King Sihanouk: quoted directly by the mysterious Ruom Ritt.
is pen has been mostly idle for years. But the anti-Thai riots of January 29 seem
to have given a spurt of inspiration to King Norodom Sihanouk's most prolific, mysterious
and regularly caustic correspondent.
His name is Ruom Ritt and he lives somewhere in the Pyrenees in France. Whether or
not he even exists is open to conjecture, with some Royal watchers suggesting his
letters may originate from somewhere closer to the Palace itself. Is Ruom Ritt the
King's alter-ego? Palace officials decline to comment on the question.
The latest edition of the Bulletin Mensuel de Documentation (BMD) - King Sihanouk's
publication compiling official correspondence, copies of press clips with the King's
hand-written annotations and other materials - includes five letters penned by Ruom
In a letter dated January 31, Ritt writes:
"Our strong Thai neighbors are expelling from their country all Cambodian 'illegal
immigrants', of which a large part are comprised of beggars.
"...In Phnom Penh, our regime, in its 'brilliant' and 'Goebbels-esque' propaganda,
always speaks about our 'Angkorean race', our Cambodia 'land of Angkor' (!!).
"A Cambodia 'Angkorean' would rather depict conquering Khmers and not Khmer
beggars hated in neighboring countries.
"I wish that our respected and 'so brilliant' regime [would] endow a little
modesty in its unbridled propaganda.
"And [it] should be shamed to put, as well 'indirectly', our so poor compatriots
under the obligation to return to neighboring countries to beg, attracting as well
infinite contempt from our neighbors on our country and our race."
Ritt writes on February 1 about the government's agreement to compensate Thai interests
for the damage done during the riots. He comments:
"If after such a payment, our government and our national budget are still 'standing',
this will be thanks to the generosity of some fabulously rich habitual 'donors'.
"To avoid national ruin, let's count on these respected 'donors'!"
On February 2, Ritt writes about how close Thailand came to sending in armed forces
after the riots. He includes a copy of a February 1 article from the Nation in Bangkok,
noting that His Majesty no doubt has a copy of the same press clip.
February 3 Ritt is back again on what war would have meant, writing:
"Today, the entire world, with the exception of our little, local 'Goebbels'
(Khmers), see clearly that Cambodia (the Second Kingdom) is more fragile than ever."
He wonders what the reaction would have been from the "strong and invincible"
Vietnam. Would they have stood by "with arms crossed" to help this "'gastronomic
special': the Thai 'boa' strangling the Khmer 'rabbit'? Or would they intervene in
Cambodia to, so-called, save it 'once again'?" Ritt writes that such a scenario
would leave Cambodia "practically dead".
"Let's hope that we will only have a nightmare without any possibility of it
manifesting itself into a mortal reality for our country," he concludes.
His last letter, dated February 4, shows what good sources Ritt has within the Palace
as he quotes the King directly. In response to a visit by Sam Rainsy at which the
delegation noted how many Royal medals were being awarded to senior dignitaries,
King Sihanouk is quoted as saying:
"Excellencies, I pardon you more freely than myself, seeing the inflation and,
by consequence, the effective devaluation ... of Royal decorations ... I have renounced
since many years already to wear, as well as at the most important ceremonies ...
our decorations... La plaque de Grand Croix de l'Ordre Royal du Cambodge, I call
it 'the casserole'."
It remains unclear why Ruom Ritt's pen was silent for so long. In any event, he is