Norodom Ranariddh

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His Royal Highness
Samdech Krom Preah

Norodom Ranariddh
នរោត្ដម រណឫទ្ធិ
Ranariddh self portrait.jpg
President of the Supreme Privy Council
Assumed office
12 December 2008
Monarch Norodom Sihamoni
Preceded by Position established
3rd President of the National Assembly
In office
25 November 1998 – 14 March 2006
Prime Minister Hun Sen
Vice President Heng Samrin
Nguon Nhel
Preceded by Chea Sim
Succeeded by Heng Samrin
First Prime Minister of Cambodia
35th Prime Minister of Cambodia
In office
2 July 1993 – 6 August 1997
Monarch Norodom Sihanouk
Second Prime Minister Hun Sen
Preceded by Hun Sen
Succeeded by Ung Huot
President of the Funcinpec Party
Assumed office
19 January 2015
Preceded by Norodom Arunrasmy
In office
February 1992 – 18 October 2006
Preceded by Nhiek Tioulong
Succeeded by Keo Puth Rasmey
President of the Norodom Ranariddh Party
In office
November 2006 – October 2008
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Chhim Siek Leng
In office
December 2010 – August 2012
Preceded by Chhim Siek Leng
Succeeded by Pheng Heng
President of the Community of Royalist People's Party
In office
16 March 2014 – 17 January 2015
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
Member of Parliament
for Kampong Cham
In office
2 July 1993 – 12 December 2006
Personal details
Born (1944-01-02) 2 January 1944 (age 71)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Political party Funcinpec Party (1983–2006; 2015–present)
Other political
Community of Royalist People's Party (2014–15)
Norodom Ranariddh Party (2006–08; 2010–12)
Spouse(s) Eng Marie
(m. 1968; div. 2010)
Ouk Phalla
(m. 2010–present)
Children Norodom Chakravuth
Norodom Sihariddh
Norodom Rattana Devi
Norodom Sothearidh
Norodom Ranavong
Alma mater University of Provence
Religion Theravada Buddhism
Website Official website
Monarchical styles of
Norodom Ranariddh
Coat of arms of Cambodia.svg
Reference style His Royal Highness
Spoken style Your Royal Highness
Alternative style Sir

Norodom Ranariddh (Khmer: នរោត្តម រណឫទ្ធិ; born 2 January 1944) is a Cambodian prince, politician and law academic. He is the second son of Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia and a half-brother of the current king, Norodom Sihamoni. Ranariddh is a graduate of the University of Provence and started his career as a law researcher and lecturer in France. In 1983, Ranariddh joined FUNCINPEC, and became its secretary-general in 1989. He was subsequently elected as FUNCINPEC president in 1992, and after the party won the 1993 general election, Ranariddh became the First Prime Minister of Cambodia in a coalition government with Hun Sen as the Second Prime Minister. Relations between Ranariddh and Hun Sen became strained in early 1996 and violent clashes occurred in July 1997 which resulted in Ranariddh's ouster from the government. Ranariddh went into exile but was later granted a royal pardon in March 1998. He returned to Cambodia to lead FUNCINPEC to contest in the 1998 general election. Ranariddh was subsequently appointed as the President of the National Assembly at the end of 1998 until his resignation in March 2006.

In October 2006, Ranariddh was sacked as the President of the FUNCINPEC party and he went on to form the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) the following month. After two criminal charges were laid against him, Ranariddh went into exile in Malaysia. He subsequently received a pardon from Sihamoni in September 2008, and announced his retirement from politics after he returned to Cambodia. Ranariddh was made the President of the Supreme Privy Council in December 2008. In December 2010, Ranariddh came out of retirement to lead the NRP again, and after a lengthy and failed attempt to merge the NRP and FUNCINPEC, Ranariddh announced his retirement for a second time. In March 2014, Ranariddh came out of retirement again and launched the Community of Royalist People's Party (CRPP) in 2014. The following year in January 2015, Ranariddh dissolved the CRPP and returned to FUNCINPEC. He was subsequently re-elected as the FUNCINPEC president.

