PHNOM PENH —
Cambodians will mark the third-year anniversary of the death of their former king, Norodom Sihanouk, on Thursday, in a somber occasion marking his legacy.
Norodom Sihanouk was revered by many Cambodians before his passing, in Beijing in 2012.
He is still remembered as the monarch who helped shepherd the country out of French colonialism, developed it through its first stages of independence, and kept the country out of the US war in Vietnam.
“Those are the three legacies that people remember,” Prince Sisowath Thomico, the late king’s personal secretary, told VOA Khmer.
Son Soubert a political analyst and adviser to the current king, Norodom Sihamoni, said Norodom Sihanouk worked to protect national interests, peace, and development, as well as neutrality.
“So he did not join the alliance, and he did not want to be in the game of any superpowers,” Son Soubert said. “At that time, the US was not happy.”
Cambodians gather in front of the Royal Palace to commemorate the late king's passing in 2012. (Photo by: Leng Len/VOA Khmer)
Norodom Sihanouk was ousted in a US-backed coup in 1970, after which he worked to rally many Cambodians to the banner of the Khmer Rouge, which later put him under house arrest and killed as many as 19 royal family members.
The king’s less positive legacies are often not recalled, said Ou Virak, head of the think tank Future Forum. He is remembered “only in general and with good stories.”
Sisowath Thomico defended the late king, saying that some allegations against him are based on history written by “foreigners,” from their own cultural and ideological perspectives. “I regret this,” he said, “as Cambodia’s history has almost disappeared.”