4) The Phnom Penh Period
89) King Norodom
(1860--1904, Capital: Oudong & Phnom Penh)
King Norodom was the oldest son of King Ang Duong. He succeeded the throne in 1860 after the death of his father. He also inherited the support or indirect rule from France which was establishing colonies over the Indochinese Peninsula.
In the first year of his reign, King Norodom faced a familiar royal crisis. His brother, prince Siwatha was envious of his leadership and enlisted two people named Snong So and Mano Keo to instigate a rebellion against the King. However, the rebels were defeated by the royal army and Mano Keo was captured and executed. As for Snong So, he escaped to Cochinchina’s territory (now Southern Vietnam). Prince Siwatha had also escaped. After this incident, King Norodom moved the Capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh which was to remain until today.
In 1865, two other people named Achar Sva and Po Kambo instigated another rebellion1. But, once again, the royal army had defeated , captured, and executed the two instigators. After these two rebellions, Cambodia had experienced a period of tranquility. During his reign, King Norodom had built a temple called Preah Keo Morakot on the southern flank of the Royal Palace’s compound in Phnom Penh. He died in 1904.
90) King Sisowath
(1904--1927, Capital: Phnom Penh)
King Sisowath was the younger brother of King Norodom. After King Norodom’s death, the royal council, the two leaders of the Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist sects, and the French Resident Superieur agreed to ascend King Sisowath to the throne.
Soon after his succession, Siam, under pressure from the French, had returned the provinces of Stung Treng, Tonle Pov, and Mlu Prey to Cambodia. Later on in 1907, Siam had also signed a treaty with the French and returned the provinces of Battambang, Serey Sauphorn, and Siem Reap, in which the City of Angkor was located, to Cambodia. Thus, Cambodia regained some of its lost territories including its ancient city of Angkor at this point. During World War I (1914-18), King Sisowath sent the Khmer army volunteers to help France fight with Germany.
Throughout his reign, Cambodia had enjoyed a peaceful existence. King Sisowath had ordered the building of many institutions. Among these were the famed Lycee Sisowath, the Royal Library, the Pali School of Higher Learning, the School of Fine Arts, and the Royal School of Administration, etc. He also undertook the road building projects throughout the country.
91) King Sisowath Monivong
(1927--1941, Capital: Phnom Penh)
King Sisowath Monivong was the oldest son of King Sisowath. He succeeded the throne in 1927. During his reign, Cambodia had, in effect, become a French colony. The French gave little freedom to ordinary Khmer people, and the French exploitation of local economy was enormous. As a result, the Khmers were just as miserable under the French protection as they were under the protection/oppression of their two neighboring nemeses, Siam and Vietnam.
Using local labors, the French established one of the world’s largest rubber plantations in Me Muth, Kompong Cham. The plantation had an area of 6,000 hectares and contained some 550,000 rubber trees.
Though King Sisowath Monivong was, in effect, a French tutelage, his royal government had nevertheless made some progresses. In 1932, the government had completed the construction of a railroad running across several provinces and linking Phnom Penh to the Siamese (Thai) border. Also, a bridge was built across the Bassac River which gave the people who lived on the other side of the river easy access to the Capital. King Sisowath Monivong died in 1941.
(To be continued)