Paper Money

Cambodia releases a 15,000-riel note celebrating its king

The National Bank of Cambodia issued a new 15,000-riel bank note Oct. 7 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the coronation of King Norodom Sihamoni on Oct. 29. 

The face of the note has a portrait of the king in the center, with an image of a statue of a seven-headed naga at Angkor Wat at his right shoulder. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism mythology, a naga is a half human and half cobra semi-divine being capable of assuming either form. 

Among the note’s advanced features is braille so the blind can determine the denomination.

Left of center on the back of the note is an image of the king, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk and the late king’s father Norodom Sihanouk during a ceremony conducted as part of his coronation in 2004. To their right is a view of the Win-Win Monument. On the far right is a depiction of a three-headed elephant carrying a garuda bearing a swan. In Hindu mythology, a garuda is a creature with a mix of eagle and human features. It represents birth and heaven, and, in a discordant note with the creature on the face, is the enemy of all snakes. The far left carries the message “Congratulations on the 15th anniversary of the Coronation of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneth Norodom Sihamoni (29 October 2004 – 29 October 2019).”

The placement of the Win-Win Monument on the note is not without controversy. The $12 million edifice was erected by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2018 to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the disastrous Khmer Rouge movement. “Win-Win” refers to his policy of letting most Khmer Rouge members join the government’s military and bureaucracy in exchange for giving up fighting and defecting to government forces. The structure is described as a symbol either of unity or of treason, depending on one’s political views, the latter group calling it Hun Sen’s monument to himself.

The Phnom Penh Post reported that some Facebook critics protested that the monument too closely resembled a copy of a memorial in Vietnam. Government officials dismissed such a complaint as unimportant, saying those making these claims “are not interested in and are ungrateful for the achievements of the government.”

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