Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Monday that he has discussed the possibility of dissolving the monarchy if King Norodom Sihamoni does not sign off on a controversial supplemental border treaty with Vietnam.
Speaking in Kompong Cham province at a groundbreaking ceremony for a school, Hun Sen said he has discussed the move with Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
“I said to Prince Ranariddh by phone that if it is hard to get the signature this time, we must review, should we keep the monarchy or form a republic?” Hun Sen said in a speech broadcast on state-controlled radio and TV.
In notes obtained Oct 5, retired King Norodom Sihanouk wrote that King Sihamoni will not be in the country to sign off on the controversial new border treaty, leaving the responsibility to sign up to the interim head of state.
Hun Sen warned that the agreement would be still implemented without the King’s signature.
“If the King would not sign, he should give reasons. Why do we keep the monarchy?” Hun Sen asked of such a scenario.
Hun Sen also warned that anyone who appeals to the armed forces to stage a coup would be arrested at their homes.
“I am not like retired King Norodom Sihanouk, who others could stage a coup to topple him. With me, they cannot stage a coup,” Hun Sen said.
He thanked the armed forces for supporting him “to find justice,” adding that if RCAF Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan does not obey his orders, he will be fired.
“I would use armed forces,” Hun Sen said of coup plotters. “If Ke Kim Yan would not go, I would order [RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief] Kun Kim. If Ke Kim Yan would not go, I would fire him.”
Ke Kim Yan could not be contacted for comment.
Despite the recent arrests of Mam Sonando of Beehive FM 105 Radio and Rong Chhun of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association over comments made about the border agreement, Hun Sen said he has not been cracking down on democracy activists.
“I did not shut down your radio stations, newspapers or organizations…. We arrested only those who said wrong and do not arrest all of you,” he said.
Nhiek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec co-Minister of Defense, declined comment on Hun Sen’s comments on the monarchy’s future, saying he did not hear the conversation between Prince Ranariddh and the premier.
In a Sunday statement posted to his Web site, Norodom Sihanouk said he would not be returning to Cambodia.
“I would like compatriots to understand, pardon [me] because I cannot return back to [Cambodia] because there is a lot of injustice for me,” he wrote, adding that his family has always sacrificed everything for Cambodia.
“For me, history already inscribed about [my] sacrifice and struggling to liberate the nation many times for independence from French colonialism, from American imperialism and from Vietnamese colonialism,” he added.
(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul and Phann Ana)