Witness to History: The Journal of Cambodia’s Queen Mother
The year 2023 marks the 50-year anniversary since the Queen Mother began composing her Majesty’s historic travel journal, and to mark this occasion, the Queen Mother Library is honored to announce the publication of the Khmer translation of the 1973 travel journal of Her Majesty, The Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. Entitled Witness to History – The Journal of Cambodia’s Queen Mother, this unique historical document is Her Majesty’s personal account of her observations on her mission and journey to the liberated National United Front of Kampuchea (FUNK) Zone of Cambodia. This journey, undertaken with His Majesty, The King Father Norodom Sihanouk, began with a flight from Peking to Hanoi, then continued by vehicle down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to Siem Reap/Angkor Wat along sections of the Sihanouk Trail over a period of approximately 39 days.
The journey served several purposes: first, to survey Cambodia’s eastern border lands that had been inaccessible for three years due to sustained warfare, bombing and occupation; second, to meet with Cambodian citizens in the region to assess their status and needs; and third, to reassure the Cambodian people that the Royal Couple were leaders of the Cambodian Resistance. Despite the hardships and significant risks as described in the journal pages, Her Majesty insisted on taking part in the journey. The journal is a perspective on contemporary history, but more importantly a window into the extraordinary courage and personal role of Her Majesty as a trailblazer and role model for all Cambodian women—young and old.
The Queen Mother originally recorded her experience in handwritten French. In 2021, Her Majesty authorized Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) to publish an official English translation of her journal entries to provide global access to them. Her Majesty also authorized an official Khmer translation of her journal. The Khmer translation of her Majesty’s journal was recently completed and is now available from DC-Cam.
The Khmer translation of this journal is important to all Cambodian historians and people. Her Majesty’s journal represents an important historical record for an extraordinarily important historical period for all Cambodians. As of today, 35,000 copies of this journal have been printed and are being provided free of charge to adolescent girls throughout Cambodia to inspire, motivate and support them in their education and development as leaders. The future of Cambodia will depend upon the leadership of women as much as men, and the journal serves as one illustrative reference for female leadership in a society driven by peace and prosperity for all.
Supporting the preservation of Cambodia’s history and cultural heritage
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s core support to the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) has realized multiple watershed events and achievements in the history of DC-Cam’s work in preserving, protecting, and documenting Cambodian history for the Cambodian people and the world. Recently, with the critical support of USAID, DC-Cam has completed another significant milestone with the completion of the translation of the Cambodian Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk’s Royal Journal into the English and Khmer languages after 12-year attempt to get a permission from Her Majesty the Queen to get this diary translated and published.
The diary reflects the original, unedited writing of Her Majesty’s thoughts and observations (in the French language) during an historic trip that she took with the Cambodian King Father Norodom Sihanouk from Peking, of the People’s Republic of China, to Hanoi, Vietnam, by plane and, from there, mostly by motorized vehicle down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia in 1973. Written by the Cambodian Queen, the eldest and most senior of the Royal Family, who is still alive today, the diary is a priceless record of her Majesty’s glimpses into an important chapter of the history of the Khmer Rouge regime. The Royal Journal provides inspiration, hope, and a wealth of insights into the struggles, hardship, and spirit of the Cambodian people.
The English version was translated by the Royal Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres and over 1,000 copies of this English version were published for distribution to embassies, academia, and international community. Later, the English version was translated into Khmer and over 10,000 copies were published and were distributed to the Royal Palace, embassies, ministries, libraries, survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide, and the Cambodian public. Another 100,000 copies of the diary are printed and will be distributed nationwide. The diary will serve as the important text for informal education for Cambodian students and public. The electronic versions of both the Khmer and English translations are available online on DC-Cam’s website.
Photo by King Father Norodom Sihanouk, 1973.