On October 14th 2004, Norodom Sihamoni became King of Cambodia after the abdication of his father King Norodom Sihanouk. Since then, and like his father, the new King did support, relentlessly the Kantha Bopha children's hospitals. This support was very important for Dr. Beat Richner and the development of the Children's hospitals. Kantha Bopha was the name of King Sihamoni's half Sister, that died 1952 at the age of 4 of Leukemia. In Mai 2012 the King came to Switzerland, to support Dr. Beat Richner in his important quest for financing the children's hospital.
The article below, was published in the Khmer Times (14. Mai 2021) for the anniversary of the King Norodom Sihamoni.
The unspoken truth of King Sihamoni’s generous spirit
Khmer Times (Mai 14th, 2021)
As Cambodia celebrates the birth of King Norodom Sihamoni, much will be written on his love for the arts, but his exceptional charitable nature, will as usual, remain unspoken.
Perhaps this is to his preference. Once referred to as “Cambodia’s Quiet King”, the monarch rarely speaks in public. Instead, he is most often seen by the public attending ceremonial or cultural events. But those who are familiar with the court, cannot speak of King Sihamoni without sharing anecdotes of his charitable nature.
He quietly gives financial aid to individual victims of violent crimes. He has donated several ponds to rural villages. He keeps tabs on children admitted to hospitals.
Once His Majesty who was travelling in his car, spotted an elderly woman sitting by the roadside in a rural area of the Kampot province. The King asked the driver to stop and upon alighting from the car, he walked up to the woman and handed her a blanket. The gesture of the King undeniably shows that he is a person very much down to earth with a kind heart to help his subjects.
There may have been many such incidences where His Majesty may have gone out of his way to help his subjects in his own quiet ways without any publicity. In many of his royal duties, his subjects welfare were said to be his top priority.
In 2016, when the King sold his Royal Villa in Koh Kong to the state, it was to donate the proceeds to the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital, the late-Beat Richner called the $6.5 million contribution the greatest donation in the foundation’s then 24-year history.
That huge donation speaks volumes of His Majesty’s character and relentless generosity to help needy children. This is not all, as three years later, King Sihamoni donated another $1.2 million for the construction of a heart surgery centre at the Siem Reap hospital, which now bears his name.
Notably, when speaking at its inauguration, the King referred to the facility as “Heart Surgery Centre Two.”
“Having worked with Cambodia’s specialist doctors for eight years, I hope the Heart Surgery Centre Two will meet people’s needs and treat the thousands of children who suffer from heart problems at birth every year,” he said.
“I think his true virtue is knowing that his title was bequeathed to him and recognising that with it, comes a tremendous amount of responsibility,” a source familiar with the royal court revealed.
“He shies away from the limelight considerably but that doesn’t mean that he is inactive, especially when it comes to the needs of the people. His public image is of a man who enjoys classical music and opera. This is only skimming the surface of an extraordinary philosophy. Cambodia was torn apart and [King] Sihamoni deeply believes that art transcends language and has the ability to overcome differences among nations, people and even adversaries,” he added. King Sihamoni’s first appearance in 2004 after his coronation is perhaps most indicative of his reign. Then newly crowned, he appeared in Kampong Speu province where he handed out gifts to the differently abled and elderly before watching a traditional dance performance.
As a prince, he invited differently abled cyclo drivers to the Royal Place in Phnom Penh. He listened to their stories, understood their struggles and swiftly dispatched financial aid to the individuals.
The King has remained an advocate of the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Together with Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, he donated $300,000 in March to the National Committee to fight COVID-19.
Months later, he donated $1 million. Following this, another $1 million was provided to help purchase vaccines.
Last month, the Queen Mother and His Majesty donated hundreds of tonnes of rice and noodle, among other staples to vulnerable families in Red Zones across the capital and Takhmao town, Kandal province. “The protection of social welfare is an important duty to which we have to pay high attention,” King Sihamoni said after donating a parcel of land at the southern wing of the Royal Palace to provide financial support for the construction of hospitals in 2012. The people of Cambodia are truly blessed to have a King who keeps the welfare of the people in his heart while carrying out his daily royal duties.