Giving his strongest indication of who may be next in line for the throne, King Norodom Sihanouk predicted Monday that those in charge of determining his successor will be split between his sons Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prince Norodom Sihamoni.
He added that a potential third faction may call for the ascension of Prince Sisowath Chivan Monirak, grandson of the late King Sisowath Monivong.
“[T]he inevitable ‘situation’ which the Crown Council will face will be the following: One portion of members of the council will pronounce themselves to be in favor of [Prince] Ranariddh; another portion will announce themselves to be in favor of [Prince] Sihamoni; and the rest (if there is that) will pronounce themselves in favor of [Prince] Sisowath Chivan Monirak,” the King wrote in a statement posted on his Web site.
King Sihanouk repeated that the monarchy would cease to exist after his death if the Throne Council, which is responsible for choosing his successor, is required to agree unanimously on the next monarch. Though legislation has not been established
to determine how the council should operate, the King has said he fears a stalemate if a unanimous vote is required.
In recent days, the King has urged the Council to adopt a simple majority vote, which would require approval of only five of the nine council members to select his heir.
Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay last week disputed the idea of a simple majority vote, saying it would not adequately represent the country’s wishes. Five of the nine current Throne Council members are reportedly affiliated with the CPP.
“I still believe that selecting the King by 50 [percent] plus one will only represent one party, not the sovereign nation,” he said Monday.
In his letter Monday, King Sihanouk praised Prince Sihamoni but made little mention of Prince Ranariddh.
Extolling Prince Sihamoni, the King said: “[H]e does not belong to any political party; he is not enemy to anyone.”
The King added: “He is “clean” (not corrupt); he possesses a vast general culture…he is well educated, gentle in nature, polite and he is an example of absolute faith to his father; he never does me harm.”
The 50-year-old prince, who specializes in dance, music and theater and acts as Cambodia’s permanent representative to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is the son of Queen Norodom Monineath.
Prince Ranariddh, 59, president of Funcinpec, is the son of the late Neak Moneang Phat Kanhol. On previous occasions, Prince Ranariddh has stated publicly he does not want to take the throne.
“So far, externally, it seems like Prince Ranariddh is not so keen to be King,” Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said on Monday. But he may change his mind, she said.
As for Prince Sihamoni, “It seems like he’s in a better position than anyone else because of his non-involvement in politics,” Chea Vannath added.
Chea Vannath suggested King Sihanouk raised the name of Prince Chivan Monirak to indicate his successor could come from the Sisowath line of the royal family.
If the Throne Council fails to choose a new monarch within seven days of the King’s death, “anything can happen,” warned Son Soubert, member of the Constitutional Council.
He said under the current circumstances, King Sihanouk should have the right to suggest his own successor, leaving the Throne Council in charge of approving or rejecting his choice.
In a separate statement Monday, King Sihanouk denied having ever proposed Senate President Chea Sim or Prime Minister Hun Sen as a future King, as he said an anonymous e-mail writer had accused.
Responding to the writer’s suggestion to appoint his eldest son Prince Norodom Yuvaneath to the Throne, King Sihanouk said: “I sincerely love my eldest son [Prince] Yuvaneath. But only the Crown Council can choose him (or not) to ascend the Throne after me.”