King Goes to Beijing for Routine Checkup

King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath left Monday to seek medical treatment in China, officials said.

The King’s son-in-law, Khek Vandy, said King Sihanouk tentatively plans to return in late September.

Although the King has suffered recurring ailments including cancer and diabetes, Khek Vandy said he does not have serious medical troubles.

“[The King] is healthy,” Khek Vandy said. “He seems even more youthful than me.”

In an address, the King asked the Cambodian people for permission to leave the country, saying he needed the attention of Chinese doctors, Agence France-Press reported.

King Sihanouk has long had warm ties with the government in Beijing, where he keeps a residence. He returned from another visit to China in late January.

This time, the 79-year-old King leaves in the midst of a public debate about who should succeed him and how.

Royal succession has long been taboo to discuss, since it assumes the death of the king. But in a meeting with opposition lawmakers last week, the King said he wasn’t offended by recent speculation about candidates for the throne and procedures for filling it.

“My life is not eternal. People can discuss this,” Sam Rainsy Party legislator Meng Rita quoted the King as saying.

During the meeting, the King emphasized the need for more precision in the succession law. The current law creates a Throne Council of political and religious leaders to elect the next king, but leaves several issues vague, such as what sort of majority is needed.

So many lawmakers went to Pochentong Airport to see the royal couple off Monday that the National Assembly session had to be canceled for lack of a quorum. It was the 10th time the As­sem­bly failed to have a quorum since it took up the long-awaited forestry law debate last month.

Xinhua news agency reported that the King arrived Monday afternoon, according to AFP.

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