Royals Could Initiate Political Exit: Hun Sen

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that the CPP will not push for the removal of royal family members from politics, but suggested that the royals themselves could initiate their own political retirement.

If royals were to write a letter to the National Assembly or the government agreeing to stay out of politics, a law would then be drafted to keep them financially supported after they stepped down, he said.

“We can prepare a payroll for them,” Hun Sen said outside Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Theat­er, where he had attended a ceremony to award honorary doctorates to two senior officials.

“We won’t let them have to farm or drive cyclos,” he added.

But Hun Sen said his offer would only stand until the 2008 national election.

“This will be allowed before 2008. After 2008, it will be finished,” he said.

Hun Sen reiterated that his CPP was the true protector of the Cam­bodian monarchy.

“The CPP is protecting the monarchy and members of the royalty are opposing the CPP,” Hun Sen said. “What does this mean? So, if you oppose the protector of the monarchy then it means you are opposing the monarchy.”

Hun Sen also targeted unnam­ed royals who he said owe money or are being dragged into lawsuits.

“How do they protect the entire monarchy if they cannot protect themselves?” he asked.

Hun Sen’s comments follow on the heels of a Friday message by retired King Norodom Sihanouk, in which he floated the possibility of royals receiving pensions in return for agreeing to stay out of politics.

The prime minister claimed in his remarks to reporters that he had made a similar argument over a decade ago.

“I used to raise the point in 1996: To keep the value of the monarchy and the royal family, members of the royalty should leave politics,” Hun Sen said.

“Then, there was a bitter re­sponse that they said we feared losing” to the royals at the polls, he added.

Prince Sisowath Sirirath, first deputy president of Funcinpec, said Monday that royals do not want to quit politics.

“We want to serve the nation as other citizens do,” he said. “We don’t want to mooch off the people. We want to do the work and get paid just like other people.”

Prince Sirirath, formerly the co-minister of defense, added that one or two royals might have personal troubles, but it is not fair to judge all royals as a whole based on them.

Prince Norodom Chakrapong, deputy president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said people should not be focusing on Cam­bodian royals participating in politics, but on illegal immigrants who have been registered to vote in forthcoming elections.

“There are not many of us, so don’t worry about us,” Prince Chakrapong said of the royals.

Prince Sisowath Thomico of the Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party said he believed no law should be passed preventing royals from taking part in the political life of the country.

Prince Thomico said that he had kept away from politics for most of his life, but recently felt compelled to enter the fray because “the situation in Cambo­dia was critical.”

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