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Rivals Seek Audience With Former King

Both Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy plan to visit Cambodia's former king in Beijing separately in coming months.

Hun Sen plans to call on the former king, Norodom Sihanouk, following an Asia-Europe Meeting, scheduled for Oct. 24 in Beijing, prior to Sihanouk's Oct. 31 birthday, when he turns 87.

Sam Rainsy is planning to meet with the former king in late November, "in the name of national reconciliation," the opposition leader said in a letter.

"I will extend well wishes to the king father on his birthday, and then I will go to the ASEM in Beijing," Hun Sen said at a scholarship award ceremony at Phnom Penh's National School of Pedagogy Thursday. "Right now I've told the king father's protocol office to arrange my schedule to meet the king father."

The annual two-day Asia-Europe Meeting brings leaders from 45 Asian and European countries, including Cambodia, together for political, security and economic discussions.

Following Hun Sen's visit, Sam Rainsy is scheduled to pay a call on the former king in Beijing.

"Our country now is sinking like a ship in the ocean," Sam Rainsy wrote the former monarch in French. "Our people are dying like abandoned animals. That's why I myself and for all Cambodian citizens, I would like to assist you in helping the country in the name of national reconciliation."

SRP Deputy Secretary-General Mu Sochua said Thursday the letter to the king reflected Sam Rainsy's worries for the future of the country, following the ruling Cambodian People's Party extension of power after July's elections.

Sam Rainsy will likely discuss alleged irregularities in July's election and "the political situation," she said.