By Zhao Yipu, People’s Daily
Cambodian Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk still remembers vividly when she was awarded the Friendship Medal of the People’s Republic of China.
“On Nov. 6, 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping presented the award to me at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. After that, he gave me a Sampeah, a traditional Cambodian gesture, and I immediately returned it,” she said in a recent interview with People’s Daily.
The medal represents the Chinese people’s reverence for Queen Mother Monineath and their profound friendship with the Cambodian people, Xi said, and wished China and Cambodia greater prosperity and everlasting friendship.
The medal was certainly a great honor, Queen Mother Monineath said, which also belonged to the Cambodian King Father Norodom Sihanouk and all the Cambodian people. “I would like to express my most sincere thanks to the great Communist Party of China, the Chinese government and the Chinese people.”
The Cambodian royal family has long maintained friendly relations with China, and Queen Mother Monineath is an important witness and promoter of the China-Cambodia friendship.
Queen Mother Monineath has forged a tight bond with China since she accompanied Norodom Sihanouk, then Cambodian prince, to China in 1958 for the first time.
In the past over 60 years, Queen Mother Monineath has actively supported exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in various fields, making outstanding contributions to promoting the development of China-Cambodia relations and enhancing the friendship between the two peoples.
“You are a large nation, neither selfish nor arrogant; you treat countries of all sizes affably and equally…the Cambodian people will always be your friends,” King Father Sihanouk wrote in “Nostalgia of China”, a song he created for China.
“King Father Sihanouk and I were deeply impressed by the beautiful and vibrant land of China and the hard-working and brave Chinese people. In the decades that followed our visit to China in 1958, we revisited China many times. I feel attached to the Chinese people, and admire China’s rapid development. My strong attachment to China has never changed,” Queen Mother Monineath told People’s Daily.
In the past decade, Queen Mother Monineath has been grandly welcomed by Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan during her trips to China. “Every time I see President Xi and his wife, I feel like I’m reunited with my family,” Queen Mother Monineath said.
Ahead of the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival in 2018, Xi and Peng visited Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Monineath, who were then at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.
“President Xi and his wife gave us Mid-Autumn Festival greetings, which warmed my heart. Our meeting was like a family gathering,” she recalled.
“You can regard Beijing as your home and are welcomed to come back home often,” Xi said that officials and people between the two countries should visit each other as frequently as relatives do.
Every time they meet, Xi always greets her warmly, said Queen Mother Monineath, noting that the words of the leader of a major country show great sincerity and genuine care.
In October 2016, Xi paid a state visit to Cambodia, during which he visited Queen Mother Monineath in Phnom Penh and, accompanied by her, presented a flower basket to the statue of King Father Sihanouk.
“Xi told me during the meeting that King Norodom Sihamoni and I are welcomed to continually regard China as our second home and take frequent trips to China. He said that the Chinese side is willing to work with Cambodia to carry forward the friendship jointly forged by leaders of the previous generations of our countries, and always be each other’s ironclad friend,” Queen Mother Monineath recalled. She noted that the visit made by Xi has greatly promoted the traditional friendship between Cambodia and China.
“China has witnessed rapid development since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in 2012. I can feel its tremendous changes every time I come here. The whole country is thriving in all fields,” Queen Mother Monineath said, stressing that China has made extraordinary development achievements.
According to her, the secret of the long-lasting friendship between Cambodia and China is that the two countries respect and treat each other as equals.
As a major country in the world, China never oppresses weak countries, but treats all countries as equals, Queen Mother Monineath said. She pointed out that this spirit is also reflected in the concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind advocated by Xi.
Since Cambodia and China formally established diplomatic relations in 1958, the Chinese people have always lent a helping hand to Cambodia when it was in need and when the Cambodian royal family was going through a difficult time, Queen Mother Monineath noted.
“We will always be grateful for China’s help and support, and I hope the Cambodia-China friendship will be everlasting,” she said.
The China-Cambodia friendship is “rock-solid” and the prospects for cooperation are very broad.
“The previous generations of Cambodian and Chinese leaders have jointly forged and carefully cultivated the friendship between our two countries. I have a special bond with the Chinese people, and the Cambodian royal family actively supports exchanges and cooperation in various fields between our two countries,” Queen Mother Monineath said.
She hopes that China and Cambodia will continue to inherit and carry forward their friendship so that the bilateral ties will brim with renewed vigor and vitality in the new historical period and bring more benefits to the two peoples.