Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk has died at 89. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
EDIT CONTAINS 4:3 MATERIAL Cambodia's former king Norodom Sihanouk died of natural causes at the age of 89 on Monday (October 15) in Beijing, where he was receiving medical treatment, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. Sihanouk has been the pivot of Cambodian politics since the French colonial administration crowned him king in 1942, when he was 18, assuming him more malleable than other candidates for the throne. He proved them wrong when he led the ultimately successful drive for independence from Paris in 1953. A master of tightrope diplomacy, Sihanouk managed by skillful juggling of East and West to keep Cambodia neutral amid the bloodshed engulfing Indochina until the United States-backed Prime Minister Lon Nol overthrew him in a coup on March 18, 1970. Sihanouk took refuge in Beijing where he was invited to form his government in exile, and found himself the titular head of the revolutionary movement, the Khmer Rouge, an amalgam of royalist and Communist forces. The territory controlled by government forces dwindled, and in April 1975 the Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh leaving the way open for Sihanouk to return as head of state after five and half years of exile. Within a year of his return Sihanouk was being held under house arrest in his palace while an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians, including 12 of his relatives, died in the Khmer Rouge's three-and-a-half year reign of terror under the leadership of Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge fled after Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 and installed a socialist government. Sihanouk again went into exile and in 1982 joined forces with the Khmer Rouge, now under the leadership of Khieu Samphan, and the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), under the leadership of former Prime Minister Son Sann, to form a coalition force which waged a protracted guerrilla war against the Hanoi-backed government. Vietnamese troops finally withdrew from Cambodia in September 1989 but it was not until October 1991 that all four of the country's warring factions signed an historic peace agreement in Paris under which an extensive United Nations peace-keeping operation would supervise the disarmament of the rival forces and help administer the country. Frustrated by the fractious political wrangling following indecisive 2003 elections Sihanouk again went abroad, spending months in North Korea and China. Having threatened to abdicate on several occasions he finally announced his decision to give up the throne in October 2004, stating he would not return to Cambodia until a new king was named. Sihanouk's son, Norodom Sihamoni, who had no previous involvement in Cambodian politics, was unanimously selected as his successor by a nine-member Royal Throne Council. The coronation ceremony took place on October 29th, 2004 and began with Sihanouk anointing Sihamoni with holy water in a traditional Buddhist blessing.