King Sihanouk abdicates

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk has abdicated, citing poor health, and asked the country to begin searching for his successor, said the head of the National Assembly on Thursday. King Sihanouk (81) announced his retirement in a letter sent from Beijing which his son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, read to the legislature. ``According to the statement that I have received and just read, His Majesty has already abdicated,'' Prince Ranariddh told reporters, adding that the news was ``very regrettable and shocking for all Cambodians who love him and regard him as sacred.'' The letter from the king asked the country to form a nine-member throne council — as set in Cambodian law — to choose the next monarch. The Prime Minister Hun Sen and other political leaders would be included in the council. The king in Cambodia is not a hereditary title, but all candidates must have a royal bloodline. Prince Ranariddh could be a candidate, but has already said he is not interested.

— AP