Retired King Still Feisty Despite Health Woes

Retired King Norodom Siha­nouk warned that his heart “could give way at any moment” in a handwritten letter posted to his Web site Wednesday, just days before his 83rd birthday.

Rumors circulated Thursday that members of the royal family were preparing to fly to China to vi­sit Norodom Sihanouk, an indication that his condition might be ser­ious.

But Oum Daravuth, Queen Nor­o­dom Monineath’s nephew and King Norodom Sihamoni’s cousin, dis­missed such speculation. “His Ma­jesty’s health is ex­cellent,” Oum Daravuth said. “Everything is OK,” he said.

“‘Preoccupying,’ not for me, but according to my eminent doctors themselves,” the retired monarch wrote to Ieu Pannakar, one of two lawmakers appointed to represent the Royal Palace in the Senate.

“Physical weakness that is more and more pronounced; a heart that could give way at any mo­ment,” he wrote.

Norodom Sihanouk has often gone to Beijing for medical treatment and in recent years has been af­flicted with a number of serious health problems, including stomach cancer.

The retired monarch also said King Norodom Sihamoni would re­turn to Cambodia on Nov 6 in letters to Ieu Pannakar and Fun­cin­pec Senator Princess Norodom Bup­­pha Devi.

Oum Daravuth confirmed the King’s return date.

“His Majesty will preside, as planned, over the Independence Fes­tival and the Water Festival,” Norodom Sihanouk wrote.

Some political observers have speculated that part of the reason King Sihamoni had gone to Bei­jing was to avoid signing off on the controversial additional agreement to the 1985 border treaty.

Lawmakers in the National As­sem­bly have said that they hope to put the treaty before the full As­sembly before the Water Festival.

But despite the reports of his flagging health, the retired mon­arch remained feisty, and requested TVK to air two of his films.

Local television and radio stations in recent weeks have devoted lots of air time to border documents—some read word-for-word by news anchors-at the request of Prime Min­ister Hun Sen.

Many of the documents paint an unflattering picture of Norodom Si­hanouk’s position on border issues.

Some stations have also broadcast a song from the Lon Nol era ac­­­­cusing the retired King of ceding Cam­bodian land to North Viet­na­mese forces.

Norodom Sihanouk on Oct 16 wrote a passionate letter posted to his Web site defending his legacy and pledging not to return to Cam­bo­dia.

“Never in my life have I be­trayed the nation. On the contrary, I have protected it without stop,” he wrote.

The letter received almost no cov­erage in Khmer-language media.

TVK Director-General Kem Gun­­a­wath said the omission of the re­ti­red King’s defense did not amount to censorship, explaining that the Ro­yal Cabinet should have no­tified the station and asked for the document to receive coverage.

(Addi­tion­al reporting by Kim Chan and Pin Sisovann)


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