I n his intriguing article (Feb 23-Mar 7), Dr Lao Mong Hay suggests a comparison
which particularly tickled me, as a Belgian. Queen Monineath "would be more
like King Baudouin of Belgium". This comparison, unless it derives from their
shared "limited political stature", might be based on the deep social concerns
of the late Belgian king, especially in his latter years. Indeed, among the witnesses
who spoke at his funeral mass were an AIDS specialist and a very young Filipino girl
who had been abducted into sex slavery by an international ring...very relevant issues,
alas, in a 1990's Cambodian context.
However, King Baudouin was also a somewhat bigoted Roman Catholic, who had to be
declared incompetent for one day so that a law depenalising abortion, and voted by
both chambers of parliament, could be adopted without his signature.
Even more worrying perhaps, given the present Cambodian uncertainties, echoed in
the article, Baudouin succeeded his father at a very young age, and as a desperate
attempt to solve a major crisis, the "Question Royale". It was felt, rightly
or wrongly (or somewhere in between), by a good half of the population that his father
had been distinctly lacking in hostility towards the Nazi occupiers of Belgium, and
they wanted to get rid of him, and of the monarchy. This was finally averted, but
the early years of Baudouin's reign were certainly not happy ones.
Comparisons are notoriously slippery, and adoptions can also lead to unforeseen tribulations.
Queen Monineath could be adopted by the King, says Lao Mong Hay, but haven't some
leaders already been adopted by him, as his "son" or "brother"?
This led a prominent expatriate Khmer to suggest to me, half-facetiously, when the
succession problem was first raised, in 1994, that Mr Chea Sim might be Cambodia's
One last point, as I share with the author a strong Welsh connection: what does he
suggest the hapless Prince of Wales should do?... perhaps improve Cambodia's trashy-rich
- Philippe Hunt, Phnom Penh