The King’s Birthday is a major Cambodian holiday that allows the people of Cambodia to express their patriotism and appreciation for their progressive government.
Due to the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, holidays like the King’s Birthday play an important role in reminding Cambodian citizens about the importance of having a government with limited powers. This holiday celebrates the birth and coronation of Cambodia’s current monarch, King Norodom Sihamoni. The Birthday of King Norodom Sihamoni is celebrated on May 13 each year. It is followed by two additional celebration days. The King’s Birthday is one of 25 public holidays that are celebrated in Cambodia each year.
The Life of Norodom Sihamoni
To understood why King Sihamoni is such an appreciated leader, you must learn about his unusual life. As most Cambodians know, King Sihamoni has been the King of Cambodia since 2004. Due to his participation in cultural awareness campaigns and background in the arts, Norodom Sihamoni is often regarded as a strong defender of human rights. Because of the atrocities that occurred during Pol Pot’s rule of Cambodia, Sihamoni’s commitment to protecting the arts and the rights of common Cambodian citizens is appreciated by all Cambodians. Before he was a monarch, Norodom Sihamoni was known as the son of King Norodom Sihanouk.
Norodom Sihamoni was born in 1953. After growing up in Cambodia, Sihamoni moved to Czechoslovakia to pursue a career as a dancer. He was educated at the Academy of Music Arts in Prague. After completing his curriculum in Prague, Sihamoni moved to North Korea to study the art of film.
After finishing his studies, Norodom Sihamoni moved back to Cambodia to live with his family. Soon after his return, the Khmer Rouge turned against the Cambodian government. After quickly capturing the capital of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge placed Sihamoni and his family under house arrest. While living under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, Sihamoni witnessed the atrocities of genocide and radical agrarian reform. This undoubtedly bolstered the caring spirit that Sihamoni often exhibits to his people today. In 1979, Vietnamese forces defeated the Khmer Rouge, and Sihamoni’s father, King Sihanouk, returned to power.
Soon after Cambodia was liberated by Vietnam, Norodom Sihamoni moved to France. While in France, Sihamoni taught at the Khmer Dance Association. Sihamoni used this position to increase awareness about Cambodian culture. When Sihamoni finally returned to Cambodia, he became Cambodia’s delegate to UNESCO.
After Sihanouk retired, Sihamoni was selected by a nine-person council to become the new monarch of Cambodia. On October 14, 2004, Sihamoni was coronated. Due to the impoverished state of many Cambodian citizens, the coronation ceremony was very modest.
King Sihamoni has earned many awards for his commitment to protecting human rights. Some of Sihamoni’s most impressive awards are:
- The Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Cambodia
- The Grand Cordon of the Chrysanthemum
- The Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor
King Norodom Sihamoni continues to serve Cambodia as a skilled diplomat and fair leader.
The King’s Birthday is a public holiday that allows the Cambodian people to enjoy some time away from work to honour their leader.