At her home in the Marne River valley southeast of Paris, Ermine Norodom logged onto the Internet May 8 and saw her brother-in-law Prince Norodom Ravichak meeting King Norodom Sihamoni.
“I could see the photos!” she said by telephone from the suburban town of Creteil. “I look at it quite often.”
A day after his return from Cambodia, the prince, a grandson of retired King Norodom Sihanouk who now works in France with the poor and disadvantaged, said King Sihamoni’s Web site is frequently visited by members of the Cambodian communities that settled in Creteil, and in the diverse 13th arrondissement of Paris, after fleeing their homeland in 1970 and also in 1975.
“We know there are many Cambodians who go to the site, and I look at it every day,” Prince Ravichak said, also by telephone from Creteil.
“My close friends adore Cambodia and I know many French people who read it too.”
Prince Ravichak had been received at the Royal Palace May 3 to announce the creation of a charity for Cambodian children, one event among the many activities of Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni that are devotedly catalogued and presented at www.norodom
Not quite a year after his coronation, King Sihamoni debuted on the Internet in September 2005, bringing himself into the company of a growing family of monarchs from countries such as Sweden, Malaysia, Belgium, Japan, Spain, Britain, Jordan and Greece who use the World Wide Web to associate with their loyal subjects around the globe.
Such Web sites are windows on the sovereignties of nations, according to Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw, press adviser at the Cabinet of Belgium’s King Albert II.
“It is very important to adapt to modern means of communication,” he said by telephone from Brussels, adding that Albert II has been online for nearly eight years.
“Any contemporary enterprise or institution will be present on the Net and so it is entirely fitting for the Chief of State to use this means of communication,” he said.
In Belgium, correspondence with His Majesty is most often by regular post. However, much of it also comes via e-mail and will sound familiar to observers of the Cambodian royal family.
“In Belgium, there is a grand tradition of writing to the king,” said De Bauw.
“People address themselves to the royal family for wishes, congratulations, on occasions and for what I’d call requests for persons in danger, needs of assistance.”
A special “Requests Department” at the Belgian royal palace forwards these messages on to the proper government office to see that they receive adequate attention, he added.
Sitting beside stacks of video tapes and computer equipment in a small office at the north end of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Ieu Panasidh, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Information, explained that King Sihamoni’s Web site is equally a tribute to the King’s beneficence.
“He meets the people even in their very huts. His schedule is very busy,” he said of King Sihamoni. “Our King does many things. He does it all for the happiness of the people.”
Ieu Panasidh said the Web site is managed by himself, former King Norodom Sihanouk’s nephew and adoptive son Prince Sisowath Thomico, and two technicians.
Recent additions included streaming video of a Feb 26 visit to the meditation center of the Kingdom of Cambodia in Oudong and a May 7 letter of congratulations sent on the occasion of the swearing in of newly-elected Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Ieu Panasidh said that correspondence for the Web site is received by the operators of www.norodomsihanouk.info—the Web site created in 2002 where the retired King consistently posts his thoughts and letters.
Developed by local IT engineering services firm KhmerDEV, the King’s site has, since the domain’s registration by Prince Thomico on Sept 6, 2005, received well more than 81,000 visitors.