King Sihanouk Blasts Cambodia’s ‘Flag of Convenience’

King Norodom Sihanouk has re­acted with outrage to recent rev­elations about Cambodia’s troubled shipping record, calling for an end to the “flag of convenience.”

“The selling of the national flag to so many boats of the worst kind…is tantamount to the crime of treason. I hope that our government will no longer permit that such treason should continue,” the King wrote in the margins of a news report about the revocation of administration of the country’s shipping registry from the Cambodia Shipping Corp.

“Cambodia is greatly dishonored by this extremely serious mat­ter of the flag of convenience, drug trafficking, etc,” the King wrote.

The comments were reproduced in the King’s Monthly Bulletin.

CSC is chaired by Khek Sa­kara, a grandson of the King. Khek Sakara’s parents are Fun­cin­pec parliamentarian Khek Van­dy and Minister of Culture Princess Bopha Devi.

The government last month took back the shipping registry amid allegations that the Sing­a­pore-based CSC registered un­der the Cambodian flag any ship that could pay, without making sure the ships were seaworthy and doing legitimate business.

The most high-profile of several recent incidents involving Cambodian-flagged ships was the Winner, discovered in June carrying nearly 2 tons of cocaine and chased down by French naval commandos off the African coast.

Writing on an article about the sinking of another Cambodian-flagged ship, Sihanouk underlined a reference to the Winner incident.

He wrote in the margins, “By selling the national flag of the Fatherland to boat owners dedicated to criminal trafficking (of cocaine, etc) and contraband, we sell the honor and the reputation of Cambodia, her people, her race.”

In a separate statement inclu­ded in the bulletin, the King said Cambodia is becoming a “nation of beggars.”

“Our new regime receives every year, every month, colossal amounts of aid from international banks, nations, states, governments, organizations, fat capitalists, etc,” the King wrote.

Cambodia only survives be­cause of “rice and other aid from abroad and from fat capitalists,” he wrote.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told The Asso­ciated Press the criticisms were “unfair,” saying the problems facing Cambodia were the result of civil war and economic blockades imposed during the 1980s.

“We just have had the last few years to work on reconstruction with full energy,” he said. “And to be able to rebuild the country we have to borrow money. That’s normal for any country.”


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