King Says He Steps Down to Avoid Violence

Despite public appeals for him to remain on the throne, King Norodom Sihanouk on Tuesday repeated his decision to abdicate, saying it was a move to avoid possible bloodshed spurred by rival republican factions.

In a statement posted on his Web site, King Sihanouk said the country’s republicans were “ir­reparably divided in rival clans” and were well organized and armed, and “likely to come to blows in a tragic and very bloody fashion.”

The King did not elaborate on who might be behind the rival clans.

The day before his announced abdication last week, opposition leader Sam Rainsy wrote a letter to King Sihanouk, warning that certain powerful persons intended to hold a possibly violent demonstration against the King that the government intended to blame on the opposition party.

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen have blamed Sam Rainsy’s letter for spurring the King’s abdication and for making the King delay his scheduled return from self-imposed exile in Beijing.

Though he has been summoned by the Ministry of Interior to explain his warnings of a planned anti-Sihanouk demonstration, Sam Rain­sy remained in Bangkok Tuesday and has not determined when he will return to the country, his party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said.

In his letter Tuesday, King Si­hanouk repeated his concern that the Royal Council of the Throne, which is responsible for choosing his successor, would fall into a deadlock in the process of selecting a new king if he were to reign until his death.

The King added that there are “numerous” republicans in certain political parties who could return the country to a republic.

Earlier this week, Hun Sen warned that Cambodia could be­come a republic if a replacement for King Sihanouk is not appointed by Thursday.

After the long-awaited Throne Council law was swiftly promulgated Monday, the nine-member council scheduled a meeting Thursday to appoint a new king. Several members of the council, including Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen, have named their favored candidate as Prince Norodom Sihamoni, the 51-year-old son of King Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath.

With the selection process now in place, the King wrote: “This ‘turmoil’ with a blood bath is no longer to be dreaded, because I have succeeded with the decisive help of Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh and that of Samdech Hun Sen, to assure the future of not only the Monarchy” but national stability.

The King also wrote: “I am profoundly touched by the demand that all of my compatriots addressed me to not abdicate.”

Prince Ranariddh, who is in Beijing in a last-ditch effort to persuade King Sihanouk to retain the throne, is expected to return to Phnom Penh in time for the Throne Council meeting.


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