Ailing Cambodian Monarch’s Son Chosen to Succeed as King

From Associated Press

Prince Norodom Sihamoni was named Cambodia’s king Thursday, succeeding his father, Norodom Sihanouk, who last week announced his abdication because of ill health.

Sihamoni, a former ballet dancer and cultural ambassador who has spent much of his life abroad, was approved by a nine-member Throne Council, said a statement signed by the panel’s chairman and acting head of state, Chea Sim.

The statement did not say how many on the council -- which includes Prime Minister Hun Sen and Sihamoni’s half brother, Prince Norodom Ranariddh -- voted for the prince, but two palace officials said on condition of anonymity that the vote was unanimous.


Sihamoni was with Sihanouk in Beijing, where he has been receiving medical treatment. They are expected to return to Cambodia on Wednesday, and a coronation ceremony is planned for Oct. 29, said Ranariddh, who is head of the National Assembly.

Sihanouk enjoys close relations with leaders in Beijing, where he has a home.

The decision to crown his son had been widely expected, after the king and key political and religious leaders had endorsed the choice.

Ranariddh, the king’s better-known and eldest son, has repeatedly said that he would rather stay in politics than be crowned king.

China, France and the United Nations -- all key players in shaping modern Cambodia’s destiny -- were quick to congratulate the new monarch and praise the departing king.

Sihamoni, 51, has been an ambassador to the U.N. cultural agency in Paris and is the king’s only surviving son by his fifth wife, Queen Monique.

Cambodia’s monarchy is not hereditary from father to son, and the king does not pick his successor, but Sihanouk, who will turn 82 in two weeks, apparently pressured his reluctant unmarried son to take the post.


Sihanouk announced last week that he was abdicating because of his health. He said afterward that if he were to die on the throne, it could create “turmoil that would be mortal for the Khmer monarchy and, above all, catastrophic for Cambodia and its people, who don’t deserve a new major misfortune.”

Sihanouk led Cambodia to independence from France in the 1950s, but was ousted in a 1970 coup that ushered in a short-lived republic that fell to the Khmer Rouge. He returned to the throne in 1993.