So there he was… wearing a crisp white uniform of sorts with gold embroidery and the traditional Khmer pants called phanoung (?), smiling tensely. Wearing not the royal slippers but black leather shoes… wearing not a crown but a golden phnov leaf tucked behind his ear for good luck…
Preah Karuna Preah Bat Samdech Preah Baromneath Norodom Sihamoni, the official title of the new reigning monarch, officially ascended to the Throne of the Kingdom of Cambodia, after a series of religious ceremonies which combined Brahmin and Buddhist rituals, spread across three days.
There were lots of people in Phnom Penh gathered in numbers in front of the Royal Palace and hoping to get a glimpse of the new king. I had the same idea too, but laziness overpowered me and the lure of the bed was so strong I could not resist. Well, after weeks of sleepless nights, who wouldn’t?
Anyway, so I was sat glued to my favorite seat in the house, munching a bag of chippy (thanks to my donor, Tita Cute, who brought lots of them from Pinas!), watching the live telecast. The crowning ceremony I believe started with a procession with the royal “carriage” carrying King Sihamoni through walkway lined with blooming flowers. There were There were also the royal alalays carrying umbrellas to protect the king from the sun’s harmful UVrays. Hah, and why not, the king has a schoolboy complexion complimenting his mestizo good looks.
The Buddhist monks and the King’s parents, former King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Monineath, took turns in the traditional ritual of pouring water over King Sihamoni’s head. The water, I later learned, came all the way from Phnom Kulen mountains in Siem Reap province, which was believed to be a sacred mountain.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President and the King’s half-brother Prince Norodom Ranariddh, plus other high-ranking government officials and more than 200 people representing the foreign embassies, NGOs llistened to his first speech as the country’s king. Outside thousands of Cambodians listened with bated breath through a massive loudspeaker that was installed days earlier.
People are excited, and hopeful that the new king would lead them to a better and brighter future. The king is highly-revered in Cambodia. According to ancient Khmer beliefs, the king is the descendant from the heavens. To a poor country who has gone through a lot, the Cambodians still hold on to that belief and look up to their king, as he symbolizes hope, peace and stability in the country. And the new king promised:
“I will never live apart from the beloved people,” he said. “Every week, I will devote several days visiting our towns, our countryside and our provinces, and to serving you.” (The Cambodia Daily)
Hmmmm. Very little has been known about King Sihamoni before he was chosen as King. A a man known for his privacy, simplicity and love for the culture and the arts, King Sihamoni appears to be a reluctant royal leader but is hailed as the natural successor to his father.
And to quote The Cambodia Daily, after all these pompous rituals and celebration, King Norodom Sihamoni is now one of the small but elite group of monarchs in the world, who as retired King Norodom Sihanouk (the father) likes to point out, reign but do not govern.