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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - For Thailand's kings, relative to Cambodia's, lese majeste is more

For Thailand's kings, relative to Cambodia's, lese majeste is more

Though the Thai government regularly invokes its royalty-protecting regulation, Cambodia's king and govt have taken a laid-back approach.

CAN you get in trouble for insulting the Cambodian King? Under Thailand's notorious lese majeste laws, one can be jailed for failing to stand up for the national anthem or publicly criticising the monarchy.

But sources close to the royal family say that though open insults could get you into hot water, similar laws in Cambodia have been tempered by an established precedent of open expression.

Ambiguous
The constitution itself paints an ambiguous picture: Article 7 states that the "person of the King shall be inviolable", and Article 18 that "royal messages shall not be subjected to discussion by the National Assembly" - but both are far from the sort of punitive laws that exist in other monarchies.

Someone wandered down from the palace and said 'i don't think you should sell that'.

Less strict
Julio Jeldres, King Father Norodom Sihanouk's official biographer, said that the Cambodian government is much less strict than that of Thailand or Jordan, where people are still serving lengthy jail terms for lese majeste offences.
"In Cambodia, King Sihanouk was the first to signal that he was not going to send to jail writers or journalists that were critical of him," he said.

He said that in his own writings on the royal family he was "completely free" to write whatever he wanted, but "naturally, I am always aware that there are certain boundaries".

But how far can one push the envelope? Australian historian Milton Osborne's book Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness was banned for about four weeks in 1994 for its less-than-charitable assessment of the then-King.

Casual ban
But even the author himself cast light on the casual nature of the "ban".

"One day, soon after the book was released [in Lucky Market], someone wandered down from the palace and said, 'I don't think you should sell that', and so they took it off the shelves," Osborne said in an interview with the Post last year. "A month later it was back."

Royal privileges
Although his son Norodom Sihamoni is the new king, the Cambodian parliament conferred upon Sihanouk following his abdication the title of "Great and Valorous King" enabling him to retain the same privileges and immunities as those constitutionally conferred upon the reigning monarch.

This was subsequently enshrined in the Law on the Titles and Privileges of the Former King and Queen of Cambodia on October 29, 2004.

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