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Cambodian National Assembly

After the abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk in 2004, he was succeeded by his son Norodom Sihamoni. While the retired King is highly revered in his country for dedicating his lifetime to Cambodia, the current King has spent most of his life abroad in France. Thus, it remains to be seen whether the new King’s views will be as highly respected as his father’s.

Although in the Khmer language there are many words meaning “king”, the word officially used in Khmer (as found in the 1993 Cambodian Constitution) is preahmâhaksat (Khmer regular script: ), which literally means: preah- (“sacred”, cognate of the Indian word Brahmin) -mâha- (from Sanskrit, meaning “great”, cognate with “maha-” in maharaja) -ksat (“warrior, ruler”, cognate of the Indian word Kshatriya).

On the occasion of HM King Norodom Sihanouk’s retirement in September 2004, the Cambodian National Assembly coined a new word for the retired king: preahmâhaviraksat (Khmer regular script: ), where vira comes from Sanskrit vīra, meaning “brave or eminent man, hero, chief”, cognate of Latin vir, viris, English virile. Preahmâhaviraksat is translated in English as “King-Father” (French: Roi-Père), although the word “father” does not appear in the Khmer noun.

As preahmâhaviraksat, Norodom Sihanouk retains many of the prerogatives he formerly held as preahmâhaksat and is a highly respected and listened-to figure. Thus, in effect, Cambodia can be described as a country with two Kings: the one who is the Head of State, the preahmâhaksat Norodom Sihamoni, and the one who is not the Head of State, the preahmâhaviraksat Norodom Sihanouk.

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