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A Personal Reflection on Norodom Sihanouk and Zhou Enlai: An Extraordinary Friendship on the Fringes of the Cold War ថ្ងៃសៅរ៍ 9 ខែ​ឧសភា 2020

Posted by សុភ័ក្ត្រ in បុគ្គល​សំខាន់, English.
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Julio A. Jeldres, Monash University

I was sixteen years old when I first read about Norodom Sihanouk and Cambodia. Jacqueline Kennedy’s visit to Cambodia in November 1967 had been widely reported by the press in my homeland, Chile, where her assassinated husband was greatly admired. Through Jackie Kennedy’s visit to Cambodia, I became interested in Norodom Sihanouk’s fascinating life, totally unaware that, years later, our paths would cross and I would become his private secretary. My Cambodian friends often tell me that it was my destiny. In 1967, I wanted to know more about Cambodia. Since there was no information available, I wrote to the Cambodian mission at the United Nations. I found it unbelievable, but four months later I received a handwritten letter back from Sihanouk himself. That began our friendship, which was first conducted through correspondence.1

After Sihanouk was deposed in March 1970, I discovered that the local New China News Agency branch in Santiago, Chile, carried copies in Spanish of all of Sihanouk’s statements made in the Chinese capital a day earlier. It didn’t seem to make sense that a Communist regime would extend such courtesies to a former monarch. This led me to one aspect of Sihanouk’s political life that I found especially intriguing: his association with Chinese premier Zhou Enlai. This relationship seemed to be a very special one between the head of state of a Buddhist kingdom and the prime minister of a Communist state. As a novice in international affairs, I knew little about how relationships operated between states, yet it still seemed strange to me that a ruler who claimed to be descended from the kings of Angkor had a unique relationship with the political leader of a country ideologically opposed to monarchical government.

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១. ៦០​ឆ្នាំ​នៃ​ដំណើរ​ទស្សនកិច្ច​ប្រវត្តិ​សាស្ត្រ​លើក​ទី​២ របស់​​ឯក​ឧត្ដម ជូ អេនឡាយ នៅ​កម្ពុជា
២. សេចក្ដី​ថ្លែង​ការណ៍​រួម ចិន​-​កម្ពុជា ៨ ឧសភា ១៩៦០

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