King: Public Pictures of Parents Should Remain

King Norodom Sihamoni in a letter dated Saturday implored his father, retired King Norodom Si­ha­nouk, to reconsider his request that his portrait and that of Queen Norodom Monineath be removed from public places, suggesting that doing so would unsettle the Cambodian people.

An informal poll of Cambodians on Sunday indicated that most would like to see the retired King’s portraits remain, but some critics said Norodom Sihanouk has good reason for wanting to see his portrait removed, citing government land swaps, unresolved border is­sues and other problems the re­tired King has recently said he feels powerless to influence.

“Monks, Buddhists, ordinary people and government officials think the King-Father and Queen-Mother have done great deeds for the nation,” King Sihamoni wrote in the letter to his father. “If there are no portraits of your majesties, we will feel ill at ease and far from your great generosity.”

Funcinpec President Prince Nor­odom Ranariddh also requested that his father rethink his request.

“On behalf of the members of the Funcinpec party,” the prince wrote, “who are your children and who follow your Majesty most honestly, and on behalf of myself, we ask the Hero-King and Khmer Queen-Mother to allow the people to continue hanging your portraits.”

Praun Va, director of Tep Pranon high school in Kandal prov­ince, seconded the royal en­trea­ties.

“His Majesty King Sihamoni’s portrait would look lonely,” he said of the would-be effect of removing the royal couple’s portraits that have hung side by side with the new monarch in schools, pagodas and government buildings.

Diep Chhuon, deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district, said he, too, was against removing portraits of the royal couple.

“The retired King is a symbol of a whole nation,” he said. “Taking [the royal portraits] down would make people wonder, worry. It would be a bad omen.”

But opposition leader Son Chhay said that Norodom Siha­nouk was likely sending a necessary message by asking that his portrait be removed.

“A new King is on the throne,” he said. “But we want to believe [Nor­odom Sihanouk] is still our King.”

Son Chhay said that the move was intended to underline to the public—and to King Sihamoni—who now held power.

“He always thinks his father is King, but he must accept now that he is King,” Son Chhay said. “He should learn to take responsibility and make decisions on his own.”

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Teachers’ Independent Association, claimed Sunday that the retired King’s request was a gesture of defiance against a government he does not support.

“He said it is nonsense to keep the portrait up but give him no pow­er to help the nation,” Rong Chhun said. “Why allow his portrait to cover the government’s face?”

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