The editor of the monthly magazine L’Echo du Cambodge on Wednesday flatly denied that he had reprinted a 35-year-old movie review critical of retired King Norodom Sihanouk as part of an anti-royalist conspiracy.
“Obviously not,” said Marcel Zarca, when asked whether accusations leveled at him by Norodom Sihanouk’s Special Secretary Prince Sisowath Thomico in a Wednesday letter to a Phnom Penh newspaper were true.
“If I had read [the review], I would not have published it because it is critical, it’s polemical, and it’s out of place in L’Echo du Cambodge,” Zarca said of the decades old review.
Prince Sisowath Thomico wrote in his letter that the timing of the article’s publication—which drew threats of litigation from the retired King-was suspicious as it coincided with an “unprecedented cabal” against the royal family.
“The last person targeted, through this article dealing with the Sangkumian era, is also its most illustrious representative: HM the King-Father Norodom Sihanouk,” the prince wrote, referring to the pre-war government under then-Prince Sihanouk.
“If one wanted to find pretexts for toppling the Monarchy and proclaiming a Republic, one would certainly not go about it otherwise,” he added.
In a note posted Wednesday to his Web site, Norodom Sihanouk said he had decided not to sue after being reminded by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith that he had promised not do so.
“Consequently, I will not file complaints against the journalist or journalists who produce or shall produce texts, articles vilifying me or dragging me through the mud or insulting me dishonoring me or distorting History,” he wrote.
L’Echo carried in its April issue an article reprinted from a 1971 issue of the French daily Le Monde and which criticized “Ombres sur Angkor,” a 1969 film by the retired King that portrays a US plot to topple him. The review described the film as propaganda.
Government Spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith dismissed Prince Thomico’s assertions. “I think he’s a bit [paranoid],” he said. “Hun Sen made a full guarantee that nobody would ever attack the monarchy,” he said. The prime minister’s threats last year to dismantle the monarchy were only a warning to royalist lawmakers, he said.
Prince Thomico said in an e-mail that he accepted Zarca’s explanations and now believed that the article’s appearance was “only a fortuitous coincidence.”