Cambodian King in Prague

The Czech Republic is the second homeland for Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, he told journalists after meeting Czech President Vaclav Klaus today.

"I cannot compare this visit with any other of my foreign trips. It is an extraordinary event for me. My visit to the Czech Republic is much more than only an official stay," Sihamoni said.

The king said he has loved Prague ever since he lived there many years ago.

"It is unique to have a friend in faraway Cambodia," Klaus said. He said Sihamoni was the first king of a foreign country who spoke Czech.

Klaus and Sihamoni called for the development of Czech-Cambodian relations. Klaus said he considers these relations not very intensive. Sihamoni expressed his hope that his visit to Prague may help change this.

Sihamoni, born i Phnom Penh in 1953 as a son of the Cambodian king, can speak Czech fluently as he lived in Prague in 1962-1975. He attended primary and secondary schools and then studied ballet there.

In 1976 he returned to Cambodia, but his father was dethroned in 1970. After the civil war, he became the head of state formally again but the whole family was kept in a house arrest in Phnom Penh.

Norodom Sihamoni fled for China and then he entered a Buddhist monastery, thus escaping the fate of his five siblings who were murdered along with another two million Cambodians. In the end he settled down in Paris where he founded a dance school teaching ballet and the traditional Khmer dance.

After the peace agreement was signed in Cambodia in 1992, Norodom Sihamoni represented his country in the U.N., and from 1993 he occupied the post of ambassador to UNESCO. He was elected Cambodian king in October 2002 after his father abdicated.

The Cambodian King was also among the personalities who were this year presented with the Foreign Ministry's Gratias agit award for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad.

Author: ČTK


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