In international politics, there is some good news and some bad news.
In international politics, the good news is that Cambodia’s king abdicated two days ago.
The bad news is that they’re going to get another one.
But even that cloud has a silver lining. Whatever the faults of quasi-hereditary monarchy, and whatever sort of political tool the new king may turn out to be, he is still someone other than old King Sihanouk.
BANGKOK — Southeast Asia’s wiliest political survivor yesterday
completed his own intricately scripted exit from the stage. King
Norodom Sihanouk, who first took Cambodia’s throne when Nazi-backed
Vichy France controlled Indochina in 1941, stunned his subjects
last week by announcing he would voluntarily abdicate and allow his
untested son, Prince Norodom Sihamoni, to replace him.
The formal transfer, endorsed in yesterday’s unanimous decision by
the country’s nine-member throne council in Phnom Penh, thrust the
51-year-old prince, a trained classical dancer based in Paris since
the 1970s, into the international limelight and ended the reign of
the only monarch most Cambodians have ever known.
It’s insufferable enough to read whitewashed obituaries of rotten people–let alone to read this kind of kid-glove treatment when the asshole isn’t even deceased yet. A certain degree of restraint toward the recently dead is one thing; shameless kissing of the royal rings is another. King Sihanouk spent the past 63 years as either a tyrant, a pretender, or a figurehead; during that time he consorted with and covered for the French colonialists, Imperial Japan, the Vietminh, North Vietnam and the Vietcong, the Khmer Rouge, and finally the United States and the United Nations. His “wily survival” consisted in murdering and suppressing political opposition, and ingratiating himself with the murderers of millions.
When communist fighters in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos achieved
victory in 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge immediately ordered all
residents to leave Phnom Penh and all other cities overnight,
killing fields regime.
But the king flew to New York in 1975 and told the United Nations
that the Khmer Rouge evacuation of cities had been achieved
without bloodshed and he convinced exiled Cambodian
intellectuals, military officers and others to return home to
support the new regime.
When they did, they were killed alongside more than 1 million other
Cambodians, victims of the Khmer Rouge’s policies of mass
executions, enslavement, torture and starvation.
After King Sihanouk’s return in 1976, the Khmer Rouge put him under
house arrest and murdered several of his relatives.
Vietnam invaded in 1979 and ousted Pol Pot. In 1982, King Sihanouk
lent his support to a loose, Khmer Rouge-led, U.S.-financed
guerrilla alliance, to end the Vietnamese occupation.
The Washington Times describes such a man as
Southeast Asia’s wiliest political survivor,
a tough act … to follow, and
a unique figure among world leaders (I suppose that Idi Amin was a unique figure, too.)
For Pete’s sake. Just what does a King have to do to get some disrespect around here?