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France my preferred exile: King

France my preferred exile: King

KING Norodom Sihanouk has stated he would chose France as his preferred country of

exile if he was either forced to abdicate or if he was deposed. The King's latest

public musings came in an interview with his Equipe du BMD, a supposed editorial

team for his Palace Monthly Bulletin.

In a copy of an interview published April 22 and sent to the media, the King is quoted

as saying:

"If, for one reason or for another, I must abdicate or if I am 'deposed', I

will see, according to that which will dictate my conscience as a patriot, if I must

continue to publish or not the BMD. The country of my exile will probably be France.

I adore the [People's Republic of] China, but I don't want to bother them in their

relations with the Cambodian Government."

Sihanouk's concerns over his own future as King come amid an on-going squabble over

his most regular pen-friend, Ruom Ritt, who sends the King letters criticizing the

government from somewhere in the Pyrénées, but which many Palace-watchers

speculate are actually written by the King himself.

On April 21 Prime Minister Hun Sen accused Ruom Ritt of sowing confusion in the Kingdom

and demanded to know Ritt's address. He also demanded "justice" for Ritt's

perceived insults. The King replied that Ritt's address had to remain a secret as

he feared assassination.

Ritt's caustic epistles had been absent from the BMD since 1997, but they made a

blistering comeback early this year. Since the anti-Thai riots on January 29, every

issue of the BMD carried up to a half dozen Ritt diatribes taking aim at all kinds

of public issues, including government corruption, deforestation, poverty, and the

preponderance of Royal medals being awarded for cash payments.

While the BMD has a limited circulation, and Ritt's letters are published only in

French, his caustic tone obviously tweaked the noses of more than a few government

officials.

On April 10 Sihanouk issued a press release saying that Ritt's letters would no longer

be published.

"Mister Ruom Ritt has the assurance of my most profound and indissoluble affection.

But his letters (published in the BMD) are causing me some major troubles,"

the King wrote. He said he would ask Ritt to content himself with sending the King

only "personal" letters in the future.

King Sihanouk has been publishing the BMD since 1970. As far as its future - minus

the effusive Ruom Ritt - the King told his BMD team on April 22: "Concerning

the future of the BMD, it will be like that of my [own] future. If I die, the BMD

will die at the same time. If I am no longer King, the BMD will cease to come out."

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