Citizens Worry Over PM’s Threat to Monarchy

In a fiery speech on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen an­nounced the possibility of the mo­n­archy being abolished if King No­rodom Sihamoni does not sign off on a controversial supplemental border treaty with Viet­nam.

Though several Phnom Penh re­sidents said Tuesday that they would object to Hun Sen’s dissolution of the monarchy, others ex­pressed indifference to such a move or said they were too scared to discuss it.

Chuop Mony Phal, a 36-year-old motorbike taxi driver near Wat Phnom and staunch supporter of Hun Sen, said Hun Sen’s cri­ti­cism of the retired king was testing his political allegiances.

“The royal family, especially the retired King, help to protect the land and protect the border,” he said. “I love Samdech Hun Sen, but if he does this I will not love him anymore.”

He also said he opposed jailing people for remarks made about the border agreement.

Like many others, Va Phun, 70, a retired ship’s pilot, was reluctant to discuss the prime minister’s threat.

“I don’t dare to go against some­body. If the leader leads us some­where, I will follow,” Va Phun said. “If they tell me to do any­thing, I’ll do it.”

Sok Chivoan, a 24-year-old who works with a private firm supplying tissue paper, said he knew little about the king, and referred questions to the older generation, who he said were more familiar with the monarchy.

One plainclothes police official at Phsar Chas said he had not been following the issue, as he tries to avoid politics.

“I don’t pay much attention to po­litical issues, I avoid them in case something happens to me,” he said, though he added that in Cambodia, like in Thailand, most people respect the monarchy.

A journalist with a pro-government newspaper who was discussing Hun Sen’s speech with his colleagues at a cafe near Wat Phnom said it left him disheartened.

“What he said yesterday was be­yond the border, but we dare not oppose it,” he said. “The problem is [Hun Sen] threatened the mon­archy.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said he was too busy to discuss the issue.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said he did not believe Hun Sen would dissolve the mo­n­archy, which he said would amount to a constitutional coup and could alienate China.

“Sihanouk is always a very dear friend of China,” he said. “China will take friendship into consideration when it comes to making po­l­i­tical decisions.”

Phan Yoeun, a laborer painting the Royal Palace walls, said having a king is important for Cam­bodia’s continued peace. “If there’s no king, it will be un­stable,” he said.

Bo Vill, a 21-year-old student at Pannasastra University, said there was no reason to “end the roy­al family” and that retired King Norodom Sihanouk had played an important role arbitrating the political deadlock that followed the July 2003 elections, and en­suring that violence did not break out.

Bo Vill’s interview, however, end­ed abruptly after a university official said students were not allowed to talk with reporters on the campus.

(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)

 

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