Early life[edit]

Ranariddh was born in Phnom Penh to Sihanouk and Phat Kanhol, a ballet dancer attached to the royal court. Ranariddh was separated from his mother at three years old when she remarried, and subsequently grew up mostly under the care of an aunt; Norodom Ketkanya and a grandaunt, Norodom Sobhana. Ranariddh attended primary school at Norodom School and part of his high school studies in Lycee Descartes in Phnom Penh.[1] During his free time, Ranariddh made frequent visits to the royal palace to visit his grandparents King Suramarit and Queen Kossamak.[2] In 1958, Ranariddh was sent to a boarding school in Marseille together with his half-brother Norodom Chakrapong. Ranariddh initially planned to pursue medical studies as he excelled in the science subjects, but was persuaded by Queen Kossamak to pursue law studies instead.[3] After he finished high school in 1961, Ranariddh enrolled into the undergraduate programme of law at the University of Paris. In Paris, Ranariddh struggled to cope with his studies, and which he attributed to the differing lifestyle norms between Marseille and Paris.[4] Ranariddh returned to Marseille in 1962 where he enrolled into the law faculty at the University of Provence (now part of Aix-Marseille University), and obtained his Bachelor and Master's degrees in 1968 and 1969 respectively, both specialising in Public Law.[5]

After completing his master's, Ranariddh went on to take the PhD qualifying examinations within 1969. Ranariddh subsequently returned to Cambodia, and worked briefly as an official at the Interior Ministry.[6] When Lon Nol staged a coup against Sihanouk in March 1970, Ranariddh was fired from his job and fled into the jungle where he associated closely with the anti-Lon Nol resistance leaders. Ranariddh was captured in 1971 along with several members of the royal family, and spent six months in prison before being released.[7] Ranariddh subsequently returned to the University of Provence where he completed his PhD in 1974.[8] Between 1976 and 1979, Ranariddh worked as a research fellow at the CNRS,[9] and was awarded a higher diploma in air transport by the time he left in 1979.[10] Ranariddh went back to the University of Provence for the third time, and taught courses in constitutional law and political sociology. Shortly before Ranariddh left his full-time teaching duties in 1983, Ranariddh had become an associate professor.[11][12]

Entry into politics[edit]

Initial years in FUNCINPEC[edit]

When Sihanouk formed FUNCINPEC in 1981, Ranariddh initially declined an invitation to join the party as he disagreed with FUNCINPEC's association with the Khmer Rouge.[13] Ranariddh joined FUNCINPEC in June 1983 after much persuasion from his father, and he was appointed as a special representative to Sihanouk.[14] In March 1985, Ranariddh was appointed the inspector-general of the Armee Nationale Sihanoukiste (ANS, also informally known as the FUNCINPEC army).[9] Ten months later in January 1986, Ranariddh was anointed by Sihanouk to be the commander in chief and chief of staff for ANS.[15] Sihanouk resigned from the presidency of Funcinpec in August 1989, paving the way for Ranariddh to become its secretary-general in 1989.[16] In September 1990, Ranariddh was made a member of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC), a transitional organisation headed by Sihanouk to prepare that served to represent sovereign interests in the United Nations.[17] When the 1991 Paris Peace Accords were signed in October of that year, Ranariddh was one of the twelve signatories from the SNC.[18] In February 1992, Ranariddh was elected as the president of the FUNCINPEC.[19]

1993 elections[edit]

Ranariddh was appointed one of the council members for UNTAC when it was formed in 1992. He spent time travelling between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and while in Phnom Penh, Ranariddh led efforts to open FUNCINPEC party offices across the country.[20] However, party offices in the rural parts of the country faced multiple incidents of attacks from government troops and killings of low-level party officials. The attacks led to top-level FUNCINPEC officials such as Norodom Sirivudh and Sam Rainsy to dissuade Ranariddh from registering the party for the 1993 general elections. When news of FUNCINPEC's decision not to run in the general elections reached Yasushi Akashi, the chief-de-mission for UNTAC, he successfully persuaded Ranariddh to run in the elections.[21] The election campaign started in April 1993, and Ranariddh as well as other FUNCINPEC officials wore T-shirts depicting Sihanouk in their campaign trail, despite an election rule stipulated by the UNTAC administration not to use Sihanouk's name for the election.[22]

