About 10,000 people turned out in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning for a ceremony to mark 10 years since King Norodom Sihamoni ascended to the throne in place of his father.
Starting from dawn, a crowd of mostly younger and middle-aged people turned out to the grassy plaza at the face of the palace, where King Sihamoni could occasionally be seen waving from the raised podium at the palace wall.
An increasingly sweltering morning sun glared down on the plaza as revelers milled about and government leaders and parliamentarians, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, arrived at the ceremony. Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol also turned out and were seated nearby the king.
A military salute was performed by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the Royal Ballet troupe danced briefly before King Sihamoni rose to deliver a speech, lauding Mr. Hun Sen and the CPP’s Senate and National Assembly presidents.
“I would like to express my sincere thanks to Chea Sim, Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen for organizing the 10th anniversary of my coronation while political stability and national security are fully ensured,” King Sihamoni said.
“The government, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the smart leader, has set out good policies, which include bringing peace, stability and happiness to the nation,” he said.
King Sihamoni reminded the crowd that the late King Norodom Sihanouk had advised the country’s political parties to work together in the name of political reconciliation.
King Father Sihanouk originally took the throne in May 1941 and thereafter served Cambodia in a number of different roles, both royal and political. He once again took the throne in September 1993 after the restoration of the monarchy, but abdicated in 2004 and died in 2012.
In an apparent effort to elevate the palace above political affairs, King Sihamoni has reigned without the flamboyant outspokenness of his father, who had openly criticized leaders, including Mr. Hun Sen, in the 1990s and 2000s.
Mr. Hun Sen and his ruling CPP occasionally threatened to abolish the monarchy during King Sihanouk’s 11-year reign but have found a more comfortable partner in the Royal Palace since King Sihamoni’s accession to the throne in October 2004.
Those who turned out at the ceremony Wednesday said they cared deeply for King Sihamoni, whom many credited for overseeing stability and development during his reign so far.
“I love him because he has a very kind heart and helps people to develop the nation,” said Sam Sokha, 62, who was attending from Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district.
“When the king took the throne, I was happy because he inherited his father’s reign and he protects Cambodians.”
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