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Comment: The politics of abdication and succession

Comment: The politics of abdication and succession

His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk - who first abdicated the throne in 1955 and

later formed the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime - has spoken of his desire to abdicate

a second time. The following interviews are contained in the latest issue of the

King's Bulletin Mensuel de Documentation, compiled by Royal staff, which was released

hours after His Majesty's departure to China for medical treatment Feb 26. (Unofficial

translation from the original French.)

Interview (Phnom Penh, 14 February, 1997)

BMD TEAM: Sire, do you find it shocking that every year, every month, people are

talking about Your "royal succession"? We consider that people (journalists,

politicians, eminent personalities) are showing a lack of tact in this respect, and

are treating You as though You were "dying" or liable to abdicate or to

be deposed at any moment.

NORODOM SIHANOUK: No, I do not find it shocking, as this all pertains to politics,

which is the raison d'être of journalists, of politicians and of national leaders.

There is a belief among certain Asians that the more people wish (or believe in)

your imminent death, the LONGER your life will be. Since 1991, every year people

have given me one (or at most two) years to live, and I am still alive, which exceeds

the prediction of an excellent Hong Kong astrologer, who had forecast my death at

the age of 74. Today, I am 74 years, 3 months and 14 days old. It is possible that

I shall die this year, in 1997.

Sire, the Hong Kong astrologer in question had [stated] in his written prediction

that You would die "after having put Your Country in order". Do You feel

that You have managed to put our Cambodia in order?

That is for the Cambodian People to say. As for me, I deem that I have done my

duty, as best I could, in the service of the Motherland, the Nation, the People,

Religion. There are moreover things which "constitutionally" come under

the responsibility and authority of the R.G.C., and not on any account under those

of the King.

Sire, the overwhelming majority of our compatriots of both genders, young and

old, secular and religious, are praying that You will live to be a hundred and more,

and that You will continue to reign for a long, a very long time, and thus to be

the "ever so indispensable protective shadow" for the Country, the Nation,

the People, Religion. Apart from the anti-Sihanouk [people], who are a minority,

our compatriots are full of love, of admiration, of gratitude for Your Majesty. Under

these conditions, why do you wish so much to abdicate?

I have never felt at ease as King. On my second abdication I will even give up

my title of "Prince" or "Samdech". I will adopt the title of

"Sir" [Monsieur], but those who love me can call me "Daddy",

"Grandfather", "Great-Grandfather" (without "Samdech").

"Euv", "Ta", "Ta-Tuot", simply, instead of "Samdech

Euv", "Samdech Ta", "Samdech Ta-Tuot". I will, of course,

remain the servant of the People.. after my abdication.

Sire, You have however stated that You would not abdicate before the year 2000?

I said this to set at ease (seriously) those who are afraid that after my abdication,

would run for office, "with my Party", in the 1998 general election.

I will never run for office in that 1998 general election and it is out of the

question that I would resuscitate the S.R.N [Sangkum Reastr Niyum] or set up a new

political 'Party'. Yes, it is more "reassuring" for those who fear my "possibly

re-entering the political arena", for me to abdicate after the 1998 general

election. But there is at the moment an increasingly 'dynamic' 'movement' of 'Republicans'

and other 'anti-Sihanouk' [elements], leading an increasingly slanderous campaign

against me, my wife, the monarchy, and especially the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, going

so far as to accuse the latter of 'bluffing and lying brazenly' as regards its work

of national construction. 'They' are saying, for instance, that at the present time

you have to open your eyes wide open and travel hundreds of kilometers inside Cambodia

before you can find a school that is the work of the S.R.N. Where-as you only have

to walk a few steps to find schools that are the work at H.E. Samdech Hun Sen. The

S.R.N. was the union of the Head of State, of the Royal Government, of the Royal

Administration, of the Buddhist Clergy, of the People relying first and foremost

on themselves to construct the Country and to make it progress in every area. There

are grandiose works of the S.R.N. such as the Royal University of Kompong Cham, which

was razed to the ground by the US Air Force and that of Nguyen Cao Ky (the Saigon

regime) in 1970. Many other works of the S.R.N., including Schools, upper secondary

Schools, lower secondary Schools, The Royal University of Takeo-Kampot, hospitals,

infirmaries, the Kompong Tram sugar Refinery and other industries, irrigation works,

plantations, which were completely destroyed by the 1970-1975 war, by the Pol Potists,

by the 1978-89 war.

The grandiose Royal University of Battambang is no longer in use, but its main Building

is still standing.

And if the S.R.N. had not built the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the Phnom Penh

Olympic Stadium, the Airport in Sihanoukville, that of Battambang, that of Siam Reap-Angkor,

etc... UNTAC and the R.G.C. would have been greatly handicapped in their mission

and in their work.

And what about the new towns such as Sihanoukville, Tbeng Meanchay, Sen Monorom,

Labansiek, Khemarak Phouminville, etc... with their schools, lower and upper secondary

schools, hospitals, etc...? Without the earlier work of the S.R.N., including tracks,

roads, bridges, the R.G.C. would have lacked much 'basic support' for its work of

national rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The big Preah Monivong Bridge over the Bassac, and the ever important one over the

Tonle Sap, called "Japanese bridge"? Their cost was entirely covered by

our National Budget. The same was true for the factories commissioned from Czechoslovakia.