The voting was carried out in May 1993, and FUNCINPEC secured about 45 percent of all valid votes, accounting for 58 out of a total of 120 parliamentary seats. The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) led by Chea Sim and Hun Sen refused to recognise the election results over allegations of electoral fraud and pressured Sihanouk to take state power. On 10 June 1993, General Sin Song and Chakrapong threatened to secede eight eastern provinces from Cambodia.[23] Chakrapong's secession threat prompted Sihanouk to accede to the suggestion of Chea Sim and Hun Sen. Ranariddh returned four days later to preside over a parliamentary meeting which made Sihanouk the Head of State of Cambodia with Hun Sen and Ranariddh serving as co-Prime Ministers.[24] A new constitution was drafted during this period of time and completed by September 1993. Sihanouk resigned from his position as the Head of State and was re-instated as the King of Cambodia. In turn, Ranariddh assumed the role of First Prime Minister while Hun Sen assumed the role of Second Prime Minister.[25]

Co-premiership (1993-1997)[edit]

Co-operation and co-administration with CPP[edit]

The then-political representative of UN secretary-general to Cambodia, Benny Widyono observed that although Ranariddh held a senior position in name to Hun Sen, he held less executive powers. Nevertheless, Ranariddh developed a close working relationship with Hun Sen, and both of them would attend public functions together regularly until 1996.[26] While Cambodia was still under the administration of an interim government in August 1993, Ranariddh and Hun Sen jointly applied for the country's membership in the International Organization of the Francophonie.[27] The decision to enter the Francophonie drew flak from students in higher educational institutes, and Ranariddh responded to the calls by approaching both English and French-speaking countries to provide more technical assistance to support the country's language curriculum.[28]

Ranariddh expressed admiration in the political and economic systems of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia during an interview in August 1995. According to Ranariddh, these countries were characterised by hybrid regimes, active economic interventionism and limited press freedom, were good models to propel Cambodia's socio-economic growth. Ranariddh espoused the view that economic development of Cambodia should take precedence over democratic and human rights.[29] In the initial months of the administration, Ranariddh actively courted the leaders of various regional countries including Indonesia,[30] Singapore[31] and Malaysia to invest in Cambodia. Ranariddh established the Cambodian Development Council (CDC) in early 1994,[32] a statutory board to oversee regulatory affairs relating to foreign investment which he served as its chairperson.[33] The then-Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, showed strong enthusiasm to Ranariddh's plans. Mahathir was particularly enthusiastic to encouraging Malaysian businessmen to invest and assist the development of the tourism, infrastructural development and telecommunications industries.[32]

As the chairman of the CDC, Ranariddh approved of at least 17 business development project proposals submitted by Malaysian businessmen between August 1994 and January 1995. The projects mostly covered infrastructural development such as building of a racing track, power plants, petrol kiosks Businessmen from various countries, as well as establishing oil palm estates and timber logging concessions.[34][35] In November 1994, the CDC opened a tender to build a casino off Sihanoukville and proposals submitted by three companies were shortlisted for consideration; Ariston Berhad from Malaysia, Unicentral Corporation from Singapore and Hyatt International from the US. Ariston's proposal was valued at USD$1.3 billion, and part of the proposal also included a plan to bring in a luxury cruiser fitted with a casino to Cambodia while the Sihanoukville resort was built. Before the tender was concluded, Ariston's luxury cruiser was brought to Phnom Penh in the early December.[36] The then-Tourism Minister, Veng Sereyvuth suspected that there could be insider trading activities between CDC and Ariston.[34] The tender was awarded to Ariston Berhad, and Ranariddh represented the government delegation to sign an official agreement with Ariston to secure the tender in January 1995.[35] Ariston conceded the operations of the luxury cruiser, named Heritage to Unicentral Corporation.[37]

