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Farewell and Rest in Peace, Our Beloved God-King!



The whole political organization of the country was centered on the king, who, in theory, was the source and sum of all authority, the custodian of the established order, the final judge of disputes between his subjects, the defender of the faith and the protector of the religious foundations entrusted to his care. — George Coedes

In the spirit of the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty establishing Franco-German friendship, WBEZ’s Worldview, hosted by Jerome McDonnell, did a wonderful piece on January 30, 2013 about “When and When Not to Forgive.”

France and Germany, who fought each other acrimoniously in World Wars I and II, destroying over sixty million lives and bringing Europe to its knees economically, are not only celebrating their five decades of friendship, but also are seen as the driving force in the furthering of the integration of Europe. What facilitates such reconciliation?

Dr. Federic Luskin’s answer is forgiveness. He was one of the guests on the show. On his Forgive for Good site, he wrote, “Forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt, depression and stress and lead to greater feelings of optimism, hope, compassion and self confidence.”

George C. Wallace, Jr., the American politician from Alabama who appealed to Southern populists with his “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever” speech and attitude, eventually, in 1972, renounced “segregationism” and apologized to black civil rights leaders. He sought love and forgiveness. He even forgave the assassin who attempted to take his life, for fame.

On February 1-4, 2013, we, as Khmers, bid our final farewell to our beloved King Sihanouk Norodom. However, some Cambodians will never see His Majesty as their King or a person whom they love or respect. Too much has gone down to allow erasure of the enmity they feel towards Him.

One of my Facebook friends candidly said that the King was a “horrible politician” and a “failed leader” who never took responsibilities for his “faults.” There are others who share his views and blame the King for (1) ruling the country with an iron fist (in his glory days); (2) allowing the Vietnamese troops to use part of Cambodia’s territory for the Ho Chi Minh Trail; (3) allowing the United States to secretly bomb inside Cambodia, killing and maiming about half a million Khmer people; (4) forging an alliance with the Khmer Rouge, the draconian regime responsible for killing over one million Khmer people and leaving their toddlers crawling among dead bodies and young orphans wandering from place to place for survival; and (5), for helping to put Prime Minister Hun Sen (a Khmer Rouge remnant and a communist Vietnamese puppet) in his current position, to endlessly wreak havoc and destroy the Khmer people and country.

The day or night, depending on where you were, of the announcement of the King’s passing on October 14, 2012, I observed the activities of my over four thousand Cambodian Facebook friends. The majority of people, young and old, showed how much this sad news affected them. It was the end of an era for many of us. People started to post any pictures they could find of the late King. For many days, they changed their profile to that of the late King or black mourning ribbons, shared His photographs, from past to present, and expressed their grief, sorrow, and loneliness now that He was gone. Some were in great distress and wished He had not left us. They would rather switch places with Him. Not to be outdone, there were a small number of people who posted pictures of His Majesty with the Khmer Rouge leaders, the evacuation of the people from Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, the bombings of Cambodia, etc. This was their silent way of reminding the rest of us of the King’s “evil” acts against the people and the country.

In documentary and television interviews, the late King had expressed His regret for supporting the Khmer Rouge and confessed that He was not a perfect person and that He had done the best He could, constantly threatened by negative external and internal forces, to maintain peace and prosperity for the Khmer people and country.

In an online posting called “A Misunderstood Monarch,” the King’s biographer Julio A. Jildres said it best when he wrote, “King Sihanouk insisted that the very survival of his nation in the international jungle of the mid-20th century demanded two things: internal unity and external neutrality. He believed that any breach of either national unity or external neutrality would pose a mortal threat to Cambodia. And he was absolutely right, as subsequent events in Cambodia have proved. Once Cambodia’s unity was broken by the US supported coup d’état of 18 March 1970, Cambodia entered the most tragic period of its existence.”

After the befitting funeral of our beloved God-King, what is next for us: his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren?

When asked about his past and current memory of the late King, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the Cambodian Minister of Information, said, “One of the late king father’s legacies is never give up the fight for the motherland and well being of the common people.”

In that memory and spirit, for those of us who love the King, we can help to keep his memory alive by obtaining a good and honest education, digging ourselves out of poverty and helping the other 80 percent who live in the countryside to also see the light and overcome their poverty.

For those who are indifferent to the late King or despise Him and his legacy, you can pick up where he left off by educating yourselves, pulling yourselves out of poverty and helping the rest of the Khmer people, so they all can have the basic necessities of life like you do: education, enough to eat, running water, electricity, etc.

His Majesty is gone now. We have no one but each other. Our goal is to turn the 80 percent of the dirt-poor Khmers into educated middle-class people.

May love and forgiveness prevail, always!


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