The shy student Sihanouk ascended the throne of Cambodia with 18 years. The former colonial power France did not expect the young Casanova to fight peacefully for the independence of Cambodia as a skillful diplomat. Educated in Saigon and Paris, he used his skills to to lead its country to independence in 1953 without provoking a war. Sihanouk ruled Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and from 1993 to 2004. As he rose from the throne in 1955, he founded the People's Socialist Community and was elected as state representative. Grace to this step the new national flag now portrays the towers of the World Heritage site Angkor Wat. King Father Sihanouk was also among the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement countries.
However, with the decision not to join any association of states, the former king has paved the way for the reign of terror of the Khmer Rouge. In addition, in the 1970s, he supported its government and reascended the throne. Nowadays, his people have forgiven, because also several members of the royal family lost their lives under the Khmer Rouge. When King Father Sihanouk returned from his exile in China in 1991, 10,000 people welcomed him. During his regency he has formed an - albeit fragile - democracy, expanded the education system and the infrastructure. While the cities developed significantly, the country remained in a more or less peaceful state, as Sihanouk used to call it, but in fact those regions still suffer from grinding poverty.
Journalists used to call King-Father Sihanouk the fluctuating prince with an unusual, intriguing and oscillating personality. While his political skills are controversial, he excelled on the country's borders as an artist. "He has made 21 movies. But not only is my father a filmmaker, but he is a great politician, even unique … and also great French cuisine amateur, great musician, composer. No one can imitate my royal father," his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh said during an interview in 2002. Instead, journalist Pierre-Yves Clais writes about him: "Imagine a poet, that became a king." Furthermore, there was his love for women. With about five wives he fathered at least 13 children. A French high-ranking soldier once said of Norodom Sihanouk, "The king is a madman, but a brilliant madman."
The king-father united modernity with old traditions. For his people, he became is a symbol of national reconciliation and unity. His last years were marked by melancholy, he often complained about the abuse "of his poor nation". As a moral authority, he could get away with sharp comments on the political actors and issues. He did not shrink back from controversial issues such as political violence, corruption and border issues with Vietnam and Thailand. "[Norodom Sihanouk] was one of the most colorful personalities of the 20th Century. No more and no less than a legend. Few people in the world have influenced the fate of their nation over such a long period of time as Sihanouk", wrote the German political scientist Dr. Markus Karbaum in the magazine Southeast Asia Globe. "During many years of turmoil, he was a constant, a landmark and a rare symbol of a devastated country." Sihanouk was probably the biggest patriot of the country and the self-proclaimed father of all Cambodians. The following months will show, who will follow in his footsteps.