A king who leaves a mixed legacy for Cambodia

  • AP, Phnom Penh
  • |
  • Updated: Oct 16, 2012 02:10 IST

Norodom Sihanouk, the revered former king who was a towering figure in Cambodian politics through a half-century of war, genocide and upheaval, died on Monday. He was 89.

Sihanouk saw Cambodia transform from colony to kingdom, US-backed regime to Khmer Rouge killing field and foreign-occupied land to guerrilla war zone - and finally to a fragile experiment with democracy.

He was a feudal-style monarch who called himself a democrat. He was beloved by his people but was seldom able to deliver the stability they craved through decades of violence.

Sihanouk abdicated the throne in 2004, citing his poor health. Crowned at the age of 19, he had befriended independent India’s leaders. He first visited Delhi in May 1956. He again came to India in 1963, a year after the Sino-Indian war, and praised Jawaharlal Nehru, whose fortunes were on the decline.

State flags flew at half-staff, and Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said an official funeral will be held once the former king’s body is repatriated. “I don't know much about politics, but the king father was really a good leader and cared about his county and people,” Yos Sekchantha said as tears welled in her eyes.

 

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