King Declassifies KR Papers to Serve History

Long kept under wraps, a series of King Norodom Siha­nouk’s once confidential documents dating back to the 1970s will now be released to the public.

In a statement posted on his Web site Sunday, King Sihanouk said he will publish some of the letters he has kept buried in the archives at his palace in North Korea for some 30 years—letters that some say may shed light into the events leading up to the Khmer Rouge regime.

“I believe that, as in other liberal democratic countries (the US foremost) it is possible to make known the ‘confidential’ documents or even ‘secrets’ in the superior interest of History,” the King wrote. “There is, after all, nothing ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ in these documents.”

The first such correspondence, released Sunday, is a letter dated May 29, 1974, and addressed to then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk from Ieng Sary and Khieu Sam­phan, who later became Khmer Rouge leaders. The letter details their visit to Hanoi and informs Prince Sihanouk of their doubts about and eventual refusal of a visit from the Ambassador of the Soviet Union in Vietnam for fear of fueling “enemy propaganda.”

The letter could be interpreted as a signal of the early influence of China, rather than the Soviet Union, over the Khmer Rouge, said Chea Vannath, Center for Social Develop­ment president.

The King’s decision to release such documents comes at a time when he appears particularly dedicated to clarifying his role in Cambodian history, Chea Van­nath said Sunday. “[King Siha­nouk] always said that nobody can boss him around, including the Khmer Rouge, the French, the US,” she said. “So in that context, he doesn’t want to be blamed by the next generation to come…. He wants to have a clean biography.”

Such documents will contri­bute to the Documentation Cen­ter for Cambodia’s research into the Khmer Rouge period, center direc­tor Youk Chhang said Sun­day.

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