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Cambodian Prince Warns of Former King's Weakening Health

The health of Cambodia's former king, Norodom Sihanouk, is deteriorating. The elderly monarch has been a central figure in his country for more than 60 years.

A son of the former king, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said Thursday that Norodom Sihanouk's health was worrying, as it was of the interest of all Cambodians. "The Chinese doctors did not find any new illnesses of His Majesty the King, but his health is getting weaker and weaker," he said.

Sihanouk is receiving medical treatment in Beijing for various ailments, including diabetes and colon cancer.

Prince Ranariddh said his father's health was so precarious that his half-brother, King Norodom Sihamoni, would go to Beijing to be at his side.

The current king will visit his father on Saturday, and Prince Ranariddh, a member of the National Assembly, plans to follow after attending an assembly session on April 26.

Eighty-two-year-old Sihanouk - a central figure in Cambodian politics for six decades of civil war, genocide and a fragile peace - abdicated in October because of poor health. But the mercurial leader has remained vocal about the country's political and social affairs.

Sihanouk's sharp-tongued Internet postings about corruption, prostitution and Prime Minister Hun Sen's government kept him a star in this Southeast Asian nation.

The monarch's pen pal Ruom Ritt, widely believed to be a pseudonym for Sihanouk, also has used the Internet to blast Hun Sen for his strongman tactics.

The diatribes came to a head last month, prompting an angry reaction from Hun Sen, who suggested Ruom Ritt should hurry up and die.

Sihanouk announced neither he nor his pen friend would publish any more commentaries about Cambodian politics.

Following the dispute, the former king said his weak pulse would prevent him from returning to Cambodia as planned for the Khmer New Year, celebrated throughout the country last week with Buddhist ceremonies.

King Sihanouk was crowned in 1941, and occupied the throne off and on until last year. A coup ousted him as head of government in 1970 and sent him into exile. He remained away for most of the next two decades, although he made a brief return during the rule of the brutal Khmer Rouge - a Maoist group responsible for the death of more than a million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979.

He returned in 1991 after the United Nations brokered a peace deal, ending a decade of civil war, and resumed the throne in 1993. Since then, he has been a beloved figure to many Cambodians.