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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A young Prince addresses Asian and African leaders

A young Prince addresses Asian and African leaders

Prince Norodom Sihanouk's speech – transcribed from a taped version – to the Opening Session of the Asian-African Conference, April 18, 1955

Photo by: Michael Hayes

Then-Prince, now King Father Norodom Sihanouk is shown being welcomed to Bandung in April 1955 in a photo that now hangs in a museum honoring the event. Today Sihanouk is the only surviving leader to have attended the Asian-African Conference.

Mr Chairman,

The world's attention has been centering for the last few weeks upon the present Conference which, for the first time in history, brings together all our nations.

Eminent voices have already defined the main features and revealed the objectives of the present Conference.

I will take the liberty to offer Cambodia's small contribution to this first task.

We do not think that we are meeting at Bandung for our trial. Our ideal and aspirations are well known. But what should characterise our conference, is that:

(a) It puts in concrete form, for the very first time, the solidarity of African and Asian peoples, in their common love of freedom, equality, peace and welfare.

(b) It shatters the frontiers which separated two worlds: the communist and the non-communist. In this respect, our conference appears to be an Afro-Asian offspring of the United Nations Assembly and offers an opportunity for regretting that the United Nations have not yet opened their doors to some nations having already obviously fulfilled the conditions of sovereignty and capacity required for membership.

(c) It is capable of contributing considerably towards international security and co-operation, by fostering all over the world two ideals which most typically mark mankind ie, first of all, freedom and independence for all the peoples of the world, and then world peace, which comes as a corollary and even a consequence of the first ideal.

I will lay emphasis on the peace which, though not being atomic power - and precisely because we are not atomic powers - we may have the privilege of achieving, as a result of the unprecedented union of our countries, and thanks to our policy which is based on equally shared liberty and equality, on non-interference and co-existence principles, and which will be made practicable by the destruction of political and racial barriers and more particularly of the barriers created by suspicion and mistrust.

There is another way by which Cambodia would like to contribute to this conference and it is that which results from her present cast, which might be used to test the practicability and the possibility of accomplishment of the aims laid down at this Conference.

The Cambodians are proud of having, all by themselves, struggled for and obtained full independence before the event of the Geneva Conference and through their union and their gallant determination.

I am proud of having had the privilege of leading my people in their struggle for independence and to have, after the Geneva Conference determinedly steered our national policy towards the Pancha Shila, towards the community of neutral nations - among them: India and Burma.

Independent and neutral Cambodia now finds herself on the separating line of two civilizations, of two races, of two political worlds ... and as such, she has the dangerous privilege of standing the test and the application of the principles of the Pancha Shila.

My country has adopted these principles and wishes to apply them to the fullest extent.  In so doing, she only requests an absolute reciprocity. She requests that her independence, her integrity, her security, her traditions and political ideology be not threatened.

It will be the task of more powerful nations to set the example, to give proofs and guarantees to smaller nations, and thereby to take the only course of action that is necessary to overthrow those barriers of suspicion and mistrust I have mentioned.

Looking forward to this, Cambodia through my voice, will express her conviction of the beneficent issue of this Conference and her faith in its most important contribution towards the liberty, equality, welfare and, above all, the peace among peoples.

My country fully realises the primary importance of this Conference with regard to mankind at large, and will take this opportunity to pay a public homage to the five sponsoring powers, to Indonesia which has kindly accepted the heavy responsibility of organising this meeting, and finally with your permission to this great Asiatic:  Jawaharlal Nehru, who has done so much for the junction and the mutual understanding of peoples in freedom and in the mutual respect of their national rights and also for world peace.

Source:  Collected Documents of the Asian-African Conference, April 18-24, 1955. Published by the Agency for Research and Development, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Government of Indonesia, 1983.

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