Dancer, teacher, artistic director and United Nations representative, Norodom Sihamoni (born 1953) – son of the late Norodom Sihanouk and his seventh wife Monineath, and his name made up from the first four letters of each of their names – was elected to be Cambodia’s king by the Throne Council in October 2004 on the surprise abdication of his father. Most of Sihamoni’s life was spent outside Cambodia: from the age of 9 he was educated in Prague where he learned dance, music and theatre; he later studied cinematography in Korea.
In fact, other than his early childhood, the three years he spent imprisoned with his family in Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge years was the longest he spent in the country until becoming king. On the arrival of the Vietnamese, the royal family went into exile and for a year Sihamoni acted as private secretary to his father, but from 1980 he was in Paris (where he spent the next twenty years) as a professor of classical dance. From 1992, Sihamoni was Cambodia’s permanent representative at the United Nations, and in 1993 he became its UNESCO ambassador – resigning both positions on becoming king. Sharing his father’s love of cinema, Sihamoni was also director general of a production company, Khemara Pictures, and has a couple of ballet films to his credit. The king is a bachelor and keeps a lower profile than his late father. As yet he hasn’t done anything to excite the media, though he is seen around the country and seems well regarded by his subjects.