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More royals could face political exit

More royals could face political exit

Officials deny agenda behind naming more royal advisers

TWENTY-SIX members of the royal family have been given positions within the King's advisory council, according to a copy of a palace decree obtained by the Post Thursday, in a sweeping move that could see the exit of royals from Cambodian politics.  

The Constitution prohibits officials from holding a post in the royal council and government at the same time.

The royal family and government officials, however, have denied that any political agenda influenced the new appointments.  

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People's Party, congratulated the move and said no political pressure lay behind it.

"We don't know if this means the royals are done with politics. It's still their right to be involved," he said.

Others, like Prince Sisowath Sirirath, a former co-minister of defence who is one of the newly-appointed royal advisers, maintained that the move did not spell the end of royal involvement in politics, saying that the monarchy had been a "unifying force" throughout Cambodia's turbulent history.

It is "an honor and a privilege to be called on by the King", he said, calling  the occasion "a proud day for the royal family".  

The appointments follow the naming of Prince Norodom Ranariddh as King Norodom Sihamoni's top adviser.

Ranariddh, a former co-prime minister and the royal family's most high-profile politician, has since quit politics after seeing his career spiral downwards at the hand, observers say, of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

But he insisted last month's appointment had nothing to do with his decision to retire. Rather, it was the CPP's overwhelming victory in July national polls that caused him to leave the political arena.

"I accepted the decision of the people. The selection of the country leader is not for Norodom Ranariddh to make," he told supporters in Siem Reap earlier this week.

Included among the new advisers are Princess Norodom Marie, the estranged wife of Prince Ranariddh, and a former senior minister, and royalist political veteran Prince Sisowath Thomico.