"I thank you for insulting me."
Thus blogged former King Norodom Sihanouk to a critic of his support of gay marriage.
He didn't share any of the insulting e-mails with his readers, but noted: "My country, Cambodia, has chosen to be a liberal democracy since 1993. Every Cambodian ... including the King has the right to express freely their view."
It was one of thousands of commentaries that fill the Web site of the world's most colorful and pugnacious royal blogger, offering Sihanouk's views on anything from environmental rape through Hollywood stars and killer spouses to the rough-and-tumble of Cambodian politics.
During the Vietnam War Sihanouk was such a nuisance to Washington that he was ousted in a US-supported coup. He backed the Khmer Rouge until its murderous regime turned on him and put him under house arrest.
Today at 82, he is Cambodia's lion in winter, cancer-stricken and undergoing treatment in China, his former place of exile where he still has a home. For at least three years he has been posting his opinions, historical documents and exchanges with diplomats or Cambodian politicians. He abdicated in favor of his son Sihamoni last fall.
Sihanouk's Web site incorporates his blog in French, Khmer or English, attracts about 1,000 visitors daily from around the world. After serving as king, president and prime minister at various times, he now calls himself "a senior citizen who hasn't any official power," but his views remain relevant enough to be summarized in the Cambodian press for the benefit of the many Cambodians who are too poor to have access to the Internet.
Sihanouk has always seen himself as a communicator and a trendsetter. He has been a moviemaker, painter, composer and singer, has led a jazz band and fielded a palace soccer team.
After the 2003 national elections, he described the losses suffered by Funcinpec -- a party led by one of his sons -- as "shameful," comparing it to Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo.
Then there's Sihanouk waxing nostalgic for Ken Maynard, a Hollywood star in the 1920s and '30s. He "was my idol as a cowboy `dispenser of justice.' He had an incomparably beautiful `white' horse who was as intelligent as a man and behaved like an angel."
He never missed a Maynard movie in Phnom Penh, and when his father bought him two horses, "I could practice horse riding `a la cowboy.'"
Sihanouk often lets fly with his own views on Cambodia's social ills -- illegal logging that threatens to turn the country into a "tiny Sahara without oil," the trafficking of Cambodian women for prostitution in other Asian countries where they "suffer, are humiliated," their impoverished parents helpless to intervene.
After watching TV images of gay weddings in San Francisco in February 2004, he wrote that Cambodia should do the same, never expecting that his input "would become the source of endless `earthquakes' throughout the world."
Sihanouk's missives also shed light on his personal life, including what he says are his numerous wives, though that was in the 1940s, when "my love life was somewhat ... stormy. But I became monogamist a long time ago." He has been married to former Queen Monineath for more than 50 years.
He recently blogged that his cancer has re-emerged from remission: "Maybe I am already dead. But I will continue to believe that I am alive."
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