PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk has abdicated his throne, claiming failing health, the National Assembly announced in Phnom Penh Thursday.
The 81-year-old king, currently in Beijing, made the announcement in a letter read to the assembly Thursday morning by his son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Xinhua news agency reported. The prince is also head of the assembly.
Sihanouk asked the country to form a nine-member council to select his successor, in accordance with Cambodian custom, the report said.
Ranariddh said his father had been expected to return home Thursday.
The prince is considered a possible successor to the throne, but has said he is not interested in the role. Under Cambodian law, the king need not be a direct descendent of the outgoing monarch, but must have royal blood.
Sihanouk, who led his country to independence from the French in 1953, endured shifting political fortunes, toppled in a right-wing coup and later held virtual prisoner by the communist Khmer Rouge.
He was reinstated as king in 1993 when relative calm returned to his country.