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The Biography of Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk

by Surya Narayan
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Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk is a beauty to behold even at the age of 86 and her triumphant charm and grace is all attributed to her ancestry.

Her father, Jean-François Izzi, was a French banker of Corsican, French, and Italian descent who was the Director of Crédit Foncier in Saigon and was killed in World War II, while her mother, Pomme Peang, was from Phnom Penh. She was born on June 18, 1936 in Saigon, French Indochina, which is now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk was the wife of late King-Father Norodom Sihanouk and was queen consort of Cambodia from 1993 until 2004. She is now the widow of late King-Father Norodom Sihanouk, whom she married in 1955. King Norodom Sihamoni, who ascended to the throne in 2004, and Prince Norodom Narindrapong, who died of a heart attack in Paris in 2003, are their two sons.

She is known as Queen Monique and was born Paule-Monique Izzi. “Samdech Preah Mahaksatrey Norodom Monineath Sihanouk” is her full title.

She went to Norodom Primary School, Sisowath High School, and Lycée René Descartes. Norodom Sihanouk first met her in 1951, during a beauty pageant award ceremony where Norodom Sihanouk presented her with the first prize. In 1952, they began living together and married in 1955.

Princess Monique served as President of the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) from 1967 to 1970.

She returned to the royal palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with her husband, who was appointed nominal head of state by the Khmer Rouge, when Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. The Khmer Rouge, on the other hand, kept them under house arrest from 1976 onward.

During these years, they were reportedly subjected to a political re-education programme, and at least 18 members of the extended royal family were killed. The regime reportedly suggested that they should be executed, but China and North Korea intervened, stopping this.

In January 1979, Khmer Rouge leadership allowed them to be evacuated from Cambodia by the Chinese.

The Queen Mother and her husband spent the following years as state guests of China and North Korea. She played a role in the Tong Siv Eng-arranged peace talks between Sihanouk and Hun Sen in 1987 and 1988, and she is said to have been present during the negotiations.

She and Sihanouk returned to Cambodia in 1991. The King promoted her to the rank of Samdech Preah Cheayea on February 22, 1992.

She was elevated to Samdech Preah Mohèsey Norodom Monineath of Cambodia on September 24, 1993. The King raised her to Samdech Preah Reach Akka Mohèsey Norodom Monineath on January 2, 1996. Sihanouk reportedly suggested amending the constitution to allow her to be a Regent and succeed him on the throne, but this did not happen, and he instead chose to abdicate in favour of their son.

Queen Monineath had accompanied her husband, His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, a great king and the father of Cambodia’s independence, on several missions for the welfare of the country and the people, during both good and difficult times. 

Her dedication earned her the Friendship Medal of China from Chinese President Xi Jinping, which is a high-level award given to outstanding foreign dignitaries who have actively contributed to the modernisation of Chinese socialism, promoting exchanges and cooperation between China and other countries, and ensuring world peace.

The Queen Mother is the seventh renowned dignitary to receive the medal since its establishment, and the award is considered as a high honour for Cambodia.

Despite her hectic royal duties, Queen Mother Monineath always makes time for social work, a cause to which she has long been dedicated.

The Queen Mother speaks in Khmer, French, and English. Her Majesty takes part in a variety of charitable activities. The Queen Mother has always had a soft spot in her heart for the disadvantaged, from hospital patients to abused women and orphans, and her charity has been rewarded with love and respect.

The Queen Mother, who is currently honorary president of the Cambodian Red Cross and a generous donor to noble causes throughout Cambodia, is also a strong supporter of the Kantha Bopha Hospital and the Sihanouk Hospital Centre of Hope.

Source: Royal du Cambodge, Khmer Times

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