he wrote.
Bun Rany, Mr Hun Sen’s wife and head of the Cambodian Red Cross, said in her congratulatory statement that the King is beneficial to the Kingdom and its people.
“His Majesty the King champions Buddhism, education, social affairs, healthcare and the livelihoods of people,” Ms Rany said. “He contributes donations to the Cambodian Red Cross every month. He visits people and donates to poor people. He visits people who suffer, people affected by natural disasters.”
Interior Minister Sar Kheng said King Sihamoni’s reign has been filled with “prosperity and development”.
“His Majesty the King pays attention to promoting our national prestige on the international stage and always tries his best to fulfil his work for the sake of his beloved people and the nation,” Mr Kheng said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Khmers throughout history have always respected the monarchy.
“All Cambodians benefit from the King’s power, which is projected like a cool shade,” Mr Eysan said. “He shall incarnate the symbol of national unity and continuity. He is the guarantor of national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Kingdom.”
“Our King shall reign, but not govern. He is not involved with politics; he is above the politicians,” he adds. “His Majesty the King always thinks about the difficulties of his people. He often visits poor communities and donates food and other supplies.”
Sambo Manara, a professor of history at Pannasastra University, said the King has fulfilled his duty well in the fields of “social work, culture and religion”.
“He adheres to the Cambodian constitution for peace, prosperity, happiness and the safety of Khmer people,” Mr Manara said. “As I know, the King’s legacy is filled with the value of virtue…he never fails to smile.”
“No matter where he is, he provides hope and love to his people through compassion, words and activities,” he added. “I consider the King a role model– I value the King because of his humanitarian initiatives for his nation and people, especially to those in poor communities.”
“Wherever he is, he often finds a way to connect to people in need and provides hope for them,” Mr Manara noted.
King Sihamoni was born on May 14, 1953, the year that his father, the late King Norodom Sihanouk gained Independence from France. King Sihamoni succeeded his father on October 29, 2004, after the former King abdicated the throne.
Bun Veasna, a secretary with the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals, said most Coronation Day rituals are held on the grounds of the Royal Palace.
“A ceremony is held every year. The royal court’s Hindu Brahmins organise the traditional ceremony for His Majesty the King inside the Royal Palace,” Mr Veasna said. “At night, they will set off fireworks to celebrate the King’s Coronation Day.”
Back at the Royal Palace, citizens continued to gather to mark Coronation Day late into the evening yesterday as fireworks burst in the sky to honour the King.
Som Aun, 56, said the crowds outside the Royal Palace were proof that the King’s love has not been lost among his people.
Ms Aun said the King’s smile fills her heart and she will never forget the legacy of the royal family.
“My family and I are very happy to celebrate the King’s Coronation Day,” she said. “My King is a great King, he loves his people just like his family.”
“Even though I can’t directly meet the King, I wish my King will have a bright spirit and continue to serve,” Ms Aun added.
Khun Sophoan, 36, said he has fond memories of the King’s visit to the Don Bosco Technical School in Sihanoukville.
Mr Sophoan said the visit was 12 years ago, but the King’s smile continues to resonate with him today.
“Under his reign, our Kingdom has enjoyed peace and development. Our King is full of smiles. He loves his people like a parent loves a child,” he said. “I saw him more than ten years ago. I feel like he has not changed his behaviour, but he looks more serious.”
“I wish my beloved King longevity and I am committed to protecting the King,” Mr Sophoan added.
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