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Prince Ranariddh dies Sunday in France, body will be returned to Cambodia this week

Prince Norodom Ranariddh gives an interview with media at his home in Phnom Penh. Picture taken October 14, 2017. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Prince Norodom Ranariddh gives an interview with media at his home in Phnom Penh. Picture taken October 14, 2017. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Royalist Funcinpec party president and former first Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh died from illness Sunday morning in France. He was 77 years old.

His body will return to Cambodia any day this week, said Funcinpec spokesman Nhoeurn Raden. Ranariddh became the first prime minister of Cambodia after the UN-brokered 1993 election, in which Funcinpec won the most seats in the Cambodian National Assembly. Later in his political career, Ranariddh and his party were increasingly sidelined by Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP.

Prince Ranariddh was the son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk by his first wife Neak Moneang Phat Kanhol. He was the half-brother of King Norodom Sihamoni.

In June 2018, Prince Ranariddh and his wife Ouk Phalla were in a serious car crash that killed Phalla and caused serious injury to the prince. Ranariddh received medical treatment in Thailand after the crash and later went to France, where he lived until his death. Besides health issues from the crash, Ranariddh also had diabetes.

The prince and his first wife, Princess Norodom Marie Ranariddh, have three children, who survive Ranariddh. Those children are Prince Chakravuth, who is currently a vice-president of Funcinpec, Prince Sihariddh and Princess Rattana Devi. He also had two sons with his second wife Phalla, who are Prince Sothearidh and Prince Ranavong.

Ranariddh served as first prime minister until 1997, when Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP ended the power-sharing agreement organized between the two ruling parties. After a military conflict between the groups, Hun Sen became sole prime minister. Ranariddh became president of the National Assembly from 1998 to 2006 and served since 2008 as president of King Sihamoni’s Supreme Privy Council.

Funcinpec spokesman Raden praised Ranariddh’s lifetime achievements and said the prince had left a substantial legacy.

“He built many achievements for the nation and Cambodian people,” Raden said.

Prince Ranaridhh’s children and Funcinpec party officials prepared on Monday morning a primary funeral ceremony with the supreme patriarch Bou Kry at Botum pagoda. Raden said Prince Norodom Chakravuth led the family and officials in the ceremony with supreme patriarch Bou Kry.

Nhek Bun Chhay, former military commander and president of Khmer National United Party, said on Monday that supporters of the monarchy felt the loss of Ranariddh.

Ranariddh was educated in Phnom Penh and in France. In Cambodia, he was editor of Le Courier Khmer and delegate to the 1968 United Nations General Assembly.

He then went to law school in Aix-en-Provence, France, where he studied for his doctorate in civil law, specialising in public law from January 1969, graduating in 1976.

He became a professor of political science and law at the University of Aix-en-Provence, living in France during the late 1970s.

Prince Ranariddh joined an active political role for the first time, he became his father’s personal representative in Cambodia and Thailand in 1983 and later he was appointed commander of the National Army of Sihanoukists.

He was then appointed the supreme commander-in-chief of National Army of Independent Kampuchea (ANKI) before becoming president of Funcinpec.

Bun Chhay said the prince had left a special legacy for the poor of Cambodia.

“Prince Ranariddh built many achievements including schools, pagodas, ponds and wells to support the poor people in the past,” said Bun Chhay, whose party had been in discussion about a potential merger with Funcinpec.

For now, it’s not clear if that’ll ever happen, said Bun Chhay, especially in the lead-up to the commune elections in 2022.

“Discussing a merger between my party and Funcinpec Party, the issue is based on Funcinpec because they still have not solved the internal conflict yet,” said Bun Chhay.

He appealed to all royalists, Sihanoukists and former Funcinpec members to maintain the Funcinpec Party, which Bun Chhay a legacy of Ranariddh and the late king Sihanouk.

Veteran Cambodian analyst Lao Mong Hay offered a more critical view of the prince’s legacy, stating that Ranariddh did not learn the art of statecraft from his father, the late king.

Mong Hay continued that Ranariddh had failed to use the power the people entrusted to him to consolidate his power and build institutions of democracy and rule of law to replace the country’s communist legacy.

He said Ranariddh was soon outwitted and ousted by his far more talented rival, Hun Sen. His case should confirm a Khmer saying, Mong Hay added, that ten learned persons combined are worth less than one talented person.

“For lack of better leadership Funcinpec soon fell prey to the salami tactics, that is, divide and conquer, of its coalition partner [CPP], which already firmly controlled the state machinery, and broke up into pieces,” Mong Hay said. “What has remained is its name.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen (L), speaks to Prince Norodom Ranariddh as they attend a funeral ceremony for Princess Norodom Bopha Devi at a pagoda in Phnom Penh. Picture taken November 20, 2019. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang.

Hun Sen issued a statement on Sunday that he and his wife were heartbroken with the news of Ranariddh’s passing.

Hun Sen said in the statement that the death of Ranariddh marked the loss of a great royal figure who loved the nation, religion, and king with a strong and wise conscience.

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