The King of Cambodia is the head of state of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The King's power is limited to that of a symbolic figurehead to whom people are to give love and respect. The monarch also represents peace, stability, and prosperity to the Khmer people. The King of Cambodia is an elected monarch, making Cambodia one of the few elected monarchies of the world. The king is elected for life from among the members of the royal family who are at least 30 years old by the Royal Council of the Throne which consists of several senior elected and religious figures.
Norodom Sihamoni (born 14 May 1953) is the reigning King of Cambodia. He ascended the throne on 29 October 2004. He is the eldest son of Norodom Sihanouk and his second wife Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. He was Cambodia's ambassador to UNESCO and named by a nine-member throne council to become the next king after his father Norodom Sihanouk abdicated in 2004. Before ascending the throne, Sihamoni was best known for his work as a cultural ambassador in Europe and as a classical dance instructor.
Sihamoni was born in 1953. At the time of his birth and that of his younger brother, his mother, a Cambodian citizen of French-Corsican and Khmer ancestry, had been one of King Norodom Sihanouk's consorts after being a constant companion since the day they met in 1951, when the young Monique Izzi won first prize in a national beauty contest. She was granted the title of Neak Moneang and the name of Monineath at the time of her marriage to King Norodom Sihanouk in 1952. Furthermore, Queen Monineath is a step-granddaughter of the late Prince Norodom Duongchak of Cambodia, and the daughter of Pomme Peang and of her second husband, Jean-Franчois Izzi, a French-Italian banker. The Royal Ark website entry about the genealogy of the Cambodian royal family states that Sihanouk and Monineath were married twice, once on 12 April 1952, when she was 15, and again ("more formally", according to the website) on 5 March 1955. She is described as Sihanouk's seventh wife.
King Norodom Sihamoni has 14 half-brothers and half-sisters by his father's various relationships; his only full sibling, a younger brother, HRH Samdech Norodom Narindrapong (born 1954) died in 2003.
He has spent most of his life outside Cambodia. As a child, Sihamoni was sent to Prague, Czechoslovakia, by his father in 1962, where he, while attending elementary school, high school and Academy of Music Arts, studied classical dance and music until 1975. He is fluent in French and Czech, as well as being a good speaker of English and Russian. During the 1970 coup d'щtat by Lon Nol, Sihamoni remained in Czechoslovakia. In 1975, he left Prague and began to study filmmaking in North Korea, and in 1977 returned to his native Cambodia. Immediately, the ruling Khmer Rouge government turned against the monarchy, and Sihamoni was put under house arrest by the Khmer Rouge with the rest of the royal family until the 1979 Vietnamese invasion. In 1981, he moved to France to teach ballet and was later president of the Khmer Dance Association. He lived in France for nearly 20 years, but even then he regularly visited Prague, where he spent his childhood and youth. He is the only ruling monarch who speaks Czech.
In 1993, the prince was appointed Cambodia's delegate to UNESCO, the UN cultural body based in Paris, where he became known for his hard work and his devotion to Cambodian culture. He previously refused an appointment as Cambodia's ambassador to France.
On 14 October 2004, he was selected by a special nine-member council, part of a selection process that was quickly put in place after the surprise abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk a week before. Sihamoni's selection was endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly Speaker Prince Norodom Ranariddh (the new king's half brother), both members of the privy council. He was inaugurated and formally appointed as King on Friday, 29 October 2004. King Sihamoni and his parents, King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath specifically requested that the ceremonies be kept low-key because they did not wish for the impoverished country to spend too much money on the event.
Sihamoni remains a bachelor. His father Norodom Sihanouk has stated that Sihamoni "loves women as his sisters". Sihamoni has no children.