Would the factories [built with] aid from the P.R.C., the Technological University

and the great Hospital [built with] aid from the U.S.S.R., the No. 2 Motorway [built

with] aid from the U.S.A... the port of Sihanoukville [built with] French aid have

existed if the President of S.R.N. hadn't negotiated with the great friendly Countries

involved in these ever so important aid programs.

To come back to the supposedly 'invisible' schools and secondary schools of the S.R.N.,

they are still numerous at the present time. Some of them are dilapidated, but I

am ceaselessly rebuilding them one after the other, with the Civil List. Others have

been renovated completely and have been renamed, which is gradually erasing the name

of the S.R.N. But to slander the S.R.N. is to insult grievously the People and the

Buddhist Clergy themselves, who had accomplished so much with the S.R.N./Royal Government,

to equip the Cambodia of the 50s and 60s and ensure its progress.

And if a list is made out of factories and other major achievements of the S.R.N.

which new and successive Cambodian States have sold to "non-governmental"

[groups], it can be observed that however much one may endeavor to erase all traces

of this work, it will never be possible to hide it from eyes of the new generations.

This being said, it has to be admitted that Republican-Khmers and other anti-Sihanouk

[elements] are today more active than ever and have managed to infiltrate major Parties

in which they hold influential positions and important posts.

My days and those of the Khmer Monarchy are numbered, and this in spite of the fact

that the majority of our People and of our Venerable monks remain extremely attached

to my person.

I am seriously contemplating abdicating, without however wishing to go and live abroad.

But I am faced with a double problem.

First, how to abdicate without being saddled with the responsibility for what may

go awry in Cambodia, and without being accused of wanting to involve myself in the

Country's political life?

Second, could I, once I had relinquished the Throne, live a quiet life inside the

Motherland and close to those who love me and who have asked me not to "flee

abroad" (sic) again, not to "leave them fatherless" (sic)?

Interview (II) (Phnom Penh, 15 February, 1997)

BMD TEAM: Sire, the CPP, on the initiative of H.E. Samdech HUN SEN has 'decided'

to 'elect' H.R.H. Sdech Krom Khun NORODOM SIHAMONI KING of CAMBODIA after Your Reign.

The CPP also envisages the possibility of 'slightly' modifying the 1993 CONSTITUTION

to make possible the election after Your Reign of H.M. Queen NORODOM MONINEATH SIHANOUK


What do you think of all this, Sire?


SIHANOUK feel quite touched by this expression of confidence and affection by H.E.

Samdech HUN SEN and the CPP, but they will not accept to be KING, or QUEEN, since

HE and SHE are supporters of H.R.H. Samdech Krom Preah NORODOM RANARIDDH and HE and

SHE do not want there to be the slightest division or crisis inside our Family.

Sire, we have recently heard FUNCINPEC members say that if FUNCINPEC comes out

of the 1998 general election as a clear victor, the 'pro-Sihamoni and pro-Monineath'

project of Samdech HUN SEN and the CPP would fall through and H.R.H. Samdech NORODOM

RANARIDDH and H.R.H. Princess NORODOM MARIE RANARIDDH would then be elected KING

and QUEEN of Cambodia by the Council of the Throne. Now, according to some polls,

FUNCINPEC would be overwhelmingly beaten by the CPP in the 1998 election. In the

eventuality of an electoral defeat of FUNCINPEC by the CPP in 1998, would it not

be better to allow either H.R.H. SIHAMONI or H.M. Queen MONINEATH to be reigning

KING or QUEEN of CAMBODIA, thereby safeguarding the MONARCHY's chances of longevity,

instead of having the COUNTRY run the risk of becoming unstable, divided and republicanised?

"Let us not put the cart before the horse"! First of all, the National

Assembly should hasten to promulgate a LAW stipulating the rules for the election

of a KING by the Council of the Throne. Must we demand that the KING should be elected

unanimously, or more 'easily' by the 7 or 6 members of the Council of the Throne?

This being said, I wish to emphasize the family relations between NORODOM RANARIDDH,

NORODOM MARIE RANA-RIDDH and NORODOM SIHA-MONI have never been 'perverted' by political

considerations, and are and will remain deeply affectionate ones. Upon my death or

my abdication, the 7 or 6 members of the Council of the Throne will, obviously, have

to meet to elect THE NEW KING. If there is no 'immediate' agreement between those

members on ONE NAME, there will probably be a 'positive issue' after a few days of

talks (the 7-day deadline cannot be exceeded). In brief, Samdech NORODOM RANARIDDH

could be elected KING. Should that not be the case, NORODOM SIHAMONI would have a

very good chance of being elected; he would probably decline that royal 'job' which

he finds 'frightening'. It would then be suggested that NORODOM MONI-NEATH SIHANOUK

could be made 'Reigning Queen' at the cost of a 'little addendum' to Constitutional

stipulations. But the Queen my Wife would probably decline that 'job'. H.E Samdech

CHEA SIM would then be made REGENT until such a day as the remarkable Prince would

be found who does accept to be the new King. Or else H.E Samdech HUN SEN, should

the CPP obtain a total success in the 1998 election, could become Cambodia's Head

of State, as I had been in the days of the S.R.N., between 1960-69, by a unanimous

vote of Parliament. Or again, one could go over to...republicanisation, which would

be very unfortunate for our miserable Country and Peace.


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