‘Charismatic’ King Glimpses Future Legacy

By passing on the crown, King Norodom Sihanouk said he has succeeded in catching a rare glimpse of how he will be remembered by the world after his death.

In the week since he an­nounced his abdication, King Sihanouk said he not only will have seen the Royal Council of the Throne appoint his son, Prince Norodom Sihamoni, as his successor, and ensured future national stability, but will also have been able to review his own obituary.

“[In Cambodia], many believe that after their death, they would be able to know what is said and what happens in Cambodia. That is also my belief,” King Sihanouk wrote in a message posted on his Web site Wednesday.

But even before his own death, he said: “I have the advantage of knowing the “necrology”…dedicated by those (in Cambodia and in a certain number of countries) to Norodom Sihanouk.”

News media around the world have reported King Sihanouk’s abdication, giving descriptions of a “charismatic,” “flamboyant” and “dominant” figure, instrumental in the developments leading up to the country’s current state.

Apparently pleased with the accounts of his legacy, King Sihanouk noted: “[C]ertain compatriots have the goodness to declare that ‘I was a good Na­tional Leader in the Era of Sang­kum Reastr Niyum, 1955-1969.’”

But the 81-year-old monarch, who has in recent years meticulously compiled and published his version of his role in Cam­bodia’s history, expressed ire earlier this week over those who have given more critical reports.

His critics, he said, had come up with “a new sadistic ‘pleasure’ in ‘firing red bullets’ on me and in resorting to their old anti-Si­ha­nouk vocabulary: ‘changing prince,’ ‘mercurial prince,’ ‘specialist of turning about.’”

In defense, he wrote in a message Monday: “History showed that Norodom Sihanouk, supported by his people, his compatriots, patriots, had succeeded in emerging the incontestable victor in all his confrontations against [international] ‘giants.’”

Those giants, he said, included Thailand, which in 1947 returned the provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap, Kompong Thom and Stung Treng to Cambodia, as well as Preah Vihear province in 1962.

He also noted the “total victory” against the US, by the National United Front of Kampu­chea and the Royal Government of Nation­al Union of Kampuchea in April 1975, when Phnom Penh fell to Khmer Rouge soldiers. He also included in his list of victories the end of Vietnamese occupation in Cambodia in 1991, as well as the end to French colonial rule in 1953.

In his message Wednesday, however, King Sihanouk ap­peared pleased with how his legacy has been portrayed in recent days.

“On the whole, I am not given too many bad marks,” he wrote.

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