Norodom Sihanouk

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Norodom Sihanouk:

see Sihanouk, NorodomSihanouk, Norodom
, 1922–2012, king of Cambodia (1941–55, 1993–2004), b. Phnom Penh. Sihanouk was educated in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and Paris and was elected king by a royal council in 1941.
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Sihanouk, Norodom

(nōrōdŭm` sĭhənŭk`), 1922–2012, king of Cambodia (1941–55, 1993–2004), b. Phnom Penh. Sihanouk was educated in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and Paris and was elected king by a royal council in 1941. During World War II he was held a virtual prisoner by Japanese occupation forces. After the war he adopted (1947) a constitution that made Cambodia a limited monarchy and achieved (1949) some autonomy for his country within the French UnionFrench Union,
1946–58, political entity established by the French constitution of 1946. It comprised metropolitan France (the 90 departments of continental France and Corsica); French overseas departments, territories, settlements, and United Nations trusteeships; French
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. Following the first elections (1950), however, Sihanouk dissolved the assembly and ruled by decree. He became prime minister as well as king in 1951 and appointed a cabinet made up largely of members of the royal family. He also campaigned for complete independence, which was finally granted in 1953.

In 1955 he abdicated in favor of his father, Norodom Suramarit, but retained the premiership and control of the Popular Socialist Community party, which he had founded. As premier he took Cambodia out of the French Union. After his father's death (1960) he again became head of state, although not king. Initially neutral in foreign affairs, he broke (1965) diplomatic relations with the United States when Cambodians were killed during South Vietnamese and U.S. incursions in the Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
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In Mar., 1970, Sihanouk was overthrown by a rightist coup led by Lon NolLon Nol
, 1913–85, Cambodian general and political leader. He became defense minister and army chief of staff in 1955 in Norodom Sihanouk's government. He served as premier (1966–67) under Sihanouk.
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, who opposed his policy of allowing Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops to use Cambodian territory. He set up a government in exile in Beijing. When the Khmer RougeKhmer Rouge
, name given to native Cambodian Communists. Khmer Rouge soldiers, aided by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, began a large-scale insurgency against government forces in 1970, quickly gaining control over more than two thirds of the country.
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 won control of Cambodia, Sihanouk returned (1975) as head of state but in 1976 was placed under house arrest. In 1981–82, once again in exile, he forged a coalition with the Khmer Rouge and others to oppose the Cambodian government imposed by the Vietnamese after their 1978 invasion. After a UN-sponsored peace treaty came into effect (1991), Sihanouk returned to Cambodia, now as an ally of Premier Hun SenHun Sen
, 1952–, Cambodian political leader, premier of Cambodia (1985–93, 1998–; second premier, 1993–98). A member of the Khmer Rouge from 1970, he fled to Vietnam with Heng Samrin and other Communists in 1977.
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 and an opponent of the Khmer Rouge. He became head of state (1991) and, under a new constitution, king (1993). He abdicated in 2004 in favor of his son Norodom Sihamoni.


See his memoirs, My War with the CIA (1973), ed. by W. Burchett and Shadow over Angkor (2005), ed. by J. A. Jeldres; see also J. Lacouture, The Demigods (tr. 1970); M. E. Osborne, Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness (1994).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Norodom Sihanouk


Born Oct. 31, 1922, in Phnom Penh. State and political figure of Cambodia; prince.

In 1941, Sihanouk became king of Cambodia. In 1955, after the Cambodian national liberation movement had brought the country to full independence, he abdicated in favor of his father and immersed himself in political activity. In the same year, he created the political organization People’s Socialist Community (Sangkum Reastr Niyum, or Sangkum). At several junctures he was chairman of the Council of Ministers of Cambodia. After his father’s death in 1960, Sihanouk was elected head of state. His policy of peace and neutrality, his friendly relations with the socialist countries, and his progressive socioeconomic measures within Cambodia added to his prestige.

On Mar. 18, 1970, while Sihanouk was abroad, Cambodian rightists, with the support of foreign imperialists, overthrew the government, and Sihanouk was forced to remain in exile. He headed the National United Front of Cambodia from May 1970 until his retirement on April 5, 1976.

K. IUREV [23–981–4; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.