PRINCE Norodom Sihamoni has left his post as a Paris-based cultural ambassador and
accepted an invitation from his father to help with a dance production in Phnom Penh,
increasing speculation that he will succeed him as king.
Sihamoni, 51, has spent most of the past 37 years outside Cambodia. He has been Cambodia's
ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) for the past 11 years.
King Sihanouk, 81, has said he will return to Cambodia on September 27 and has asked
Sihamoni, who studied dance in Prague and once directed a ballet company, to assist
with the choreography of performances set to the King's own compositions.
The King has also asked archivists and researchers to meet him in Beijing before
the end of the month to help organize his personal letters and other documents. It
is believed his papers are destined for the Ecole Francaise d' Extreme Orient, and
an Australian university.
Sihamoni's half-brother, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, returned from Beijing after he
and Prime Minister Hun Sen met with Sihanouk, saying the King was satisfied at being
presented with a law on the Throne Council, which he hoped would be established as
soon as possible with a simple majority of the nine members empowered to elect the
"I and Samdech Hun Sen agreed on the request of the King, and the two main political
parties CPP [Cambodian People's Party] and Funcinpec are ready to prepare the draft
law for the National Assembly," said Ranariddh, Funcinpec president.
Ranariddh has reaffirmed that he is not interested in the throne and has given Sihamoni
his full endorsement, warning that failure to elect a successor would be dangerous
for the nation.
"I would like to support the candidacy of Samdech Krom Khun Norodom Sihamoni,"
said Ranariddh on August 31. "I have no aim for the throne and will not resign
from my political affairs."
Overseeing the appointment of his successor is considered the last great act for
Sihanouk, who is said to be serious about abdicating after more than six decades
of ruling the country as king or prime minister.
"The key question [for the king] is, 'How do I guarantee the succession' and
the answer is, 'By stepping down'," said a political observer.
On August 31 the King gave Sihamoni the title Samdech Preah Baromneath; Prince Norodom
Yuvaneath, 61, became Samdech Preah Barom Rama; Prince Norodom Chakrapong, 59, Samdech
Preah Mohessara; and Princess Norodom Arun Rasmei, 49, Samdech Reachbotrei Preah
In other political news, Hun Sen cancelled his planned visit to meet United Nations
secretary general Kofi Annan in New York later this month, and will send Foreign
Minister Hor Namhong instead.