15 years ago, Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni became an honorary Prague citizen

King Norodom Sihamoni in Prague in 2006

King Sihamoni studied in Prague from 1962 to 1975, and calls Czechoslovakia his ‘second home’. He is the only living monarch who speaks Czech.

He came to Prague by chance – his father and predecessor, King Norodom Sihanouk, had petitioned European governments to give his son an education, and only Czechoslovakia answered.

He arrived in Prague when he was just nine years old. Apart from attending an elementary school with extended language teaching on Ostrovní Street, he also studied conservatory and ballet at the Academy of Performing Arts.

Norodom Sihamoni in Prague in 1963 | Photo: Czech Television

“For me, Prague is the most beautiful city in the world. I find the richness of its history dazzling. The years in childhood and youth that I spent here were among the most beautiful years of my life,” said the Asian monarch, his voice rich with emotion, when accepting honorary citizenship of Prague.

And he said it in perfect Czech. In fact, after having completed his studies in Prague and returned to Phnom Penh, he spoke it better than his native Khmer. People in Cambodia even nicknamed him “Checho”, that is, “the Czech”.

Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni ascended the throne in October 2004, although unlike his siblings, he did not get involved in politics, preferring the art world. He soon became the country’s most popular politician, although he does not have much authority and represents, above all, the unity of the country.