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Cambodian King Sihanouk offers to abdicate

King Norodom Sihanouk

But still considers son's ouster illegal

August 11, 1997
Web posted at: 10:51 a.m. EDT (1451 GMT)

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BEIJING (CNN) -- Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk has offered to abdicate but still insists his son's ouster as prime minister in a bloody coup last month was illegal.

Sihanouk's offer came as Hun Sen headed to Beijing with a delegation to explain to the king how he plans to govern Cambodia. The 74-year-old monarch Sihanouk is in China for cancer treatment.

Hun Sen, who led the overthrow of Co-Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh -- Sihanouk's son -- said he wanted to explain his actions to the king.

Analysts said Hun Sen would try to secure Sihanouk's political blessing to put the final stamp of legitimacy on his takeover.

Ranariddh's reaction

Responding to his father's offer of abdication, the exiled Ranariddh said he considers it an expression of disapproval of Hun Sen.

"It is clear that it must be that the king, as father of the Cambodian people, cannot be happy with the coup d'etat, with the very serious setback for human rights and serious violation of human rights and with the political situation and political instability," he told a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

"We are stepping into an era of great instability if not a civil war," he added.

Sihanouk to meet Hun Sen delegation on Tuesday

In a handwritten letter dated Sunday, Sihanouk said he prepared a letter of abdication more than a week ago and that he was ready to relinquish his throne "when it is possible for me to do so."

But the king said he first wanted assurances from Hun Sen "that I can abdicate without risk of criticism from him or accusations of having added greater difficulties to the country and people" of Cambodia.

Sihanouk has talked previously about abdicating and has said he does not expect Cambodia's monarchy to last much longer.

The king said he would meet Hun Sen and Ung Huot, Hun Sen's handpicked successor to Ranariddh, on Tuesday in his residence. He also will meet Chea Sim, who is acting head of state.

Sihanouk, who has described Ung Huot as a "puppet," said he still regards Ranariddh as prime minister and condemned his removal as "illegal and unconstitutional."

The king said he would not sign a royal decree approving Ung Huot as premier but also would not stop Chea Sim from doing so.

Sihanouk, who reigns as a constitutional monarch but does not rule, also said he would return to his homeland soon to visit the temple town of Siem Reap and to hold a Buddhist ceremony for peace and national reconciliation.

ASEAN recognizes Ung Huot as co-premier

Also Monday, Hun Sen's bid for legitimacy appeared to win support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEAN foreign ministers, meeting in Sinagpore, stopped referring to Ranariddh as Cambodia's "first prime minister," saying the situation has changed with last week's election of Ung Huot to the post.

The use of the title "first prime minister" for Ung Huot was significant. Previously, ASEAN has called Ranariddh by that title, even after his ouster.

In an interview from his exile in Bangkok, Ranariddh appealed on Singapore television late Sunday for the ASEAN ministers not to recognize Ung Huot as premier.

ASEAN on Monday also delayed a decision on when to let Cambodia join the organization but said the country's admission, delayed by recent political turmoil, was just a formality.

Correspondent John Raedler and Reuters contributed to this report.


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  • ASEAN - the official website of Association of the Association of South East Asian Nations
  • Cambodian Information Center - includies Cambodian news and photos, academic papers on Cambodia, and homepage links
  • Embassy of Cambodia - site of the Chancery of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia to the United States located in Washington, D.C.
  • Cambodia - profile from CARE
  • Beauty and Darkness: Cambodia in Modern History - documents, essays, oral histories, and photos relating to the recent history of Cambodia, with an emphasis on the Khmer Rouge period

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