The king of Cambodia has a website.
But his deliciously tacky homepage is not just some static compilation of pictures and bland official communications: it features a message-board regularly updated (sometimes more than once a day) with notes handwritten by his majesty the king himself
addressing various issues of both national and international policies. This low-tech (when I say “handwritten”, I really
mean handwritten; as in “written on paper and scanned as is”) blog immediately made me wonder if I was in presence of some elaborate prank or mildly funny parody. But after careful reading and apt googling, the whole thing definitely seems legit. The question of whether these posts are genuinely his or just the work of some random office hack (as seems to be the trend with most western politician “blogs”) is a very quickly answered one too: the sheer candor of tone as well as the numerous corrections made on the original paper notes (text stroked out, paragraphs inserted in the margins) make it obvious that, while probably carefully thought of, these notes are nowhere near the sanitized professional-looking work a communication counselor would come up with. The notes are written in a flawless though sometimes slightly formulaic French, as Cambodia used to be a French colony and the king has received a French education both in Cambodia and France according to his biography.
From the notes, and although I must say I know close to nothing of the inner working of Cambodian politics for the past few decades (except that is, for the infamous Khmer Rouges and Pol Pot inhuman reign of terror), the man seems to be a rather nice, open-minded chap with progressive positions and opinions on a wide array of topics.
The site really reads like a weblog, with its fair share of “check this out” entries, that point to magazine articles and news-clippings usually scanned along with the note, replies to miscellaneous fanmail and typical “what I did today” entries, occasionally followed by discussions on much more serious topics (such as giving a proper burying to the hundred of thousands of people murdered by the Khmer Rouges and dumped in mass graves).
Which takes us to one of his later and widely publicized entry
: a comment on Gay Marriage
Now, call me prejudiced, but I would certainly not have expected a respectable 80 year-old monarch of a south-east Asian country to voice an opinion on such a contemporary issue in his personal tribune. And I must make a confession: the horribly misinformed patronizing westerner that I am, definitely was under some vague but deeply rooted impression that a country like Cambodia, given its recent history and the political climate of its neighbours, had to be somewhat lacking in the field of personal liberties, let alone personal liberties of sexual minorities
… Well, it seems like it’s not in such a bad shape compared to the glorious god-fearing US of A. Actually, if they are to be judged by the positions of their respective leaders
, it would seem like Cambodian are a few miles ahead of American, as far as entitlement to the pursuit of happiness is concerned:
I hope to have some time later today to put up an actual transcription and translation of the original text
, but in a nutshell, His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk explains that, though he is not gay himself (and incidentally, thanks God for it), he still
thinks gay and lesbians should receive the right to marry whomever they want and be considered with the same respect as any other human being in this regard. He also mention the cause of transexual and transgenders, who should be “accepted and well treated in our society”. Even though I think it’s important to mention that his tone is not one of beatific embrace of gay culture: he does make a few comments that most gay militants would probably consider disparaging, he holds an unequivocal position of acceptance and defense of personal freedom that prompts for immediate respect.
Lastly, after receiving what was most obviously some typical piece of empty-headed American bible-thumping conservative hate-mail, he posted a short yet thoughtful reply in English
reiterating his position in lights of his Buddhist beliefs of compassion and acceptance…
Wouldn’t there be any
way for Dubya to somehow, one day, by some incredible miracle, drop some of his rancid hate-spiked distorted Christian version of “compassion” (the same compassion that probably prompted him to execute the highest number of inmates
in recent US history)… and trade it for a tiny bit of Buddhist wisdom?