Charles Meyer

Portrait of Charles   Meyer

Charles Meyer (12 March 1923 – 2004) was a French historian, Orientalist, teacher and unofficial diplomat who lived in Cambodia from 1946 to 1970 (out of 25 years in Indochina”, according to his laconic biography), was at the time the PR adviser and close counselor to HM the King Norodom Sihanouk and became an outstanding portraitist of the country’s people, culture and traditions, culminating with the publication of his ambitious and congtroversed essay, Derrière le sourire khmer (Plon, Paris, 1971).

A major publicist of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era, Meyer left Cambodia in the aftermath of General Lon Nol’s coup (encouraged if not sponsored by the CIA). His personal archive holds many documents on Cambodia-China relations in the 1960s and 1970s. He also authored La vie quotidienne des Francais en Indochine, 1860 – 1960 (reed. Hachette, Paris, 1996) and Histoire de la femme chinoise, 4000 ans de pouvoir (Lattes, Paris, 1986

Read a review of Behind Khmer Smiles by Laura Summers (Cornell University) in the Journal of Siam Society, vol 611973.


A 1965 photo of Prince Sihanouk, Chinese leader Mao Zhedong, their wives, with Zhou Enlai at the far left, from Charles Meyer personal archive. The author is standing at the top left, the lady at his side being probably his wife. To date this is the only photographic document where Charles Meyer appears (thanks to HE Julio Jeldres for helping identifying him).