By Vong Socheata
I was extremely overwhelmed by the passing of the King Father on October 15, 2012. The whole nation was in profound grief. As part of Cambodia’s youth, I have learned both positive and negative viewpoints about the King including: the legacy of how he achieved independence for Cambodia from France in 1953; his Sangkum Reastr Niyum (the unopposed era); the year he was deposed (1970); his observation of the country’s descent into genocide and civil war; his 1991 homecoming; his political deal for the first-ever co-premiership; and his 2004 abdication. The King Father’s final years were marked by his expressions of melancholy and frequent complaints about the poverty and abuse in what he called “my poor nation.” Such a mixed legacy over a long period of time made him an icon and Cambodia is unlikely to see such a personality ever again. King, politician, bureaucrat, diplomat, playboy, teacher, judge, monk, filmmaker, actor, worshiper, communist collaborator, peacemaker; he was all these things and more. I felt like I was reading a simultaneously joyous and tragic tale. Sadly, his passing marks the end of an era for Cambodia. I had an opportunity to pay my final tribute to him at the Royal Palace on January 12, 2013, and I also joined thousands of Cambodian mourners at the final cremation on February 4, 2013. As a Cambodian, all I wish to express is that he left our nation and our people with profoundly bittersweet nostalgia beyond words.