PM, Retired King Say Prince Left the Country

Prime Minister Hun Sen and re­tired King Norodom Sihanouk confirmed separately on Wednesday that Prince Sisowath Thomico has left Cambodia, with the retired King as well as his official biographer saying that the prince has gone to China.

Hun Sen, during an impromptu news conference at Phnom Penh In­ternational Airport Wednesday upon his surprise early return from China, said the prince was “disappointing Cambodian people” and that police had not apprehended him because a warrant for his ar­rest had not been issued in time.

“Giving his interview the day be­fore [he left the country], he sounded like a brave man,” Hun Sen said.

“If he has a brave heart, as he said he did, he should come back and we will wait to see his hunger strike at Prey Sar [prison].”

“I know that on the night of Octo­ber 17, he was awfully busy trying to buy airplane tickets,” Hun Sen ad­ded, although he did not say how this information had been obtained.

He also compared Prince Tho­mi­co to opposition leader Sam Rain­sy.

“Do you remember? On Feb­ru­ary 3, one man announced at the Na­tional Assembly that he would agree to be handcuffed to the As­sem­bly,” Hun Sen said.

“But a few hours later he fled to a foreign embassy and then fled abroad,” Hun Sen quipped.

Sam Rainsy fled Cambodia on Feb 3 after being stripped of his parliamentary immunity during a closed National Assembly session.

Hun Sen also downplayed speculation that relations between he and Norodom Sihanouk had soured con­­siderably over the last few days. Hun Sen in recent days has or­der­ed anti-Norodom Sihanouk songs to be broadcast and has mentioned the possibility of ending the monarchy if King Norodom Si­hamoni does not sign off on a controversial border agreement with Vietnam.

“I have no problem with the King Father,” Hun Sen said. “The problem now is related to history and territory.”

In the margins of a newspaper article received by fax on Wed­nes­day afternoon, Norodom Sihanouk wrote that the prince—an outspoken cri­tic on the border—had left the coun­try at the behest of Queen Mo­n­ineath, his “substitute” mother.

“The Father and the Mother of Thomico were savagely assassinated by Pol Pot Khmer Rouge,” Nor­o­dom Sihanouk wrote. “As his ‘substitute’ mother, my wife, Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, made ‘ar­range­ments’ so that Thomico could be with her in Beijing.”

“As for me, I told Thomico that he must not, under any condition, speak or write words that could an­ger our respected Prime Minis­ter,” the retired monarch added. “Tho­m­i­co told me that he would respect ab­solutely my strict order, as long as he is in China.”

Julio Jeldres, the retired King’s of­­ficial biographer, wrote in an e-mail that Prince Thomico had flown to China via Singapore.

“As Cambodia tilts towards a new dictatorship, where people are be­ing thrown in jail before due le­gal pro­cess has taken place, it serves no purpose for the Prince to be thrown into jail and go into a hun­ger strike, which would have cost the Prince most probably his life,” Jeldres wrote.

(Additional re­porting by Mi­chelle Vachon)


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