Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday that he had averted catastrophe by warning King Norodom Sihanouk of protests awaiting his return from Beijing.
“Had I not made that revelation to the King, there would have been an incident similar to the [anti-Thai riots] of the 29th of January 2003,” Sam Rainsy said.
“Immediately after that incident, the government put the blame on me.”
A tearful Prince Norodom Ranariddh told the National Assembly on Thursday that Sam Rainsy’s letter caused the King to abandon the throne and asked that the Interior Ministry question him about his allegations.
The opposition party leader wrote to the King and Queen on Wednesday that “some influential circles” intended to organize possibly violent demonstrations against the monarchy on the day of their return. The unrest would be pinned on Sam Rainsy Party supporters, he wrote.
“I had to inform the King so that the King would not believe. By doing so, I have defused a potential bomb,” Sam Rainsy said.
Before King Sihanouk’s announcement of abdication, he had been scheduled to arrive in Phnom Penh Thursday.
The demonstrations also had been planned to coincide with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s planned departure for Hanoi on Thursday, so that the premier’s absence might exculpate him, Sam Rainsy said.
Sam Rainsy said he did not know details about the staged unrest, only that it would be portrayed by the government as opposition party supporters expressing dissatisfaction with the King.
He stressed that being wrongly blamed by Prince Ranariddh for the demise of the monarchy was far better than what might have resulted from the foiled plot.
“I told Ranariddh I thank him for having such a high assessment of my influence,” he said.
But Sam Rainsy still could face problems. The co-ministers of the Interior, Sar Kheng and Prince Norodom Sirivudh, sent him a letter Thursday afternoon asking him to elaborate on his communication to the King in writing.
Specifically, the letter asked Sam Rainsy to reveal the source of intelligence and asked, “Because this information will affect seriously the national security, when you received the information, did you report it to the authorities to take measures to prevent it or not?”
Sam Rainsy said he would answer the request but could not afford to endanger his source by identifying him.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)