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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Comment: Adopt the Queen - or drop the gender prejudice?

Comment: Adopt the Queen - or drop the gender prejudice?

A MENDING the Constitution by adding the word "adopted", allowing for the

enthronement of Queen Norodom Monineath, could create many problems for the throne

in the future. It could open a "Pandora's Box" - an endless list of every

by-blood descendant and adopted descendant of Kings Ang Duong, Norodom and Sisowath,

who are otherwise qualified for the succession.

The Constitution is a long-lasting law intended for multiple generations, and should

be changed only to suit special circumstances. If the word "adopted" were

added, even with the approval of the Royal family and the Royal Council of the Throne,

this could decrease the meaning of the by-blood continuity of the dynasties of the

Ang Duong, Norodom and Sisowath.

This would diminish the heritage and continuity of the throne, because if the monarchy

had "adopted" kings or queens for two or three consecutive reigns, they

would have their own extended families. Therefore, for better or worse, they would

spend time, energy and wealth to support their "real" families. If the

"adopted" king or queen adopted another person of common birth, then the

dynasties of the three kings would sooner or later weaken or disappear.

Internal conflicts might arise, not just between the members of the Royal family

who have regal ambitions, but also between the "by-blood" and the "adopted"

Royals. This will lead to internal and external interference from whoever the crisis

might benefit. Also, this sort of arrangement for transferring the throne from one

person to another looks and sounds more like transferring a job in the government,

rather than a succession.

Based on the dictionary of the supreme monk, Samdech Sangha Raja Chuon Nath, the

word "paccha" means descendant. The word "nati" means family

or clan. Added together, the phrase "Preah raja pachha nati" means children,

grand-children, great grand-children and so on. The dictionary also adds that in

Cambodian civil law, "nati" is a person who comes from one family or clan.

One can try to assure that internal and external interference never happens, by ensuring

that the election for the throne has been lawfully conducted in conformance with

the Constitution. Nothing is plain sailing though: King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand

was lawfully elected to the throne but has gone through many military coups that

unsuccessfully tried to depose him.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: "Are we ready to accept Queen Norodom

Monineath Sihanouk as the future monarch after King Sihanouk?" If yes, then

should we amend the Constitution to suit? If yes again, Article 14 in Chapter 2 of

the Constitution should be amended thus: "The King or Queen of Cambodia shall

be a member of the Royal family, of at least 30-years-old descending from the blood

line of Kings Ang Duong, Norodom or Sisowath, or the supreme wife of the King or

the husband of the Queen who themselves are from the blood line of Kings Ang Duong,

Norodom or Sisowath."

The benefit of the proposed amendment is to limit the list of candidates eligible

for the throne, but also to provide flexibility in special circumstances. Further

we should ask: "Do we really want the husband of the Queen to be eligible for

the throne as well?" Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, cannot ascend to the

British Throne.

Another issue that should be considered is the gender of the candidates. In the Constitution,

only a male member of the Royal family is eligible for the throne.

Cambodian queens such as Liv Yi, Indra Devi and Kossomak Neary Rath played important

roles in upgrading Cambodian prestige, glory, heritage and traditions.

Some countries that are well developed in terms of democracy, human rights and economics,

such as Denmark, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, have queens as symbolic

heads.

Thailand amended its Constitution this decade to allow female Royals who are first

in line for the throne to be crowned princesses. The Thai people admire and respect

their princesses, and some hope that H.R.H. Samdech Chakri Sirindorn will be able

to succeed her father the King, even though she is not first in line.

So, can we copy those models? Would it be a better way to achieve flexibility, and

promote equal opportunity and gender fairness, rather than the "adopted"

change?

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