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Royal abdication threat ignites war of words

Royal abdication threat ignites war of words

THE King's suggestion that he may abdicate sparked a fresh wave of rhetoric between

the Prime Ministers, as Hun Sen threatened to call off planned elections and Prince

Norodom Ranariddh was moved to defend his right to be in politics.

Second Prime Minister Sen several times last week gave speeches in which he said

he would scrap commune and national elections if the King gave up the throne. He

said he would also call for a Constitutional amendment to exclude Royalty from from

politics - forever.

First Prime Minister Ranariddh responded with indignation, saying that it was not

his fault that he was born a Royal and chided his father for allowing the birth of

the shaky coalition government.

"I didn't choose to be prince. But I am a citizen [and] as a citizen of this

country I have the right to enter politics," he said Mar 17.

"It is not good to make such a discrimination," he added. "We are

part of the Cambodian nation."

Hun Sen had earlier warned that an abdication by King Sihanouk would push the nation

into a political crisis. He rationalized his threat to cancel the elections by saying

that, if there was no King, there would be nobody to sign off on the ballot results.

"If the King abdicates [even] two or three days before the elections, the elections

must be postponed. What's the point of having them, who will sign to recognize [the

election results]?" Hun Sen said in a speech on March 14.

"Trash the ballots in the rubbish bin in order to solve the throne crisis and

let the people do farming," he said.

Hun Sen also promised to have a serious talk with the King when he returns from China.

Ranariddh countered Mar 17 that under the current Constitution no one had the right

to postpone the elections or prolong the National Assembly's mandate, except a two-thirds

majority of parliamentarians.

A Funcinpec statement issued the next day declared that Hun Sen's proposal for constitutional

amendment to exclude royalty from politics amounted to a coup d'etat.

It referred to the Constitution's article 134 which states: "Revisions of or

amendments to the Constitution shall not be carried out when they impinge on [the]

multi-party liberal democratic system and the Constitutional monarchy."

"Funcinpec party would like to remind that...this constitution categorically

prohibits revision or amendment of this supreme law," the statement said. "Any

attempt to revise or amend [the article] is tantamount to a coup."

Ranariddh complained it was his father's decision "against the will of the people"

to forge a dual-premiership government, which Funcinpec had to accept for the sake

of peace and stability, after the 1993 elections.

By halting the next polls, according to Hun Sen, the current legislative and executive

branches would continue to exist in order to decide either who would be selected

as a King or whether a republic should be formed.

The latest furor was sparked by an interview published in the Royal Bulletin Mensuel

de Documentation on Feb 26. The King, who left the throne to lead the Sangkum Reastr

Niyum movement in 1955, discussed the possibility of his abdication - but did firmly

pledge not to return to politics.

Ranariddh said that he did not believe his father would abdicate, but that if he

did "we Funcinpec, as royalists, do not have any choice - no - but to support

him"

In two speeches he delivered Mar 14-15, Hun Sen said that, when the King returns

from medical treatment in China, he would see him to propose a Constitutional amendment

banishing members of the Royal family from the political arena.

What Hun Sen described as a "democratic reform revolution" could, he said,

be either put forth by the Royals themselves or by the people through a referendum.

He added that he would lead that reform with the backing of what he claims are 2.6

million CPP and allied party members.

"I have told [the] Americans and asked them to support me. This [reform] is

not aimed at toppling the monarchy, but at making it neutral, stay above everything

else and be respected by the people," Hun Sen said.

He raised as examples Thailand, Japan, Britain and Sweden where royals are kept out

of politics.

He said that if members of the Royal family want to engage in politics, they will

have to leave the royal court "for life ... not for a period of time just to

return to be called Your Royal Highness".

Cambodia was not unique in having royals in politics, Ranariddh countered, adding

that he could provide names of Thai members of parliament who are members of the

royal family.

Pro-CPP television and radio stations repeatedly aired petitions in support of what

Hun Sen said in terms of the abdication and banning royals from politics. One CPP

newspaper said that if the King abdicated, a Sisowath - another branch of the Royal

family - could be found to replace him.

Information Minister -whose faction of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party is with

CPP - wasted little time in issuing a statement supporting Hun Sen's comments as

"very appropriate."

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