After nearly a year living in the Chinese capital, the King Father returns to Cambodia, earning praise from members of civil society and local politicians.
KING Father Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Queen Monineath Sihanouk arrived safely in Cambodia on Thursday at 3:30pm at Siem Reap International Airport, the first time he has been on Cambodian soil in almost a year, said Prince Sisowath Thomico, who arrived from Beijing with Norodom Sihanouk.
Sisowath Thomico said the 87-year-old King Father had been cured of his third bout of cancer and appeared healthy, adding that he did not yet know his schedule for his two months in Cambodia.
Politicians and members of civil society alike celebrated the arrival of Sihanouk, expressing their respect for the former King and head of state.
An independent leader
Kong Bora, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, said Thursday that all politicians should look to Sihanouk as a model of political independence.
"The Sam Rainsy Party considers the King [Norodom Sihanouk] as the father of national independence who reconciled all politicians from all political parties," he said.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), said on behalf of civil society he was very happy that the King Father was back in Cambodia and wished he would stay longer.
"The return of the King Father is good for our Khmer society. His presence in the country will make the citizens feel warm," he said. "We want to have him stay in Cambodia - his homeland - forever, rather than stay in another country."
If after this ... examination my cancer does not reappear then i can return.
But according to a letter from the King Father on Monday, he will fly back to Beijing on September 3 at the behest of his "very eminent Chinese doctors" with King Norodom Sihamoni, who will have a health examination in the Chinese capital.
The letter said that he planned to stay in China until at least February 2010, when he will undergo both a PET scan and an MRI.
"If after this double examination, my cancer does not reappear, then I can return to Cambodia," he wrote.
Sihanouk wrote that he was honoured and happy to be staying in Cambodia from Thursday through September 2, where he will be "in the midst of my lovely compatriots".
Sihanouk was crowned King at age 18 in 1941 with French approval, but in 1953 he helped Cambodia win full independence from France.
Two years later, he abdicated the crown to his father so he could pursue political office. Norodom Sihanouk ran Cambodia from 1953 to 1970, when he was deposed by Lon Nol.
Afterwards, Sihanouk entered into an uneasy alliance with the Khmer Rouge, who came to power in 1975. During that time, he remained under house arrest in the Royal Palace.
Sihanouk returned to the throne in 1993 until he abdicated the crown to Norodom Sihamoni in 2004.