Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cambodian perplexed by enigmatic letter from King Sihamoni's father

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's royal palace officials on Sunday strongly denied an enigmatic letter distributed to the press by former king Norodom Sihanouk indicated that his son, King Norodom Sihamoni, might abdicate. But the palace did not say what the letter actually meant, while Sihanouk himself remained silent. The letter and its possible interpretations has caused a stir in some quarters with a national election looming in July.

In copies of the letter, handwritten in French and distributed Friday, Sihanouk speaks of a looming crisis for the Cambodian monarchy "in the near or far future", using the French words "chances" and "deposee."

He also speaks of a "simple life" abroad in Paris.

The monarchy is a pillar of the Cambodian constitution, and the king, seen as a demi-god by many ordinary people, is widely recognized as a symbol of stability.

Sihamoni took the throne in 2004 after his octogenarian father abdicated, citing old age and ill health.

Sihanouk may be the only monarch in the world to abdicate twice - once in favour of his own father so he could take a political role in the 1950's, and again, after many hints and false alarms, four years ago.

Sihamoni, 55, is popular with the public and politicians alike for his quiet manner and stately bearing. Unlike his father, he rarely makes public speeches or statements.


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