King Denies Challenging Hun Sen

King Norodom Sihanouk, re­cently noted for his wide-ranging outspokenness, declared on Sun­day that he has no wish to compete with Prime Minister Hun Sen and praised the premier and his regime.

But in another statement, dated Saturday, the King wrote that he must speak out about the problems plaguing Cambodia, whatever the repercussions.

King Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath are scheduled to leave this week for medical treatment in Beijing, as the King says they both suffer from “serious health problems.”

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said on Monday that the King and Queen would leave on Friday.

“Some Cambodians and foreigners have ascribed to me the desire to challenge the power of Head of Government Hun Sen and to govern Cambodia as the present government does,” the King wrote in Sunday’s Khmer-language statement.

“I have no intention or ambition for such a cheap and illegal act,” he wrote.

Reacting to suggestions that he is meddling too much in politics, the King wrote on Friday that he would abdicate if he received “authorization” to do so from a majority Assembly vote.

But Prince Ranariddh told reporters at the Assembly on Monday that his party would never support such a move.

“If there were to be a vote asking His Majesty the King to abdicate, someone might [support] it. But Funcinpec will absolutely not do that because we need the King to stay as the monarch,” the prince said.

The King this year has met Hun Sen and expressed his “100 percent” support for the premier, who “knows how to serve the nation and people and build the country graciously, and works hard day and night,” King Sihanouk wrote Sunday.

The King has previously said he is convinced Hun Sen and the CPP will win the upcoming legislative elections.

The King wrote Sunday that he remains grateful to Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, for their youthful support of him in fighting the 1970 to 1975 Lon Nol regime, and later for working with King Sihanouk and Prince Ranariddh to bring about the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.

“The CPP, Funcinpec and [Khmer People’s National Liberation Front leader] Son Sann refounded the democratic monarchy to do justice to me…and build a multi-party liberal democracy [giving] all freedoms to our beloved people,” King Sihanouk wrote.

But the King is clearly not unaware that his activism of late, in the form of a slew of public letters and statements, has been noted and perhaps even resented.

“It is true that some Khmers accuse me of violating the Constitution and our ‘Democracy’ by involving myself in politics,” King Sihanouk wrote in Saturday’s French-language missive, a so-called response to questions from his “childhood friend” and frequent correspondent Ruom Ritt.

The King was reinstated to the throne by the 1993 Constitution, under which he “reigns but does not rule.”

“Under the pretext that the King ‘must not rule,’ I am accused of seeking to ‘rule’ by not shutting up about the mortal dangers that are pursuing Cambodia, its People, its Youth (the Future of our Nation) in the long term,” King Sihanouk wrote.

But due to his ill health, the 80 year-old King said he refuses to keep quiet in the time he has left.

“I don’t think I will be able to live more than a few months or a few years (as the Christians say: ‘It is the good Lord who decides’).

“I have said all this to make it known to my detractors that I do not regret (quite the opposite!) having dared, for once, in the framework of my ‘second reign,’ telling the ‘Four Truths’ about the very worrying situation of ‘my’ 2nd Kingdom of Cambodia,” he wrote.

The Four Noble Truths are the central tenets of Buddhism: Life is suffering; desire causes suffering; eliminating desire will eliminate suffering; following Buddhism’s Eightfold Path will eliminate desire and thus suffering.

In Saturday’s statement, the King listed Cambodia’s “serious national problems” as territorial loss; deforestation; the arrests and continued detention of about 60 students for alleged involvement in the Jan 29 anti-Thai violence; land-grabbing by the rich and powerful; and the selling off of official decorations and honorifics.

(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)

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