Cambodian prince and politician Norodom Ranariddh dies at 77

The son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk had been in poor health since a car accident in 2018.

Cambodia Obit Norodom Ranariddh
Cambodia Obit Norodom Ranariddh

Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh, former prime minister and the son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk, has died in France at the age of 77.

The Information Minister, Khieu Kanharith, announced the death on his Facebook page.

Mr Kanharith, who said he learned of the death from Um Daravuth, a minor member of Cambodia’s royal family, did not give the cause of death.

Prince Ranariddh had been in ill-health since a car accident in Cambodia in 2018. An aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said he went to Paris in late 2019 for medical treatment for a broken pelvis.

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Prince Ranariddh’s political rival (An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP)

The prince’s career was always in the shade of his charismatic father, and his clever and ruthless political rival, Hun Sen, with whom he shared power before being pushed aside. Mr Sen remains prime minister.

Prince Ranariddh traded on his position as the king’s son but lacked his father’s strong personality and political adroitness. Prince Ranariddh’s half brother, Norodom Sihamoni, became king in 2004 after the abdication of King Sihanouk, who died in 2012.  King Sihamoni’s Facebook page confirmed Prince Ranariddh’s death.

Prince Ranariddh, a French-educated law scholar, entered public life in 1983, when he took over leadership of Funcinpec, an armed resistance movement against the Vietnamese-installed government led by Mr Sen that succeeded the brutal 1975-79 communist Khmer Rouge regime.

Prince Ranariddh converted Funcinpec into a royalist party that won UN-sponsored elections in 1993. The elections were part of a peace process following the fall of the Khmer Rouge and three decades of civil war.

Mr Sen’s post-election threats to unleash the security forces he still controlled resulted in him being named second prime minister under Prince Ranariddh.

After Mr Sen staged a coup against his partner in 1997 with a lightning military takeover, Funcinpec fell strongly under his influence. Prince Ranariddh attempted several comebacks, and in 2006 founded the Norodom Ranariddh Party, but was destined to remain a marginal political player.

Prince Ranariddh’s last position was as chief adviser to his half brother. He was also leader of what was left of the Funcinpec party, which announced late on Sunday that his body would soon be sent back to Cambodia.

The prince’s second wife, Ouk Phalla, a classical dancer more than three decades younger than him with whom he had two children, died in the 2018 car accident.

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