Retired King To Seek Exile if Throne Threatened

Retired King Norodom Siha­nouk said Sunday he would willingly leave Cambodia if the monarchy were abolished, and that he intends to proceed with a trip to China planned for later this year.

The statement followed his an­nouncement Friday that unspecified but critical threats to the mon­archy had caused him to consider seeking political asylum abroad.

In a two-page letter obtained Monday, the 85-year-old retired King sought to correct a news re­port that King Norodom Sihamoni was contemplating abdication.

“No, this is not about abdication but exile without protest in case in Phnom Penh the Monarchy should be abolished,” the retired King wrote in the letter.

After departing Aug 1 to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing, King Sihamoni, the retired King and the Queen Mother Norodom Monineath will undergo routine medical examinations as part of travel plans established “long months since,” Norodom Siha­nouk wrote.

“After this check up, HM [King Sihamoni] will return to Cambo­dia,” he added.

“My Wife and I shall remain for a time in Beijing to undergo general checkups and medical care,” the letter said, without specifying what the retired King and Queen plan to do beyond that.

Royal Palace cabinet member Oum Daravuth said Monday he did not know what threats to the monarchy had caused Norodom Sihanouk’s announcement but added that Sunday’s letter clarified the retired King’s intentions.

“This message shows his scheduled [departure] Aug 1 to China. This is to avoid any rumors. This is showing his schedule,” he said, adding that he did not know when or if a return from Beijing was planned.

In the statement released Friday, Norodom Sihanouk also called on political parties to stop referring to the monarchy in their election platforms, as this risked hastening its demise.

Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Channtha said Monday that recent comments by the prime minister had upset the retired King.

Responding to criticism from Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who is in self-imposed exile abroad, Prime Minister Hun Sen in recent speeches has said misconduct by the Nepalese royal family had caused its downfall. Nepal abolish­ed its 239-year-old Hindu monarchy May 28.

“Hun Sen referred to the Nepal monarchy abolishment,” Much Channtha said by telephone, add­ing that the prime minister in April also barred ruling party members from addressing royal family politicians as “prince” or “princess.”

“Only Hun Sen, not the other po­litical parties, have criticized the monarchy,” Muth Channtha said.

Government spokesman and In­formation Minister Khieu Kanhar­ith declined to comment on Noro­dom Sihanouk’s written statements, but said Muth Channtha was wrong.

“When government officials are sworn into office, they show they respect the Constitution, which is to protect the monarchy,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Hun Sen’s comments concerned only Prince Ranariddh and did not concern the monarchy, he said.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)


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