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Sihanouk Considering Return in April

Former King Norodom Sihanouk says he hopes to return to Cambodia to celebrate the New Year with his people.

In a letter in Khmer from Beijing, the 84-year-old monarch says Chinese doctors will examine him in February and if the prognosis is positive, he will return home to celebrate the Khmer New Year in Cambodia with the people.

Officials preparing for local elections slated for early April, on Thursday welcomed the news, claiming that Sihanouk’s presence in Cambodia at election time was good for democracy.

Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC), said he thought that he noticed that the presence of the former King during election time tended to reduce voting and counting irregularities.

Tep Nitha, secretary-general of the government’s National Election Committee, also noted the political situation in Cambodia generally seemed to be "less tense" when Sihanouk was present.