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Unlikely comparison

The Editor,

I n his intriguing article (Feb 23-Mar 7), Dr Lao Mong Hay suggests a comparison

which particularly tickled me, as a Belgian. Queen Monineath "would be more

like King Baudouin of Belgium". This comparison, unless it derives from their

shared "limited political stature", might be based on the deep social concerns

of the late Belgian king, especially in his latter years. Indeed, among the witnesses

who spoke at his funeral mass were an AIDS specialist and a very young Filipino girl

who had been abducted into sex slavery by an international ring...very relevant issues,

alas, in a 1990's Cambodian context.

However, King Baudouin was also a somewhat bigoted Roman Catholic, who had to be

declared incompetent for one day so that a law depenalising abortion, and voted by

both chambers of parliament, could be adopted without his signature.

Even more worrying perhaps, given the present Cambodian uncertainties, echoed in

the article, Baudouin succeeded his father at a very young age, and as a desperate

attempt to solve a major crisis, the "Question Royale". It was felt, rightly

or wrongly (or somewhere in between), by a good half of the population that his father

had been distinctly lacking in hostility towards the Nazi occupiers of Belgium, and

they wanted to get rid of him, and of the monarchy. This was finally averted, but

the early years of Baudouin's reign were certainly not happy ones.

Comparisons are notoriously slippery, and adoptions can also lead to unforeseen tribulations.

Queen Monineath could be adopted by the King, says Lao Mong Hay, but haven't some

leaders already been adopted by him, as his "son" or "brother"?

This led a prominent expatriate Khmer to suggest to me, half-facetiously, when the

succession problem was first raised, in 1994, that Mr Chea Sim might be Cambodia's

next king...

One last point, as I share with the author a strong Welsh connection: what does he

suggest the hapless Prince of Wales should do?... perhaps improve Cambodia's trashy-rich

90's architecture?

- Philippe Hunt, Phnom Penh



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