Date of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Studies

First Advisor

Michael E. Lestz

Second Advisor

Zayde Gordon Antrim

Third Advisor

Janet L. Bauer


This thesis addresses Prince Sihanouk and the model of absolute monarchy in Cambodia during his ‘golden era.’ What is the legacy bequeathed to his country that emanated from his years as his country’s autocratic leader (1954-1970)? What did he leave behind? My original hypothesis was that Sihanouk was a libertine and ruthless god-king who had immense pride for his country. He fought for his people and had strong good intentions. Instead, through research, I discovered that there are many good and bad facets of Sihanouk’s past and the political practices that marked his era as Cambodia’s supreme ruler. His legacy is mind-boggling in its complexity and contradictions. This study brings to the surface a stronger understanding of: 1) his attempt to consolidate support for his dictatorship by eliminating or side-line opponents; 2) his effort to transform Phnom Penh into a spectacular capital that would symbolize the new path he sought to blaze in contemporary Cambodian history; and 3) his unsuccessful effort to keep Cambodia out of the war in Vietnam. The tension between Sihanouk’s attempt to forge a neutral path for Cambodia and his own desire to control the monarchy worked well. Fueled by this desire, Sihanouk lifted Cambodia up to stand on its own two feet. He gave a sense of hope to Cambodians, as well as modernized a small nation. Sihanouk’s commitment to remaining neutral and the Cambodians immense loyalty to this Father-Prince, allowed Cambodia to build up so quickly in a short amount of time.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in International Studies.