King Norodom Sihanouk arrived home from China Tuesday afternoon, fulfilling his promise to return to Cambodia before Sunday’s commune elections. The King had been in Beijing since Dec 3 undergoing medical checkups.
The King was greeted at the airport by Prime Minister Hun Sen, National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Senate President Chea Sim and numerous government officials and ambassadors.
“Like in the previous [times], I always stay with the people during an election, even if I have an obligation to go abroad,” the King said.
“I did try my best to come back on time and stay with the people.”
The King told reporters that he and his wife, Queen Norodom Monineath, have a number of health problems, but that the “doctors and nurses of the People’s Republic of China are capable, and they have the expertise to cure our health problems, and we feel healthy and will live longer in order to serve the nation and the people of Cambodia.”
The King also clarified why he signed on Jan 12, but then delayed releasing, a letter that was drafted by National Election Committee Chairman Chheng Phon.
The letter was an election message encouraging people to vote and informing them that they could do so in a safe environment. NEC officials have said it would not be made public until later this week.
“After I signed that letter, there were some violent incidents, so I suspended that letter [and ordered] that it not be broadcast,” the King said. He said he has now given permission for the letter to be broadcast.
“I am especially honored to serve the nation as stipulated in the Constitution and to [support] a multi-party democracy,” the King said.
“So since there is an election, I am happy and honored to serve the people forever,” he said.
Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay expressed his happiness that the King had returned.
“The King’s return gives a cool shadow to the people,” he said.