"The king is a good, gentle man, a symbol of Cambodia. "You could say that Hun Sen is the real king of Cambodia." Information Minister Khieu Kanharith insists the king is involved in social and religious affairs and judicial reviews, receives a monthly report from Hun Sen on government activities and makes recommendations on them.
Hun Sen consolidated power in a 1997 coup as Cambodia slowly emerged from being dragged into the Vietnam War and its own civil war.
While the country is nominally democratic, he uses all the machinery of government to lock up critics and ensure his re-election.
Although the constitution endows him with considerable powers, these have never been granted.
"I think we can use the words 'puppet king.' His power has been reduced to nothing," says Son Chhay, an opposition member of Parliament and one of the government's few outspoken critics.
Which is why he is effectively a prisoner in the palace," says Milton Osborne, an Australian historian and author of a Sihanouk biography.