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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Crack-down on Royalists despite King's denial of power

Crack-down on Royalists despite King's denial of power

K ING Norodom Sihanouk's repeated pledges not to seek executive power - despite a

professed dislike for Cambodia's government - has not stopped a government

crack-down on those who are promoting the return of regal rule.

The printing of a booklet advocating a greater role for the King was abruptly

halted by a Ministry of Interior raid on a Phnom Penh printing house on Feb

15.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has publicly reaffirmed its

opposition to any change to the constitution-a clear reference to the

stipulation that the King shall reign but not rule.

"We see clearly the current trend toward dismantling the legal government and

violating the constitution," Second Prime Minister and CPP leader Hun Sen told

the Post on Feb 17.

He was speaking after the party's 19th plenum of its central committee in

Phnom Penh, which he said produced a "very unanimous" commitment to protect the

constitution "at all cost and sacrifice".

The King, who has previously dismissed the prospect of seeking political

power, made his most explicit rejection of the idea on Feb 21.

"I do not admire very much this current regime - but I accept it," he said in

a speech at the Bayon temple in Siem Reap province.

"I cannot and will not be willing-those who advise me to take power, it would

be detrimental to the trend of the present government.

"So, no way for Sihanouk to take power. Even if according to my Chinese

doctor I'm still strong. I'm not going to play such a game which is more

dangerous than the present government," he said before a crowed of 200 people,

including his son First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Referring to a letter from Hun Sen expressing concern about his political

ambitions, the King replied: "I said, Your Excellency, you can be sure I have

always been honest. I hate coup d'etat. I was a victim in 1970 of a coup d'etat

by Lon Nol and Sirik Matak, my cousin. And you know that was the beginning of

the misery, the suffering, the humiliation of Cambodia."

The King did not detail his reasons for disliking the government during his

speech.

However he referred to overlogging of Cambodia saying, "Actions spoke louder

than words when it came to protecting forests.

"Before the Lon Nol coup, seventy-three percent of our country was covered

with forests. Today, according to figures which I think are very optimistic,

there is only forty-three percent. But I think we have less than forty percent,"

he said.

Political tension over the King's future role in Cambodia resurfaced on his

return to Cambodia with a number of politicians known to have urged him to seek

executive power.

A December call by Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party president Son Sann for

the King to be given "all powers necessary" to achieve national reconciliation

prompted a fierce response from the CPP.

Three months later, that appeal was

included in the booklet targeted by the Ministry of Interior in its Feb 15

raid.

Some 900-1000 copies of the booklet - of 10,000 copies which were to be

printed - along with other material were seized.

The booklet - entitled "Only the King can save Cambodia - Cambodian people

want peace" - was being produced by the Voice of Khmer Youth (Samleng Yuvachon

Khmer) newspaper.

It contained letters from King Sihanouk and his son First Prime Minister

Norodom Ranariddh on the King's call for national reconciliation, and the Son

Sann statement.

There was also a Voice of Khmer Youth commentary, entitled "The constitution

is not a problem blocking the search for peace", sharply critical of those who

opposed a political return by the King.

Voice of Khmer Youth sub-editor Ou Sovan said the ministry officials did not

present any warrant, court order or written government decision authorising the

seizure.

The newspaper - which had intended selling the booklet - responded by

printing the booklet's entire contents in its next day's edition.

Minister of Information Ieng Mouly cited two reasons for the ministry's

action to the Post.

Firstly, the Kingdom's logo had been put of the front of the booklet, which

he said could confuse people into believing it was published "by an institution

of the Royal government".

Secondly, he said the booklet had no statement of who was responsible for its

publication. If it was produced by Voice of Khmer Youth, legally that had to be

stated.

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