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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - King's mysterious penfriend comes back into play

King's mysterious penfriend comes back into play


King Sihanouk: quoted directly by the mysterious Ruom Ritt.


is pen has been mostly idle for years. But the anti-Thai riots of January 29 seem

to have given a spurt of inspiration to King Norodom Sihanouk's most prolific, mysterious

and regularly caustic correspondent.

His name is Ruom Ritt and he lives somewhere in the Pyrenees in France. Whether or

not he even exists is open to conjecture, with some Royal watchers suggesting his

letters may originate from somewhere closer to the Palace itself. Is Ruom Ritt the

King's alter-ego? Palace officials decline to comment on the question.

The latest edition of the Bulletin Mensuel de Documentation (BMD) - King Sihanouk's

publication compiling official correspondence, copies of press clips with the King's

hand-written annotations and other materials - includes five letters penned by Ruom


In a letter dated January 31, Ritt writes:

"Our strong Thai neighbors are expelling from their country all Cambodian 'illegal

immigrants', of which a large part are comprised of beggars.

"...In Phnom Penh, our regime, in its 'brilliant' and 'Goebbels-esque' propaganda,

always speaks about our 'Angkorean race', our Cambodia 'land of Angkor' (!!).

"A Cambodia 'Angkorean' would rather depict conquering Khmers and not Khmer

beggars hated in neighboring countries.

"I wish that our respected and 'so brilliant' regime [would] endow a little

modesty in its unbridled propaganda.

"And [it] should be shamed to put, as well 'indirectly', our so poor compatriots

under the obligation to return to neighboring countries to beg, attracting as well

infinite contempt from our neighbors on our country and our race."

Ritt writes on February 1 about the government's agreement to compensate Thai interests

for the damage done during the riots. He comments:

"If after such a payment, our government and our national budget are still 'standing',

this will be thanks to the generosity of some fabulously rich habitual 'donors'.

"To avoid national ruin, let's count on these respected 'donors'!"

On February 2, Ritt writes about how close Thailand came to sending in armed forces

after the riots. He includes a copy of a February 1 article from the Nation in Bangkok,

noting that His Majesty no doubt has a copy of the same press clip.

February 3 Ritt is back again on what war would have meant, writing:

"Today, the entire world, with the exception of our little, local 'Goebbels'

(Khmers), see clearly that Cambodia (the Second Kingdom) is more fragile than ever."

He wonders what the reaction would have been from the "strong and invincible"

Vietnam. Would they have stood by "with arms crossed" to help this "'gastronomic

special': the Thai 'boa' strangling the Khmer 'rabbit'? Or would they intervene in

Cambodia to, so-called, save it 'once again'?" Ritt writes that such a scenario

would leave Cambodia "practically dead".

"Let's hope that we will only have a nightmare without any possibility of it

manifesting itself into a mortal reality for our country," he concludes.

His last letter, dated February 4, shows what good sources Ritt has within the Palace

as he quotes the King directly. In response to a visit by Sam Rainsy at which the

delegation noted how many Royal medals were being awarded to senior dignitaries,

King Sihanouk is quoted as saying:

"Excellencies, I pardon you more freely than myself, seeing the inflation and,

by consequence, the effective devaluation ... of Royal decorations ... I have renounced

since many years already to wear, as well as at the most important ceremonies ...

our decorations... La plaque de Grand Croix de l'Ordre Royal du Cambodge, I call

it 'the casserole'."

It remains unclear why Ruom Ritt's pen was silent for so long. In any event, he is




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