AN extremely pessimistic King Norodom Sihanouk says he expects to die in exile to
avoid inflaming another catastrophic "civil war", and that he doubts the
In the latest issue of his monthly bulletin he suggests that Second Prime Minister
Hun Sen will not let him resolve the nation's worsening problems, and that even his
amnesty will not see Prince Norodom Ranariddh return to Cambodia.
Ranariddh was sentenced in absentia by a military court to five years in prison for
weapons charges on March 4. He is awaiting a second trial and likely conviction for
colluding with the Khmer Rouge.
Listing a litany of ills facing Cambodia - including deforestation, labor troubles
and unrelenting poverty - the King says if he tries to solve them he would bring
about large-scale fighting because Hun Sen does not want him to wield any power.
"The man in power in Phnom Penh will never allow me to be involved from nearby
or from afar in the peace process, elections, democracy, [guaranteeing] respect for
human rights, protecting our forests and archeological treasures, etc..." he
wrote in a Feb 11 letter to Son Sann, a Constitutional Council appointee who returned
to Cambodia on March 11.
"Should I dare be involved in these processes, it will be a civil war with the
armed forces, the police, etc... on one side and those who would fight voluntarily
for me and our mutual patriotic ideals on the other."
The King's letter was in response to a Feb 5 letter from Son Sann, the 86-year-old
founder of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, who had said Cambodia's friends
would be prepared to step in if only the King would call on them.
But the King, discounting that possibility, warned that the resulting war would be
far bloodier and more catastrophic than the current "very small" war between
the resistance and Hun Sen's loyalists.
He cautioned his former battlefield ally not to count on "substantial and determined
assistance from 'friends' abroad".
The King has repeatedly expressed frustration over Hun Sen's rejections of his offers
to solve the ongoing crisis.
Sihanouk, who hurriedly left Cambodia on Jan 5, complaining of CPP-affiliated media
attacks against him, is expected to return next month.
The CPP promised at a four-day party plenum last week to warmly welcome the King's
return and to encourage the government to allow the UN Center for Human Rights office
to operate for two more years.
However, comments by party vice-president Hun Sen may reinforce Sihanouk's bleak
view of the July elections that he has repeatedly claimed will not be free or fair.
Hun Sen warned the party's leadership that electoral defeat would spell disaster
for them and the nation, according to a report from Associated Press.
"The elections could mean life or death for the national interests, the party's
interests and the interests of each official," he said.
"If we win, everything will improve, but if we lose, the consequences are beyond
prediction... Victory or defeat of the party means victory or defeat for all of us."
While the return of the 75-year-old monarch has been encouraged by some local and
international political figures, his recent comments are not optimistic of that happening.
A bulletin correspondent named Ruom Ritt - widely considered a Sihanouk nom-de-plume
- wrote that the elections will be an "ignoble farce".
He also "beseeched" Sihanouk "not to return to Cambodia where you
will be ceaselessly trampled on and humiliated.
"You will not save democracy and human rights that are dead and no one, alas,
will resuscitate them," Ritt wrote.
The monarch also debunked international efforts to broker a solution to the political
impasse facing Cambodia, calling the Japanese-sponsored peace plan "naive".
"[They] have many illusions and much wishful thinking," the King wrote
in annotations to news reports in his bulletin. "It is best to strip the naive
of their illusions."
According to the peace plan which has Hun Sen's official support, Ranariddh - after
being convicted in both trials - is to have a family member ask the King to pardon
him. At that time, the door will be open for him to return as a free man to campaign.
Sihanouk has said he would amnesty Ranariddh on request, but that he expects to lose
the throne if he does so. "This 'Japanese plan' will inevitably face failure,"
the King summed up.
"Even with a 'Royal amnesty' [Prince] Ranariddh will not take part in elections,"
the King wrote.
Ranariddh, meanwhile, continues to say he hopes to return to Cambodia as soon as
his name is cleared, possibly in the days following his widely-expected March 17
conviction on charges of colluding with the Khmer Rouge - a hope the King also shot
"The Prince is very wrong to announce his 'pending return'. If ever he is unable
to keep his word, he will lose credibility and his political career will be at an
"If he returns, it will be a prison that awaits him. And even if he benefits
from a Royal 'pardon', he will be banned from elections. Don't pretend to ignore
these aspects of the 'Ranariddh problem'," the King wrote. "If [Prince]
Ranariddh returns to Cambodia, I cannot save him from a likely accident."
He also wrote that the Friends of Cambodia - a group that includes the European Union,
the US, Russia, Japan and ASEAN - "are dreaming" when they stress the need
for genuine opposition ahead of the polls.
The last portion of the King's letter to Son Sann sums up the pessimistic tone found
throughout the latest issue of his bulletin. The ailing monarch suggested that he
is ready to spend his final days helpless and in self-exile, to avoid spilling more
Khmer blood or returning to offer tacit support to a farce election with an ersatz
"Like Your Excellency, I aspire to serve our people and die on Cambodian soil.
But the sky does not allow us to achieve all our patriotic dreams. Me, I think that
I will die far from our Fatherland."