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Former King Laments the ‘Weight’ of Old Age

Former king Norodom Sihanouk, who is 87 years old and has survived several bouts with cancer, said on his Web site this week he would like to die “as soon as possible,” as the years weigh upon him.

The gloomy statement comes as the lawyer for jailed Khmer Rouge chief Nuon Chea insist the former monarch be called to the UN-backed tribunal to give testimony.

Sihanouk has said he will not agree to a summons, and on his Web site Wednesday said his old age had become “an unsupportable weight.” Sihanouk abdicated in 2004, raising his son, Norodom Sihamoni, to the throne. He is currently in China, for cancer treatment.

“What I want is to die as soon as possible,” Sihanouk wrote, in French, on his Web site Wednesday.

Royal Palace officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but Kek Galabru, head of the rights group Licadho, said Sihanouk’s remarks reflected “the attitude of an aging person.”

She declined to say whether the comment was likely due to his struggles with cancer or with political pressure. “We would prefer that he says he will stay with us for a long time,” she said.

Son Arun, a defense attorney for Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s lieutenant, said the former king’s testimony at court would be beneficial for his client.

Tribunal investigating judge Marcel Lemonde sent a request to the Royal Palace last month seeking Sihanouk’s testimony, but Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol has said the palace did not open the request.

Youk Chhang, director of the Cambodian Documentation Center and an expert on the regime, said the former king had written two books from which the tribunal can draw information.

Sihanouk is expected to return to Cambodia in February 2010.