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
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