A selection of 1960s speeches by an outspoken monarch

I remind you that in­stead of offering me gifts, you would give me much greater plea­s­ure in working still harder in the in­terests of our people and of our country.

Prince Norodom Sihanouk –Radio address,

31 October 1967

During his 15-year tenure at the helm of the country, retired King Norodom Sihanouk kept the Cambodian public well ap­pris­ed of how the world looked from where he stood.

Four times a year under the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime (1955-1970), the Ministry of In­for­mation published bound collections of his speeches and public remarks. Most were delivered in Khmer and then translated into French before publication.

Some of the prince’s remarks eerily echo contemporary realities—road traffic in Phnom Penh, illegal logging and government sinecures—but the record of Norodom Sihanouk’s public pronouncements also describes the looming regional presence of the US and the rise of a group of Khmer communists, both of which he viewed as inimical forces.

Chaos on the Roads

Traffic in Phnom Penh is currently among the most anarchic and is highly criticized by foreigners. Traffic signals, speed limits, general rules of the road, etc…. are not observed. […] May [authorities] not hesitate in taking the most severe measures to punish those at fault, by impounding their vehicles, for example, even if this concerns highly placed individuals. –Radio address, 14 May 1967

Wood for What?

Certain [officials] and RCAF officers, under the pretext of having to construct service housing or administrative buildings, are seeking permission for forest coupes that concern considerable quantities which in fact serve personal ends. The August Name of Her Majesty the Queen has even been used to commit these abuses, as was recently the case in which 300 billets of wood were requested of the Forestry Service for, it appears, the construction of housing for the Royal Guard, who are already lodged inside the Palace itself in concrete buildings. In the same way, under cover of the Palace or the Chamkar Mon [residence], the state’s petrol, its transportation are abusively used, etc. […] Our great officials must seek to end these abuses which must be uncovered by verifications to be carried out in particular at the Palace, at Chamkar Mon. –Radio address, 11 June 1967

Early “Evil Vixens”

My family and myself must often confront ceaseless requests from numerous wives of [officials] who wish at any price to have a foreign diplomat post for their husbands. I specify that it almost always concerns the wives of high-ranking functionaries (commoners and members of the Royal Family), these ladies whose taste for jewels and riches has made them insatiable…. I recognize that it was the precedent set by the assignment of HH Siso­wath Sirik Matak to the post in Tokyo that incited other [officials] to seek the same favor. But I must end the present bad ways once and for all and I am deciding that from now on functionaries be­longing to the diplomatic corps shall exclusively be named as diplomatic personnel, including as Ambassadors…. Some of our dip­lomats recalled to Phnom Penh as a result of wayward conduct (scan­dals, for example), continue to seek new postings abroad, though I had on many occasions warned everyone that a scandal would result in a definitive recall to Phnom Penh for the one at fault. –Radio address Phnom Penh, 21 October 1966

Renaming Phnom Penh For Cambodia’s Friends

Cambodia draws her strength and faith from the example of the Master and follows with courage and serenity the just path that he has traced. No power, however fearsome, no military or ideological force, has been able or shall be able to dissuade her from it. And we have offered proof that this fidelity to our national convictions is indeed the gage of our stability.

–Unveiling Jawaharlal Nehru Boulevard in Phnom Penh, 10 May 1965


Since 1955, we have indeed been the victims of the intolerance of the United States with respect to neutrality in general and to our neutrality in particular. Our situation became even more un­tenable as this intolerance chang­ed over the years into imperialism and left us no other choice than unconditional submission to SEATO [South East Asia Treaty Organiza­tion] and the United States or rallying to the socialist camps. –Un­veil­ing Charles de Gaulle Boulevard in Phnom Penh, 5 June 1965


Long live Yugoslavia and her workers!

Long live Marshal Tito!

Long live Khmero-Yugoslavian friendship!

