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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
New Cambodian king 'nervous'
King Norodom Sihamoni waves from a car during a ceremony of Independence Day , 2002
King Sihamoni admits he has a lot to learn
Cambodia's new king Norodom Sihamoni has used his first statement as monarch to apologise to his people for his lack of experience.

King Sihamoni, a former ballet dancer and ambassador to Unesco, said he would try to follow the example of his father, former king Sihanouk.

He also vowed to stay out of Cambodia's often troubled politics.

King Sihamoni was chosen as Cambodia's new monarch on Thursday, after Sihanouk abdicated due to ill health last week.

He is currently in Beijing looking after his ailing father, but both men are due in Cambodia next week and a coronation ceremony has been planned for later this month.

King Sihamoni, who has lived most of his life outside Cambodia, said he was "extremely touched" when Cambodia's Throne Council decided to elect him to the throne.

CAMBODIAN SUCCESSION
Nine-member throne council approved nomination
Laws for deciding succession had to be rushed through
King Sihamoni was former king's preferred candidate
Elder half-brother Ranariddh said he did not want the post

He said he accepted "this supreme mission" in the interest of the country's stability and to help ensure the monarchy's survival.

But he also confessed he was a bit nervous of the role, saying: "I'm afraid that I cannot fulfil this great duty well because of my lack of experience."

"My parents said they will show me how best to respect, love and serve our religion and people," he added.

He also promised to remain politically neutral, and not side with any particular parties or politicians.

"I will not interfere with the work of the legislature, executive and judiciary," King Sihamoni added.

Leaders from around the world have congratulated King Sihamoni on his appointment.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered his "sincere congratulations", and Chinese President Hu Jintao said that under the new king's leadership "the Cambodian people will surely make new achievements in national construction".

A statement from France - former colonial power in Cambodia - assured King Sihamoni of support in his efforts to "reinforce national unity and the economic and social development of the country".

When Sihanouk announced his abdication last Wednesday, Cambodia was plunged into a constitutional crisis.

There was no legal provision in the event of a monarch's abdication, and laws had to be rushed through parliament to enable a throne council to convene and choose a successor.

While the reigning monarch used to have great authority in Cambodia, the position is now largely symbolic and wields no real power.

But it remains an important position because of the reverence Cambodian people give to the royal family.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How a former ballet dancer became king



SEE ALSO:
Profile: King Sihamoni
14 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
A new king for Cambodia: Your views
14 Oct 04  |  Have Your Say
Cambodia passes succession law
08 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Cambodia's succession riddle
08 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Norodom Sihanouk
14 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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