L’union fait la force

  King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia

Norodom Sihanouk

This morning, in front of the Royal Palace, a very big celebration is organized to mark the 90. Birthday of the King Father, Norodom Sihanouk. It is presided over by King Father, King Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen. Senators, MPs, government officials and around fourteen Thousands of invitees attend this important ceremony. Prince Ranariddh is also present. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, however, is in exile. The sky is very clear and blue and it is a very lovely sunny Sunday morning with cool breeze of the northeastern wind. It makes this special event a very joyful and pleasant one.

In October and November, there are important events such as the following:

  • 31 October 1922: King Norodom Sihanouk Birthday
  • 9 November 1953: Independence day from France, after 90 years of French colonization
  • 23 October 1991: Paris Peace Agreement
  • 14 November 1991: Return of King Norodom Sihanouk to Cambodia
  • 29 October 2004: Coronation day of King Norodom Sihamoni

So, Cambodians have many reasons to celebrate. In addition, this year of water festival falls also on 9-11 November as well. But, due to recent serious flood situation the government decided to cancel this important event, which could attract millions of Cambodians from the countryside to the capital.

These important dates above are making history for all Cambodians. Starting with the independence day from France in 1953, Cambodians enjoyed 17 years of peace and prosperity under Sihanouk, till 1970, when Lon Nol staged a coup d’état against him on 18 March. At that time, Sihanouk was about to leave Moscow to Peking for the next state visit. On the way to Airport he got the news of the coup. He could have returned to Phnom Penh to challenge the new ruler, but decided instead to fly to Peking for the next state visit. Many historians and political analysts still speculate on what would have happened if he returned to Cambodia that time? With the coup, the war started and Cambodians, including myself and my family, suffered years of bombardments by American airplanes, massive destruction (1970-75), genocide regime (1975-79), socialist regime and economic embargo (79-91), and civil wars again for 28 years. It is estimated that 2-3 millions (out of the population of 7 million in 1970) lost their life during this dark periods.

With the signing of Paris Peace Accord in 1991 and the return of former King Norodom Sihanouk to Cambodia on 14 November 1991, a new area had begun in the Cambodian modern history. We have the first general elections under UNTAC in July 1993, but the country was still at peace and partly at war, especially the fighting between government’ s troops and the Khmer Rouge. Actually, after Pol Pot died on 15 April 1998 and the collapse of political and military machinery the Khmer Rouge, that peace has returned to Cambodia as a whole.

This morning, Former King Norodom Sihanouk seems to be very happy, despite his old ages, when he announced that “from now on he will stay inside the country forever”. He used to go to Peking for regular health check-up once or twice a year. He praised the progress Cambodia has been made and urged all Cambodians to unite when he stated “L’union fait la force”. He is convinced that Cambodia is heading in the right direction, from a weak country to “one power that will be acknowledged” by outsiders. Cambodians have been suffering more than enough and we hope that Cambodian politicians and the people of Cambodia have learnt great lessons to avoid this kind of tragedy (1970-1998) ever happened again.

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