–Unveiling “Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” and “Marshal Tito” boulevards in Phnom Penh, 12 July 1965

American Menace

Given that we must carry out the solemn and final warning that we have addressed to the USA, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall this very day write to the Ambassador of the USA to in­form him of our decision to sever diplomatic relations with his country, but in maintaining our consular relations, which will safeguard our interests in the areas of commerce and tourism (fears have indeed also been expressed of the risk of losing tourist clientele which today brings us important revenues). –Radio address to the nation, 3 May 1965

Due to the indiscretion of an American of Saigon, intelligence has come to me according to which the CIA has reportedly decided to do away with me in the next six months if I do not agree to follow the orders of Wash­ington, which continues to view me as its number one enemy […]. It is my duty to bring this intelligence to the knowledge of all my compatriots whom I would like to assure once more that never so long as I shall live will the imperialist Americans be able to make a satellite of our Fatherland. –Un­dated Radio Address, March 1967

The intelligence in question has been provided to me by a person of the Third World, intelligence that indeed seems to bring to light the fact that the CIA is again interested in Cambodia where it is seeking to act in favor of the establishment of a new government, a new National As­sem­bly in which there are elements still desirous of remaining in the good graces of the so-called free world, in particular of the imperialist Americans, and whose tendency is a certain albeit very discreet sympathy for the “free” world of the imperialists. It is also certain that a certain number of our officers and other military men as well as several of our civilian [officials] harbor a nostalgia for American aid which allowed some to live very comfortably and others to prosper in their business activities. –Statement to the Press, 22 March 1967

To journalists who asked what he thought of our decision to renounce American aid, President Kennedy answered that it was fitting to congratulate the Khmers for having the courage to count above all on themselves—and to wish them every success in the de­fense of their independence and their freedom.

The wish of the mourned president…has been fulfilled since, today, despite somber prophecies from less lucid observers, I think that we have been able to prove that we were capable, not only of safeguarding our independence and our freedom, but also of consolidating them and of building lasting domestic peace in a region where it is virtually unknown. For this, I am certain, President Ken­nedy would have granted us his esteem. –At the unveiling of “Pres­ident Kennedy” Avenue Sihanoukville, 6 November 1967

Khmers Rouges!

The arrested rebels have confessed to everything and confirmed that they were taking orders from certain [officials] in the capital whose names they cited. These are Sahachivin Chau Seng, So Nem, Khieu Samphan, Hou Yuon, Hu Nim. But the first two named ap­pear only slightly compromised given that the interrogated rebels specified that it was especially from the two others that they received instructions […]. –Radio address, 22 April 1967

Policy, Diplomacy, Strategy

Among the ranks of the Viet­cong there are probably elements of the Vietminh. But it is un­reasonable to consider the National Liberation Front as a direct emanation of the Hanoi government. Indeed it is indisputably a popular movement proper to South Viet­nam and it is ridiculous to demand of the Vietnamese that they leave Viet­nam for the Americans to leave it also. –Interview with French na­tional television, 15 April 1965


I am taking this occasion to thank the government of Israel warmly for the assistance it has ceaselessly granted our functionaries seeking deeper understanding of Israel’s ex­periences. These experiences as well as your techniques have prov­en very useful in our national development. In particular, one must underscore certain methods of restoring degraded soils and solutions to the essential problem of irrigation which are showing themselves to be precious lessons for us. –At a visiting Israeli exhibition Phnom Penh, 7 June 1965


Our Arab brethren, guided by their great leader President Nasser, have shown their determination in resisting imperialist un­dertakings. Thus their sympathy and their friendly support are in our eyes prized encouragements which give us greater confidence in the outcome of our just struggle. –On the presentation of the credentials of HE Mr Omar MM Gamal, Ambassador of the United Arab Republic, Royal Palace, 2 August 1965


In moving terms, Your Majesty has evoked the Calvary of our African brothers under the yoke of the racists of South Africa and of Rhodesia or of the Portuguese colonists of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea. We wish to reaffirm here our solidarity with these African and Afro-American brothers who are struggling so that justice should be given them, to have the right to be men in full. Our total support is theirs for there shall never be peace in the world so long as odious racial discrimination persists. –State dinner in ho­n­or of HM Haile Selassie I, Em­peror of Ethiopia, Chamkar Mon State Palace, 4 May 1968



Related Stories

Latest News