By Wang Fengjuan
“I solemnly swear to abide by the Constitution and laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia and strive for benefits for the country and the people,” declared Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni at his coronation ceremony.
October 29, 2004 was a day to remember for the Cambodian people. Dressed in traditional white clothes and escorted by hundreds of court attendants, Sihamoni rode in a royal sedan chair from the Royal Palace to the Throne Hall. In the presence of hundreds of members of the Cambodian royal family, monks, military and political dignitaries and envoys from various countries, he was sworn in as the Cambodian monarch.
Sihamoni said at the ceremony that he was honored to succeed his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, to the throne. He declared: “I will carry on my father’s noble cause and do my utmost for the peace and prosperity of our country and for the improvement of the lives of the people, especially the poor in the countryside.”
Over the last 14 years, the king has lived up to his oath through his deeds.
Shortly after Sihamoni became King of Cambodia, he was embraced by the people thanks to his gentle nature and charming smile. “King Sihamoni’s peaceful smile resembles the mysterious eternal smile of the Buddha at Angkor Wat, which inspires all sectors of the Cambodian population to seek and strengthen national reconciliation and unity,” commented Zhang Jinfeng, former Chinese ambassador to Cambodia. She believes the king has won more friends for Cambodia with his charisma.
King Sihamoni inherited his father’s tradition of caring for the people. He has often visited remote villages to host charity activities. Alongside official and diplomatic arrangements, Sihamoni has frequently traveled to the countryside and shown genuine concern for the lives of ordinary people.
“He has done everything he should do,” commented Julio Jeldres, Sihanouk’s Australian biographer. “He has traveled to almost all of the provinces, where he interacted with the people in rural communities and won a lot of respect.” Jeldres told an AFP reporter that the new king is “gentle and amiable” and sometimes “knelt before the people, to be equals (Cambodians kneel when they see the king).”
Ambassador Zhang was deeply impressed by the kindness of King Sihamoni. She once delivered donations on behalf of the Chinese government to the Cambodian King’s Task Force.
King Sihamoni personally hosted the handover ceremony at the Royal Palace. Ambassador Zhang recalled: “To this day, my memories of the event remain fresh. On that hot summer day, the king, wearing formal dress under the scorching sun, cordially met with me and my colleagues from the Chinese Embassy and solemnly accepted donations from the Chinese government.” The king attaches great importance not only to friendship between Cambodia and China, but more so to poverty-alleviation.
Ever Closer Ties
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, friendship between China and Cambodia has continued from generation to generation. After Sihamoni was enthroned, he chose China as the destination of his first trip abroad in August 2005. In August 2008, he attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games along with his parents. In August 2015, he attended the events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the Global War against Fascism. He believes China is the most trusted friend of the Cambodian royal family and people.
In September 2014 in a meeting with King Sihamoni and former Queen Norodom Monineath at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, President Xi Jinping said: “Beijing is your home. You’re more than welcome to return whenever you like.” In June 2016, Xi Jinping held official talks with visiting King Sihamoni at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, at which he commented: “I hope that the leaders of our two countries will continue these exchange visits like we’re relatives.” The same year, President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Cambodia. In his meeting with King Sihamoni in Phnom Penh, he stressed: “China cherishes its special friendship with the Cambodian royal family and attaches great attention to developing relations with Cambodia. We are excited to work with Cambodia to steadfastly advance the cause of Sino-Cambodian friendship, deepen comprehensive strategic cooperation to achieve common development and prosperity and better benefit the two peoples.”
In response, King Sihamoni declared: “Cambodia is ready to work with China to upgrade the friendship forged by the older generation of leaders of the two countries, so our bilateral relations will become ever closer.”
Some have compared Sino-Cambodian friendship to wine, which mellows with time. Since Sihamoni became king, the leaders of the two countries have often treated each other as old friends and visited each other like relatives. The friendship established by the older generation of leaders has been preserved and enhanced in the new era.
Ten years ago, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia, the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia hosted a reception. King Sihamoni delivered a speech in which he elaborated on the friendship between King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Chinese leaders and solemnly reiterated that Cambodia attaches great importance to China as its most trusted friend. Ambassador Zhang was quite moved. At the climax of his speech, King Sihamoni raised his arm and bellowed: “Long live the great friendship between Cambodia and China!” “The audience suddenly burst into thunderous applause,” recalled Ambassador Zhang. “I felt deeply moved by King Sihamoni’s profound friendship with China.”
Late King Norodom Sihanouk was a good friend respected by the Chinese people and a symbol of Sino-Cambodian friendship. Now, former Queen Norodom Monineath and King Sihamoni visit China for physical examinations every year. They have met with Chinese leaders and visited many parts of China, consolidating popular support for friendship between Cambodia and China from generation to generation.