On this date in 2012 Norodom Sihanouk (នរោត្តម សីហនុ), also known as សម្តេចឪ, (father prince), who was both king of Cambodia and prime minister at one time, died of a heart attack. The anniversary of his date of death is a federal holiday in Cambodia.
Sihanouk was born to the Khmer royal family in the French Protectorate of Cambodia, the only child of the daughter of the king, Sisowath Monivong. When Monivong died in 1941, Sihanouk was appointed king by the French Governor-General of Indochina, Sihanouk’s appointment as king was formalized the following day by the Cambodian Crown Council, and his coronation ceremony took place on 3rd May 1941. During the Japanese occupation of Cambodia, he dedicated most of his time to sports, filming, and the occasional tour to the countryside. In March 1945, the Japanese military, which had occupied Cambodia since August 1941, dissolved the nominal French colonial administration. Under pressure from the Japanese, Sihanouk proclaimed Cambodia’s independence and assumed the position of prime minister while serving as king at the same time.
Post-war, Sihanouk secured Cambodian independence from France in 1953. In 1955, Sihanouk abdicated the throne and formed the political organization Sangkum, which won the 1955 general election. As prime minister, he governed Cambodia under one-party rule, suppressed political dissent, and declared himself head of state in 1960. A 1970 military coup ousted him and paved the way for the U.S.-backed Khmer Republic. Sihanouk fled to China and North Korea, forming a government-in-exile there and a resistance movement. After the Cambodian Civil War resulted in victory for the Khmer Rouge in 1975, Sihanouk returned to Cambodia, now renamed Democratic Kampuchea, as its figurehead head of state. Although initially supportive of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, his relations with them declined and in 1976 he resigned. He was placed under house arrest until 1979, when Vietnamese forces overthrew the Khmer Rouge.
Sihanouk went into exile again, and in 1981, he formed FUNCINPEC (Front uni national pour un Cambodge indépendant, neutre, pacifique et coopératif), a resistance party. The following year, Sihanouk became president of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), a broad coalition of anti-Vietnamese resistance factions. This coalition retained Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations, making Sihanouk Cambodia’s internationally recognized head of state. In the late 1980s, informal talks were carried out to end hostilities between the Vietnam-supported People’s Republic of Kampuchea and the CGDK. In 1990, the Supreme National Council of Cambodia was formed as a transitional body to oversee Cambodia’s sovereign matters, with Sihanouk as its president. In 1991, peace accords were signed and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established the following year. The UNTAC organized general elections in 1993, and a coalition government, jointly led by his son Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, was subsequently formed. In 1993, Sihanouk was reinstated as Cambodia’s head of state and king. In 2004, he abdicated again with his son, Norodom Sihamoni, elected as his successor.
Between 2009 and 2011, Sihanouk spent most of his time in Beijing for medical care. He made a final public appearance in Phnom Penh on his 89th birthday and 20th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords on 30th October 2011. Thereafter, Sihanouk expressed his intent to stay in Cambodia indefinitely, but returned to Beijing in January 2012 for further medical treatment at the advice of his Chinese doctors.
In January 2012, Sihanouk issued a letter to express his wish to be cremated after his death, and for his ashes to be interred in a golden urn. A few months later, in September 2012, Sihanouk said that he would not return to Cambodia from Beijing for his 90th birthday, citing fatigue. On 15th October 2012, Sihanouk died of a heart attack.
Sihanouk pursued an artistic career during his lifetime, and wrote several musical compositions. He produced 50 films between 1966 and 2006, at times directing and acting in them.
Cookbooks often say that curries originated in India, but the word “curry” and its cognates, which are more or less the same in virtually all south and southeast Asian dialects, is no more useful than the word “stew” and no more helpful in talking about specific dishes. The curries of south and southeast Asia are incredibly diverse with individual names for specific dishes that may or may not include the word “curry.” “Red curry” is a common name for dishes in Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia, but their ingredients and spices vary to the point where you cannot think of them as in any sense the same dish, except that they have a red color. Here is a video of how to make Cambodian red curry with chicken. I make this dish quite often although I commonly buy the curry paste to save time. Notice that Cambodian curry looks more like a thick soup than a stew. A main meal in Cambodia often consists of a soupy stew, rice, and grilled fish.