Rarely at a loss for words, he became for a time a prolific blogger, posting his musings on current affairs and past controversies. Most of his writing was literally in his own hand — his site featured images of letters, usually in French in a cramped cursive script, along with handwritten marginalia to news clippings that caught his interest.
His production tailed off, however, as he retreated further from the public eye, spending more and more time under doctor's care in Beijing.
The hard-living Sihanouk had suffered ill health since the early 1990s. He endured cancer, a brain lesion and arterial, heart, lung, liver and eye ailments.
Ailing and weary of politics, Sihanouk stepped down from the throne in 2004 in favor of Sihamoni, a well-liked personality but one with little of the experience needed to negotiate Cambodia's political minefields.
Senior officials in Hun Sen's party were said to favor Sihamoni, a one-time ballet dancer and cultural ambassador, rather than a more combative figure to sit atop the influential throne.
In late 2011, on his return from another extended stay in China, Sihanouk dramatically declared that he never intended to leave his homeland again. But true to his mercurial reputation, he flew off to Beijing just a few months later for medical care.
During the same period, some of the defendants at Cambodia's U.N.-assisted genocide trial of former senior Khmer Rouge figures sought to divert blame from themselves by suggesting that Sihanouk, as their collaborator, shared responsibility for their actions, despite his powerlessness as their virtual prisoner.
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