Wen Jiabao Offers King Sihanouk’s Widow Condolences, Hospital Bill
BEIJING — As the late King Sihanouk’s body lay in state prior to its repatriation to Cambodia last week, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao solemnly presented the grieving widow of the country’s former monarch with a formal letter of condolence from the Chinese people.
He then, equally solemnly, presented her with a $3 million bill for the medical treatment and lavish accommodation her husband had received as a guest of the Chinese government.
In keeping with CPC protocol, Wen handed the tearful Norodom Monineath, former Queen of Cambodia, a wireless credit card terminal, ceremoniously withholding her airplane tickets until the sum was paid in full, plus gratuity.
After abdicating the throne for health reasons in 2004, Sihanouk often stayed in Beijing, where he was housed in a luxurious residence and, according to former staff members, “regularly rang up a room service bill in the thousands, especially when there was a game on.” According to his doctors, the ailing head of state was covered under Beijing No. 6 Hospital’s Exiled Leader Care plan, which includes surgery in the hospital’s prestigious Kim Jong-il wing, reserved exclusively for former heads of state and fugitive dictators.
While most Chinese were unaware a former monarch was housed in such lavish comfort for years, Premier Wen was quick to reassure the public at a subsequent press conference that “his Majesty’s next of kin has been billed for the full amount, including service fees.”
“Rest assured that this money will be reinvested in China and not used for personal overseas asset acquisitions,” he added.
At a state banquet honoring Sihanouk, President Hu Jintao offered his respects, saying, “China and her people mourn the passing of our beloved friend and VIP Platinum member His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk.”
“We gratefully acknowledge the love, friendship and prompt payment from the people of Cambodia,” said Hu, nodding at the late regent’s widow, who had paid to attend the dinner. “We hope Mrs. Norodom will consider China when she’s planning her death, or the death of a close relative. We’ve already flipped the mattress in case Britain’s Prince Philip takes a sudden turn for the worse.”
As King Sihanouk’s body touched down in Phnom Penh last Wednesday, officials from the Ministry of Finance were trying contact Mrs. Norodom to check whether she or her husband had taken anything from the hospital room’s mini bar before his death.