Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Morose King slams donors, says Prince won't run

Morose King slams donors, says Prince won't run

Morose King slams donors, says Prince won't run

AN extremely pessimistic King Norodom Sihanouk says he expects to die in exile to

avoid inflaming another catastrophic "civil war", and that he doubts the

nation's future.

In the latest issue of his monthly bulletin he suggests that Second Prime Minister

Hun Sen will not let him resolve the nation's worsening problems, and that even his

amnesty will not see Prince Norodom Ranariddh return to Cambodia.

Ranariddh was sentenced in absentia by a military court to five years in prison for

weapons charges on March 4. He is awaiting a second trial and likely conviction for

colluding with the Khmer Rouge.

Listing a litany of ills facing Cambodia - including deforestation, labor troubles

and unrelenting poverty - the King says if he tries to solve them he would bring

about large-scale fighting because Hun Sen does not want him to wield any power.

"The man in power in Phnom Penh will never allow me to be involved from nearby

or from afar in the peace process, elections, democracy, [guaranteeing] respect for

human rights, protecting our forests and archeological treasures, etc..." he

wrote in a Feb 11 letter to Son Sann, a Constitutional Council appointee who returned

to Cambodia on March 11.

"Should I dare be involved in these processes, it will be a civil war with the

armed forces, the police, etc... on one side and those who would fight voluntarily

for me and our mutual patriotic ideals on the other."

The King's letter was in response to a Feb 5 letter from Son Sann, the 86-year-old

founder of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, who had said Cambodia's friends

would be prepared to step in if only the King would call on them.

But the King, discounting that possibility, warned that the resulting war would be

far bloodier and more catastrophic than the current "very small" war between

the resistance and Hun Sen's loyalists.

He cautioned his former battlefield ally not to count on "substantial and determined

assistance from 'friends' abroad".

The King has repeatedly expressed frustration over Hun Sen's rejections of his offers

to solve the ongoing crisis.

Sihanouk, who hurriedly left Cambodia on Jan 5, complaining of CPP-affiliated media

attacks against him, is expected to return next month.

The CPP promised at a four-day party plenum last week to warmly welcome the King's

return and to encourage the government to allow the UN Center for Human Rights office

to operate for two more years.

However, comments by party vice-president Hun Sen may reinforce Sihanouk's bleak

view of the July elections that he has repeatedly claimed will not be free or fair.

Hun Sen warned the party's leadership that electoral defeat would spell disaster

for them and the nation, according to a report from Associated Press.

"The elections could mean life or death for the national interests, the party's

interests and the interests of each official," he said.

"If we win, everything will improve, but if we lose, the consequences are beyond

prediction... Victory or defeat of the party means victory or defeat for all of us."

While the return of the 75-year-old monarch has been encouraged by some local and

international political figures, his recent comments are not optimistic of that happening.

A bulletin correspondent named Ruom Ritt - widely considered a Sihanouk nom-de-plume

- wrote that the elections will be an "ignoble farce".

He also "beseeched" Sihanouk "not to return to Cambodia where you

will be ceaselessly trampled on and humiliated.

"You will not save democracy and human rights that are dead and no one, alas,

will resuscitate them," Ritt wrote.

The monarch also debunked international efforts to broker a solution to the political

impasse facing Cambodia, calling the Japanese-sponsored peace plan "naive".

"[They] have many illusions and much wishful thinking," the King wrote

in annotations to news reports in his bulletin. "It is best to strip the naive

of their illusions."

According to the peace plan which has Hun Sen's official support, Ranariddh - after

being convicted in both trials - is to have a family member ask the King to pardon

him. At that time, the door will be open for him to return as a free man to campaign.

Sihanouk has said he would amnesty Ranariddh on request, but that he expects to lose

the throne if he does so. "This 'Japanese plan' will inevitably face failure,"

the King summed up.

"Even with a 'Royal amnesty' [Prince] Ranariddh will not take part in elections,"

the King wrote.

Ranariddh, meanwhile, continues to say he hopes to return to Cambodia as soon as

his name is cleared, possibly in the days following his widely-expected March 17

conviction on charges of colluding with the Khmer Rouge - a hope the King also shot

down.

"The Prince is very wrong to announce his 'pending return'. If ever he is unable

to keep his word, he will lose credibility and his political career will be at an

end.

"If he returns, it will be a prison that awaits him. And even if he benefits

from a Royal 'pardon', he will be banned from elections. Don't pretend to ignore

these aspects of the 'Ranariddh problem'," the King wrote. "If [Prince]

Ranariddh returns to Cambodia, I cannot save him from a likely accident."

He also wrote that the Friends of Cambodia - a group that includes the European Union,

the US, Russia, Japan and ASEAN - "are dreaming" when they stress the need

for genuine opposition ahead of the polls.

The last portion of the King's letter to Son Sann sums up the pessimistic tone found

throughout the latest issue of his bulletin. The ailing monarch suggested that he

is ready to spend his final days helpless and in self-exile, to avoid spilling more

Khmer blood or returning to offer tacit support to a farce election with an ersatz

opposition.

"Like Your Excellency, I aspire to serve our people and die on Cambodian soil.

But the sky does not allow us to achieve all our patriotic dreams. Me, I think that

I will die far from our Fatherland."

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