FUNCINPEC, the royalist party, has been a frequent target of Hun Sen and his thug tactics (as has virtually every major party) but royal intervention has ensured that the royalist party has usually held some positions in what have officially been “power-sharing” coalition governments though, do not be fooled, it is always PM Hun Sen who has the final word on things. Given his background, it should come as no surprise that, while he has paid lip-service to the value of the monarchy in the past, he is a career politician with Marxist roots who is not a true monarchist at all. Hun Sen, and this is my opinion to take or leave as you see fit, is really a puppet for the powers-that-be in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. They are the ones he ran to in his time of crisis, they are the ones who put him in power in the first place and I have no doubt that he has remained in power thanks to their good graces. This is something that is not often talked about, mostly, I think, because it has become so fashionable to dismiss the whole “Vietnam conflict” as something unimportant and easily shrugged off. In fact, the situation that exists today is almost exactly what the Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh first envisioned decades ago and it should go without saying that monarchs have no place in that vision.
At that time, not everyone knew that Pol Pot was really the man in charge (he was a very secretive figure) and of course he eventually turned on the King and on the Vietnamese as well. Vietnam was also at odds with Maoist China, preferring the more safely distant U.S.S.R. for their support and so Pol Pot naturally allied with China against the Vietnamese. His nightmarish rule, which took the lives of five of the children of King Sihanouk, might have gone on much longer had Pol Pot not foolishly decided, in his unmatched paranoia, to actually attack Vietnam. This sparked a war across the whole region which ended in triumph for the Vietnamese. China invaded Vietnam, took a bloody nose and then declared “mission accomplished” and retreated back into China and the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia, drove out Pol Pot and took over. Hun Sen was basically their stooge and has remained in power ever since and I am sure he would not still be there if he could not be counted on to do the bidding of the politburo in Hanoi. Laos, likewise, was forced to sign a treaty allowing Vietnamese troops to occupy the country and effectively made themselves a protectorate of Vietnam. I am sure the leaders in Hanoi were not happy about the referendum that saw King Norodom Sihanouk restored to his throne in a constitutional monarchy (especially given how friendly he was with China) but the result has been effectively what Ho Chi Minh dreamed of decades ago. Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam all ruled (in fact if not in name) by communist dictators who take their marching orders from Hanoi.
Opinion on King Sihanouk is certainly divided in the monarchist community. He certainly did some things that were regrettable, though I try to keep in mind that it would be hard for anyone to survive in the times that he did without some such “compromises” and he did manage the almost impossible in actually restoring a fallen monarchy. Some, I know, will never forgive him. However, all monarchists should take his passing seriously. His loss is not a good thing for the cause of traditional authority around the world. I am worried about what is yet to come for both Cambodia and Thailand and we should not overlook the power of trends. Every time a monarchy falls, anywhere in the world, it makes things that much more difficult for those that remain just as it makes republicanism seem all the more inevitable and universal. I would hope that all monarchists would rally to the support of King Norodom Sihamoni and the Crown Prince of Thailand when his time comes, not because of their own persons, but because of what they represent which is what monarchy is supposed to be all about anyway. Let us hope that the grim predictions prove false and that historians do not one day look back at the burial of King Norodom Sihanouk as the day monarchy in the Indochinese region itself began to come to an end.