On 25 April 1941, a 19 year old prince was crowned King of Cambodia – the charismatic and stately King Norodom Sihanouk. The French thought that by putting a young monarch to the Cambodian throne, they can manipulate him to fit their colonial rule. Well, that was their plan…
Around this time, World War II has started. Paris fell to the Germans a year before (June 1940) and France is gathering all their resources because they are not as powerful any longer. The Japanese taking advantage of the French weakness in Indochina, took control on 9 March 1945. But ironically, France has already booted out Germany from their country.
France was planning to regain their Indochinese rule when the brave King Norodom Sihanouk declared independence from them 4 days after the Japanese took over. It was a bold move of the young king as the French could regain their colonial rule and replace him. Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945 to the Allies leaving the new Kingdom vulnerable and unprotected.
The turn of events that followed was full of political struggles and turmoil. In September 1949 King Norodom Sihanouk signed a treaty with France granting some independence for Cambodia. Still wanting full independence and answering the call of the Khmer population, the king went to France in March 1953. He personally asked the French President to grant full independence to Cambodia. But France turned a deaf ear and threatened to replace him if he continues to be uncooperative.
The brave king went back home but – not without stopping by America, Canada and Japan to publicize his “Royal Crusade for Independence”. It was one of the king's boldest move, not thinking if the French would replace or not.
The king was brilliant with his daring political maneuvers with the French government. The king was undaunted in his pursuit of freedom. The road to Khmer independence was rough and it must not be forgotten. The title proclaiming Norodom Sihanouk as “Father of Khmer Independence” is very appropriate and well deserved.
Long live Khmer independence!
Some photos of the celebration here.
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