AFTER a six-month absence, King Norodom Sihanouk was due to return to Cambodia Aug
29, vowing to live in Siem Reap "far from some politicians in Phnom Penh".
The King also announced Aug 18 that he had decided, after much thought, not to step
down from the throne - yet.
"To abdicate at this time...would be to abandon [the Khmer people], to desert
them. Something that a King worthy of his name cannot do," said the King in
his regular bulletin.
However, the King, who has abdicated once before, did not foreclose the possibility
of doing it. He had decided only to remain King "for some additional time",
he said cryptically.
The King had earlier said that he was prepared to abdicate if Hun Sen did not object.
After Hun Sen and newly-elected First Prime Minister Ung Huot visited the King in
Beijing, the King reported that Hun Sen had turned down his offer of abdication.
Upon the delegation's return to Phnom Penh on Aug 14, Hun Sen announced to reporters
that Cambodians "need the King ... If we have no King, all the Cambodian people
would be orphans." He said that he had told the King to consider himself and
Ung Huot "the defenders of the monarchy."
While the Beijing meeting did seemingly settle the abdication question for the moment,
it spawned another controversy. On Aug 14, Ung Huot claimed that when the King had
toasted his health, that had constituted a blessing and recognition of his new title.
But Agence France Presse reported that the King sent a letter on the 14th to his
son, ousted First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh insisting that he did not recognize
"It is not true that I gave my blessing to the new 'team'," the King wrote.
He emphasized that the First PM title would always belong to Ranariddh.
Now, however, despite his distaste for what he called the "politically insupportable
environment" in Cambodia, the King declared his decision to return, saying it
was his "obligation" to the Cambodian people.