Retired King’s Pen Pal Stirs More Controversy

Retired King Norodom Sihan­ouk’s pen pal Ruom Ritt wrote a letter Monday, suggesting that King Norodom Sihamoni would abdicate the throne after his father’s death, and that his half-brother Prince Norodom Rana­riddh would take his place.

Using pseudonyms for his subjects, Ruom Ritt said that a “group of important Machiavellians” will “provoke the fall of ‘the royal throne’ of King Sihimona and re­place him, as ‘Sovereign,’ by the very intelligent, very experienced, and very deserving half-brother, the Great Lord Riddharan.”

He added in the letter posted on Norodom Sihanouk’s Web site that “Soukhani”—apparently re­ferring to Norodom Sihan­ouk—and “Sihimona are knowledgeable of this ‘Machiavellian plan,’” and that the latter vowed to abdicate at an opportune time.

Prince Ranariddh on Tuesday denied harboring aspirations to ascend the throne after Noro­dom Sihanouk’s death.“I have no in­tention, I would like to strongly deny” wanting to head the mon­archy, he told reporters outside the National Assembly. “This is an insult,” he said of the letter.

Many have previously questioned whether Ruom Ritt is in fact a pen name for Norodom Siha­nouk. Such speculation has anger­ed the retired King in the past.

Ruom Ritt’s controversial letters returned to Norodom Siha­nouk’s Web site last week after more than a year of silence.

Koul Panha, director of the Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elec­­tions, said Ruom Ritt’s latest message may have intended to signal what could happen if the constitutionality of the king’s abdication remains in question.

Though the Constitution says the King must be head of state for life, the Throne Council law allows for his abdication.

“This can be manipulated by politicians,” Koul Panha said Tues­day. “I think this [letter] is just to prevent something like this from happening,” he said.

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