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Cambodian Strongman Rejects King's Offer to Abdicate

August 14, 1997|From Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — King Norodom Sihanouk said Wednesday that Cambodian coup leader Hun Sen had rejected his offer to abdicate.

From China, where he is undergoing medical treatment, the 74-year-old Sihanouk issued a statement saying his meeting Tuesday with Hun Sen had "passed without confrontation."

Asked whether he intended to abdicate, which would deny legitimacy to last month's coup but also deprive Sihanouk of future influence, the king said Hun Sen had turned down his offer to give up the throne.

Hun Sen assured him of his "loyalty and backing for the king [but] did not accept the offer of abdication," Sihanouk wrote.

Hun Sen ousted Sihanouk's son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, as co-premier in a violent July 5-6 coup that shattered the fragile government put in place by U.N.-organized elections in 1993.

Hun Sen has since consolidated power, driving the prince's military supporters to the border with Thailand and orchestrating a vote by the National Assembly to replace Ranariddh with Ung Huot, the foreign minister.

Meanwhile, a Cambodian tycoon's claim that he helped finance the coup raised fears of corruption in the government.

"We have reliable reporting that [Teng Bunma] is closely and heavily involved in drug trafficking in Cambodia," Nicholas Burns, the U.S. State Department spokesman, said recently.

Washington is considering revoking a visa granted to Teng Bunma to visit the United States, Burns said.

Teng Bunma denied the trafficking accusations.

"I have never had dealings in the drug business," he said in an interview. "It is a business everyone in the world hates."

The State Department said it has no evidence that Hun Sen is personally involved in narcotics trafficking but said he should do more to purge the government of corruption and links to the drug trade.

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