New 20,000-Riel Banknote To Bear King’s Image

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday announced what he called his birthday gift to King Norodom Sihamoni: the King’s portrait on the new 20,000-riel banknote.

The note enters circulation today and replaces the image of retired King Norodom Sihanouk with that of his son.

“On behalf of myself as prime minister…we would like to circulate the 20,000-riel note on Monday to congratulate the King on his birthday,” Hun Sen said at a pagoda inauguration in Kandal province. “This is to show our respect and best wishes.” Norodom Sihamoni turns 55 on Wednesday.

Hun Sen said he consulted first with the King Father and Queen Monineath before going ahead with the new note.

“We requested for the retired King to examine the image in order to avoid confusion that we were trying to promote the son and were forgetting the father,” Hun Sen said, adding that he’d already signed a sub-decree adopting the new bank­note.

Hun Sen said the new 20,000-riel note, worth about $5, will also protect against counterfeiters.

The old banknote will remain valid while the National Bank of Cam­bodia takes it out of circulation and infuses the new banknote into the financial system, Hun Sen said.

Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Channtha said the new banknote is merely another ploy in the government’s political game. “This is not an encouragement or support to the King,” Muth Channtha said.

If Hun Sen respected the King, he would give him greater constitutional power, Muth Channtha said, arguing that the new banknote also contradicted the prime minister’s recent move to eliminate all royal ti­tles within the government.

“It is not a good intention, it is a political intention to gain political benefits,” he said. “It is very coincidental that it comes during the election campaign.”

Funcinpec Second Deputy Pres­ident Prince Sisowath Sirirath dismissed the notion that the new bank­­note is anything but a kind birthday wish.

“I am happy the government promotes the King,” he said. “It is not related to the election. The CPP has more votes already.”

NBC Governor Chea Chanto could not be reached for comment. The NBC updated Cambodia’s currency in January with the introduction of a 2,000-riel note bearing an image of the Preah Vihear temple.

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