Princess Monineath spotted Debbie, my daughter, and asked her what she was doing there at Pochentong Airport. Debbie responded that we were there to witness the royal family’s historic return home. It was 1991 and Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Princess Monineath had just landed on a special flight from beijing. It was their first time to return to Cambodia since 1979.
Princess Monineath, who is now Queen, asked Debbie where I was, and Debbie pointed to where I stood with a line of reporters and photographers waiting to speak with the prince, who would later become again King Norodom Sihanouk.
After returning to the Cambodiana Hotel where we were staying during that visit in 1991, Truong Mealy, Norodom Sihanouk’s chef de cabinet, located us in the lobby and said the prince wanted to know how long we would be staying in Cambodia.
“Three more days,” I replied.
Truong Mealy returned to the hotel an hour later and said the prince would like to invite Debbie and me for dinner at the Royal Palace the day after the next.
I was allowed to video the entire dinner, and I still have a historic record of our conversation, which included Norodom Sihanouk asking me personally to help him in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Cambodia.
When I told the prince I would like to start a newspaper in Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk retorted, “Please don’t do that, it is dangerous. You may get killed. Please do something else.”
I disobeyed the future King and started The Cambodia Daily, which Norodom Sihanouk told me he liked and has continuously complimented me on its content and
contribution to informing him personally as to what is happening in the country.
King Sihanouk later told me, “This is my CIA. It’s the only way I can know what is really happening because no one tells me.”
When Norodom Sihanouk later traveled to China, he asked the palace staff to fax him a copy of the newspaper every day. Since then he has reproduced innumerable articles from the pages of The Cambodia Daily in his monthly BMD bulletin with handwritten comments in the margins.
Retired King Sihanouk still receives The Cambodia Daily, delivered to him every day at the palace, and has never failed to see me when I have requested a meeting.