As King Norodom Sihamoni turns 56, his subjects across the Kingdom stop work to send messages of support, hail his success and toast his continued health and longevity
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Monks hold a birthday ceremony for King Norodom Sihamoni at Wat Svay Pope pagoda Monday morning.
Cambodia marks the 56th birthday of His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni this week with a three-day public holiday that started Wednesday.
Pictures and congratulatory messages began appearing all over the Kingdom from last week. Most major buildings, both public and private, as well as important roads in municipalities and cities throughout the country, have been decorated with portraits of the sovereign leader and the Cambodian flag.
Birthday messages congratulating the King have been broadcast on state radio and television, and best wishes have appeared in newspapers.
Artistic performances will also be held over the next three days across the country under the orders of the Ministry of the Royal Palace.
"The celebration of the King's birthday is considered to be a great birthday for all Khmer people," Kong Sam Ol, minister of the Royal Palace, said in a recent statement.
"This celebration is a special thank you to the King to wish him good health, prosperity and longevity because the monarch provides shelter to all Khmer people."
The King's birthday, which falls today, also doubles as a humanitarian day, Kong Sam Ol said. He called for state and private institutions to organise visits to hospitals, disabled people's centres, orphanages and homes for the elderly as a mark of respect to the most vulnerable in society.
King Sihamoni also drew praise ànd best wishes for his 56th birthday from the National Assembly, the ruling government and opposition political parties.
In a letter sent to the King on Monday, Senate President Chea Sim wished him longevity, prosperity and good health, and recognised the role he had to play in the peaceful development of Cambodia.
"I am always loyal to and a faithful follower of His Majesty," he wrote. "You are committed in your fight for Cambodia's national prestige and its eternal independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Sry Kreng, 85, committee chief at the Niroth Raingsey Pagoda in Phnom Penh's Meanchey district, told the Post he would pray for the King on his birthday.
"On the occasion of the King's Birthday I pray to Buddha, God and all effective things, blessing our monarch for good health and longevity so that he may continue to provide shelter to the Cambodian people and help to develop the country in a civilised way," he said.
Champion of the poor
As King, Norodom Sihamoni has never celebrated his birthday at the Royal Palace, choosing instead to spend his time outside of Phnom Penh with rural families.
According to a source close to the Royal Palace, this year the King will travel to Battambang province, although the exact destination was kept secret for security reasons.
According to the source, he will be blessed through a traditional religious ceremony, after which he will distribute humanitarian aid to deprived families, including rice, clothes and basic food stuff.
Last year, he celebrated his 55th birthday at a pagoda in Memot district, in Kampong Cham province. In 2006 he celebrated his birthday with relatives and rural people in Kampong Speu province, and he visited Kampong Chhnang in 2007.
Norodom Sihamoni was born on May 14, 1953, in Phnom Penh. His name is an amalgamation of the given names of his father, former King Norodom Sihanouk, and mother, former Queen Norodom Monineath.
King Sihamoni has never married and he has no children.