It was a magical Kingdom indeed on Sunday in Siem Reap, when King Norodom Sihamoni officiated at the blessing and opening of a new library and research centre for the Centre for Khmer Studies (CKS) at Wat Damnak.
The sunny afternoon proved to be a social celebration that’s already been marked as a highlight of the coming year, and once the official proceedings were completed, and the King had departed, some serious partying set in.
Thousands of uniformed school children were present at the opening ceremony, and throngs of students from primary to high school age lined the entrance to Wat Damnak to greet the King’s motorcade as he arrived around 2:30pm on Sunday.
King Norodom Sihamoni shook hands with many weeping admirers in the audience both before and after the ceremony.
One of the most touching moments was when he knelt in honour before members of the Angkor Association for the Disabled, including Sem Sovantha, director and founder of the organisation, who were sitting in the front row.
“He gave us gifts of kramas and 30,000 riel. I’m so happy,” Sem Sovantha said. “It’s the first time I’ve met the King. He gave us gifts before, but a representative brought them.”
The King also had gifts for all of the young dancers who performed before his speech. The dancers were local girls from the NKFC Conservatoire Preah Ream Bopha Devi in Banteay Srey, a dance school established by Nginn Karet Foundation.
King Norodom presented a check of US$3,000 to the CKS during the ceremony. He was the first Cambodian donor to the centre and one of the original patrons from the centre’s inception in 2000.
King Norodom left Wat Damnak at 4:15pm, standing up through the sunroof of his Mercedes to wave at onlookers who had gathered outside the gates.