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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 03:46 GMT
Cambodia king takes crisis online
By Clare Arthurs
BBC, Cambodia

King Sihanouk
King Sihanouk receives 10 emails a day
One of Cambodia's most unusual internet sites has been growing in popularity, reaching 1,000 hits a day.

The reason is that the official site of the country's head of state, King Norodom Sihanouk, features almost daily communiques from the king himself.

In a country of 13 million, where only about 10,000 people have internet access, it shows the king's popularity and his closeness to the people.

It may also reflect a continuing political deadlock in the country.

The website of Norodom Sihanouk details not only his music but the films of Cambodia's head of state.

His royal website was set up a year ago but site managers say its popularity has jumped and they have passed the milestone of 100,000 hits.

The 81-year-old king also receives 10 e-mails a day.

Worried messages

The increasing popularity of the website - norodomsihanouk.info - might reflect the fact that the communicative king is using it to comment on the political crisis in the country, with no new government formed since general elections last July.

His messages - sometimes worried, sometimes mocking - appear on the site as handwritten notes in French, with frequent comments on the political and other problems of his kingdom, including corruption, deforestation and, recently, the subject of his own death and the vexed question of his successor.

Local commentators believe he is the only head of state to use the internet daily as a means of communicating with his subjects as well as people outside the country.

The royal site also details royal activities - state visits, aid to the poor - and some of Cambodia's modern history.

The beloved Sihanouk has seen much of Cambodia's recent trials as a king, a politician and an exile, including independence from the French, the rule of the genocidal Khmer Rouge, democratic elections - and, perhaps in the near future, genocide tribunals.

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