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Royal responsibilities

Departing King Norodom Sihanouk was fond of pointing out that under the constitution

"the king of Cambodia shall reign but not govern". But what does the king

actually do?

Aside from the general regal role of providing a "symbol of unity and eternity

of the nation" there are several specific duties the incoming Norodom Sihamoni

will be expected to perform. While some are rubber stamp jobs, taken as a whole the

king plays a fundamental and potentially powerful role in Cambodia.

The king signs decrees (kret) presented by the Council of Ministers to appoint high-ranking

civil and military officials, ambassadors and other diplomatic positions.

He is Supreme Commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who appoints the commander-in-chief.

This role includes the awarding of military ranks and medals.

The Supreme Council for National Defense has never been set up, but if it is, the

king will be the chairperson and have the power to declare war after the approval

of the National Assembly and Senate.

As chair of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, it's the king's duty to guarantee

the independence of the judiciary and therefore the rights of his people. He can

sign decrees (kret) presented by the Supreme Council of Magistracy to appoint, transfer

or remove judges.

He signs laws (kram) presented to him by the National Assembly and Senate.

The king should grant an audience twice a month to the Prime Minister and the Council

of Ministers to hear reports on the state of the nation. This did not occur under


He may grant full or partial amnesties.

The king should be the chair of the National Congress, an annual town hall-style

meeting to be held in early December each year. All citizens should be welcome to

"be directly informed" and "raise issues and requests for the state

authorities to solve". To date, it has never been convened by the Prime Minister.

The king can communicate with his people by issuing royal messages, such as those

seen on Sihanouk's website.

Sources: The 1993 Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (unofficial translation

published by the United Nations in 2002), Lao Mong Hay, head of legal unit at the

Center for Social Development



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