King Norodom Sihanouk has written from Beijing to clarify the ongoing discussion about succession to the throne, insisting on his neutrality as a head of state who “reigns but does not rule.”
Responding to articles published Monday in The Cambodia Daily and Cambodge Soir, the King took issue with opposition party lawmakers’ claims that he approved of their proposed succession legislation.
“I did not at all ‘[respond] favorably to their ideas,’” King Sihanouk wrote in faxed marginalia on the Cambodia Daily article. “I have always said that only the National Assembly, representative of the sovereign Cambodian people, has the right to get involved…in this ‘matter’ or these ‘questions’ of royal succession.”
Likewise, he denied a Cambodge Soir statement that he “encouraged” the legislation, drafted by Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay. “I only said that His Excellency Son Chhay and others had the right to discuss the problems of royal succession,” the King wrote.
In response to a statement in The Daily that Prince Norodom Sihamoni “has repeatedly said he does not want the throne,” King Sihanouk said, “My son Sihamoni has only said that he would rather not participate in discussion on the question of royal succession, since he has but a single wish: That his Papa should live and reign as long as possible.”
Finally, the King disputed a Cambodge Soir report that Queen Norodom Monineath, “alarmed by the sudden death of King Hussein of Jordan” in 1999, originally called for clearer succession legislation that year. Son Chhay made this claim at a Khmer Institute of Democracy-sponsored forum on the proposed law on Saturday.
“The Queen, my wife, never called for and has never been involved with this ‘matter’ of ‘succession.’
“In addition, she has never permitted herself to interfere in the business of Jordan or other foreign countries.”
The King is in Beijing for medical treatment. He left Cambodia last month and has not scheduled his return.