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Sihanouk donates archives


Over one million documents, thousands of photos and rare films belonging to the former King have been sent to the French National Archives for preservation.

Photo by:

This photo, taken September 9, 1975, shows Prince Norodom Sihanouk (right), at Beijing airport before bording a plane to Phnom Penh.

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk has donated his private records to the French government's National Archives in Paris, where they have been painstakingly catalogued since their arrival from Beijing two years ago.

"[Sihanouk] is the first foreign head of state to give his archives to France," said Olivier de Bernon, director of studies at the Ecole Francaise Extreme D'Orient (EFEO).

Over two years, with help from two researchers and one archivist, de Bernon catalogued manuscripts and photos belonging to the 86-year-old King Father, who abdicated in 2004.

"These archives have never been in Cambodia. They come directly from the King Father's residence in Beijing," said de Bernon, adding that an inventory of the "Sihanouk Fund" will be published next year.

A unique collection

The 50 boxes of archives deal primarily with the period following Sihanouk's ouster in the republican coup of March 1970, and as such do not cover the

period of his childhood, coronation and first reign - most of the records of which were destroyed in the upheavals of the 1970s.

"There is an enormous variety of documents," said de Bernon, who estimates that the collection contains one million documents, several thousand letters and 10,000 photos, which will be housed at the Soubise Hotel in Paris, an institution of the National Archives.

"We have the integrity of his speech in French, as he translated it all into Khmer by himself," de Bernon added. "His language is French. This is where Sihanouk's style is very recognisable."

The collection also includes rare film footage of the speech Sihanouk gave after his resignation as head of state of Democratic Kampuchea in April 1976, and large quantities of photos taken while the deposed King lived in North Korea as a guest of Kim Il Sung.

There is also an extensive collection of autographed letters from Zhou Enlai, Andre Malraux, Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela and Ronald Reagan.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said that the Sihanouk archives are very important for the preservation of Cambodia's history.

"We need history to shape our future," he told the Post Monday.

"We hope the people of Cambodia and others can access the archives openly."




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