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Sick Cambodian King Heads to China

June 24, 1999

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ An ailing King Norodom Sihanouk left Cambodia today for medical treatment in Beijing.

Sihanouk, who announced over the weekend that he would spend two months in China because of ``a number of health problems,″ did not appear ill as he bid farewell to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodian officials and foreign diplomats at the Phnom Penh airport.

The king’s eldest daughter, Princess Norodom Bopha Devi, said a previous condition was giving her father problems, but that it was not a serious affliction.

``He is stable and strong, but of course he has to take care of himself,″ said Bopha Devi, who is minister of culture.

She did not elaborate on the health problem.

Sihanouk has suffered from a variety of illnesses over the years and often makes extended stays in Beijing for treatment by his Chinese doctors. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1993, but it has since gone into remission.

The king is head of state in Cambodia but wields little real power in the government. Still, Sihanouk, who first took the throne in 1941, is greatly revered by his people and has repeatedly been a stabilizing force in Cambodia’s often-violent political arena.

During his absence from Cambodia, Sihanouk is planning to make a trip to North Korea, where he has a residence that was a gift from late communist leader Kim Il Sung in the early 1970s, when the king was in exile.

Despite Sihanouk’s royal blood, he forged close contacts with communist leaders in Beijing and Pyongyang during the Cold War.

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