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Return of the king

King Father Norodom Sihanouk greets the crowd yesterday during a speech at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

Retired King Preah Norodom Sihanouk has come home – this time, for good. In his first public address since abdicating the throne in 2004, the King Father, who has spent much of the past several years living in Beijing, yesterday announced that he planned to reside in Cambodia indefinitely.

Speaking on the occasion of his 90th-birthday celebrations, the former king told a crowd of about 40,000  he would no longer travel outside the country but instead spend his remaining years supporting the ruling CPP government and national development in the Kingdom.

“I was born on October 31, 1922  . . . I will be 90 years old, so allow me to stay with you, beloved children and grandchildren,” the King Father told  a crowd of government officials, diplomats, members of the Senate and National Assembly, civil servants, armed forces and citizens gathered outside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

During his speech, which ran nearly half an hour, the former sovereign said his plan to stay exclus-ively in Cambodia would mean an end to his frequent medical treatment in Beijing.

Norodom Sihanouk was diagnosed with B-Cell lymphoma in his prostate in 1993. The cancer returned in his stomach in 2005, and another cancer was found in 2008.

He has been receiving medical treatment off and on in Beijing ever since.

“Even if my health is still a problem and I need to have Chinese doctors every day . . . we [King Father and Mother] have absolutely decided not to leave Cambodia,” Norodom Sihan-ouk said yesterday.

“We are happy to make this decis-ion, and when it is necessary to have our great friend China take care of my health, please send the Chinese doctors to Cambodia.”

The retired king’s 90th birthday coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords, which en-abled his return to the Kingdom from exile in 1991 after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge.

“All my great beloved . . . I appreciate your devotion to national development. We have a national unity, resolving all problems for the nation, such as for the poor. I am retired, but will remain with the government to help  the nation’s development,” he said.

“We are happy, as it is the first time to have national unity, and no one can break [this national unity] or weaken it – for sure, we will be stronger and stronger.”

Speaking prior to the King Father, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the CPP was determined to pay strong attention to the protection of the monarchy, the Constitution, political stability and national reconciliation.

“The CPP and the government have always expressed high respect, love, gratitude and loyalty to the [King Father] as the father of unity and the national reconciliation,” Hun Sen said.



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