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Norodom Sihanouk

His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman
Time in office:April 24, 1941-March 3, 1955;
November 20, 1991-
(King since September 24, 1993)
Predecessor:Sisowath Monivong (first time);
Chea Sim (second time)
Successor:Norodom Suramarit (first time)
Date of Birth:October 31, 1922
Place of Birth:Phnom Penh

His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman (born October 31, 1922) was born in Phnom Penh as a son of King Norodom Suramarit and Queen Sisowath Kossamak.

Throughout Cambodia's turbulent history he has occupied various executive positions. These included two terms as king, one as president, two as prime minister, and one as Cambodia's non-titled head of state, as well as numerous positions as leader of various governments in exile. The Guinness Book of World Records identifies him as the politician who has occupied the world's greatest variety of political offices thurought his career.

He commenced his formal education in a Phnom Penh primary school, the Ecole Francois Baudoin. He continued his secondary education in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam and military school in Saumur, France. When his uncle, King Sisowath Monivong, died on April 23, 1941, the Crown Council selected Prince Sihanouk King of Cambodia. He was crowned in September 1941. Others suggested his accession was arranged by the French.

After World War II and into the early 1950s, King Sihanouk developed more of a nationalist approach and began demanding that the French leave the country. He went into exile to Thailand in 1952 and refused to reenter Cambodia until it was independent. He returned when Cambodia was granted full independence on November 9, 1953. On March 2, 1955, he abdicated in favor of his father. A few months later he became the Prime Minister. At the death of his father in 1960, Prince Sihanouk was elected head of state, rather than King.

As war raged in Vietnam, Sihanouk sought desperately to preserve Cambodia's neutrality. Alternately taking sides with the People's Republic of China and then the United States, he was not successful in preventing the war from spilling over into his country. In March 1970, while he was out of the country, a coup took place that ousted him from power. After the coup Prince Sihanouk fled to Beijing and organized forces to resist the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh. When the Khmer Republic fell to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975, Prince Sihanouk became the head of state merely as a moderate symbol, while true power was held by Pol Pot. The next year on April 4, Sihanouk was forced out of office and into political retirement. He then sought refuge in the People's Republic of China and North Korea.

The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 ousted the Khmer Rouge. Although wary of the Khmer Rouge, Prince Sihanouk eventually joined forces with them in order to provide a united front against the Vietnamese occupiers. In 1982, he became president of the coalition government of Democratic Kampuchea, which consisted of his FUNCINPEC, Son Sann's KPNLF and Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese withdrew in 1989 and left behind a pro-Vietnamese government under Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The peace negotiation between CGDK and PRK lasted until 1991 when all sides agreed to a comprehensive peace settlement which was signed in Paris. Prince Sihanouk returned to Cambodia on November 14, 1991 after thirteen years in exile. In 1993, he was reinstated as King of Cambodia. His political power is very limited. He is currently in very poor health and there have been rumors that he might abdicate. In January 2004 he is expected to go to China for medical treatment.

King Sihanouk's leisure interests include music and films. He has directed many movies and orchestrated many musical compositions over the years.

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