Succession Fears Draw Abdication Threat

King Wants to Settle Question of Succession Now

King Norodom Sihanouk has reportedly threatened to abdicate amid growing concern that succession legislation is being stalled by CPP-led factions in the government and the royalists have grown too weak to defend the monarchy.

“I don’t think he’s made up his mind yet, but [the King] just wants to let people know he could abdicate the throne if the government is not prepared to tackle problems such as succession,” said lawmaker Son Chhay.

Son Chhay has been the drive behind legislation to regulate the Throne Council—the body tasked with appointing the King’s successor.

Cambodia’s Constitution re­quires a new monarch to be elected by the council seven days after the reigning king’s death, but no law is in place yet to define how the council, controlled by Prime Minister Hun Sen, will run.

Despite the King’s urging that a law be put in place a soon as possible, Hun Sen tabled the issue earlier this year, saying the upcoming national elections were more important.

But others say politics is behind the stall, and point to a growing dispute between the King—who is currently receiving medical treatment in Beijing—and senior government officials who bristled at the monarch’s characterization of Cambodia as a “beggar nation.”

“It is also clear that the CPP wants a puppet Head of State, who does not dare to speak out on issues that directly affect the well-being of the people, of whom, according to the Cambo­dian Constitution of 1993, the King is the legitimate representative,” said Ambassador Julio Jeldres, the King’s official biographer, in an e-mail Friday.

This is the latest in a series of setbacks that have rattled the monarchy. Almost all of those who are likely contenders for the throne after King Sihanouk’s death have publicly said they do not want to be king, and Cambodia’s royalists have been weakened by months of bitter infighting and defections.

“The monarchy was in­stalled in 1993 due to the success of the royalist party, but now the royalists are falling apart,” Son Chhay said.

“This will not insure the protection of the monarchy. The answer [to the succession legislation question] has to come now because if, in a few weeks, there is no reasonable explanation I think he will abdicate.”

Neither palace officials nor senior Funcinpec officials like Prince Norodom Ranariddh or Prince Norodom Chakrapong could be reached Friday for comment. Prince Sisowath Sirirath said simply he was not worried about the King quitting the throne.

King Sihanouk made similar threats several times in the mid-1990s. “In the past His Majesty has threatened to abdicate when he has not been listened to by the government or he has been chastised for showing concern for the less privileged of his compatriots,” Jeldres wrote.

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