In 1992, the UNTAC administration outlawed forest logging and timber exports, and Ranariddh issued an order to temporarily lift the ban on timber exports in October 1993.[38] The Khmer Rouge which controlled parts of western and northern Cambodia, engaged in these activities for a source of revenue.[39] The felled trees are sold to Thai forestry companies for timber. The Cambodian government on its part, was unable to impose the law in territory controlled by the Khmer Rouge and were eager to retrieve some of the logging revenues that went to the Khmer Rouge.[40] The following January, Ranariddh and Hun Sen signed a bilateral agreement with then-Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai permitting felled trees to be legally exported to Thailand on a temporary basis until 31 March 1994.[41] The agreement provided for the creation of designated customs zones within Thai territory and allow Cambodian custom officials to inspect the logs and collect revenues from companies. However, the government allowed existing logging concessions to remain valid in spite of a ban on further logging, which resulted in more trees being felled in Khmer Rouge-controlled areas. A new stockpile of felled trees was created and accumulated by the end of March 1994. In turn, Ranariddh and Hun Sen gave special authorisation for the felled trees to be exported to North Korea.[42] Ranariddh and Hun Sen would continue the practice of alternately temporary export bans and special approvals to clear fallen timber until the former's ouster in 1997.[38] In addition to Khmer Rouge-controlled areas, substantial logging also occurred in the northeastern provinces of Rattanakiri which was populated by Khmer Loeu.[43] Under Ranariddh's co-administration, Malaysia's Samling Berhad and Indonesia's Macro-Panin among the largest beneficiaries of government contracts as these two logging companies were awarded rights to log 805,000 hectares and 1.4 million hectares of forests respectively in August 1994 and 1995.[38][44]

Authority challenges and conflicts within the government[edit]

Official portrait of Norodom Ranariddh used while he was the First Prime Minister.

In late June 1994, Chakrapong and Sin Song met up with Sin Sen, a former CPP internal security chief who shared Sin Song and Chakrapong's unhappiness of being excluded state positions in the coalition government. The three of them discussed plans to stage a coup to overthrow the coalition government. On 2 July, Sin Song commanded 12 APCs and three hundred police troops from Prey Veng and marched towards Phnom Penh.[45] Nhek Bun Chhay, a military general allied to Ranariddh, detected the Sin Song's troop movements and sent his troops to intercept them.[46] Sin Song promptly ordered his troops to return to Prey Veng upon meeting Nhek Bun Chhay's troops. Over the next few days, government troops arrested Sin Song, Chakrapong and Sin Sen and placed them under house arrest, though Sin Song managed to escape to Thailand while Chakrapong was sent into exile to Malaysia.[47]

In October 1994, Ranariddh and Hun Sen jointly dropped Sam Rainsy as the Finance Minister during a cabinet reshuffle. Rainsy was appointed as Finance Minister by Ranariddh in 1993, but both Prime Minister became uncomfortable working with Rainsy due to his pursuits over allegations of corruption inside the government. Rainsy also became a popular figure who was also supported by Sihanouk, and Ranariddh saw his popularity as a potential threat to his Funcinpec presidency.[48] Rainsy's expulsion as the Finance Minister sowed unhappiness with Norodom Sirivudh, who resigned as Foreign Minister the following month.[49] In March 1995, Rainsy publicly questioned Ranariddh's acceptance of an Fokker 28 airplane and a $108 million commission from Ariston Berhad during a corruption forum.[50] Rainsy's comments upset Ranariddh, and the latter introduced a motion to remove Rainsy as the Member of Parliament in June 1995 over charges of demagogy and failure to toe the party line.[51]

Ranariddh's relations with Hun Sen began to sour from early January 1996, when Hun Sen submitted a government circular to reinstate January 7–the anniversary of the liberation of Khmer Rouge forces by the Vietnamese from Phnom Penh as a national holiday. Ranariddh had countersigned the circular, and when the contents of the circular was publicised, and 12 lawmakers from FUNCINPEC sent a letter of protest to Sihanouk over the holiday's reinstatement. A few days later, Ranariddh charged the Vietnamese army of encroaching into territory of four Cambodian provinces bordering Vietnam, apparently to tone down dissatisfaction from party members.[52] During a closed-door FUNCINPEC meeting in the later part of January 1996, party members criticised Hun Sen and the CPP for monopolizing government power, and also chided Ranariddh for being too subservient to Hun Sen.[53]

In March 1996, Ranariddh openly expressed his unhappiness over his relationship with Hun Sen and the CPP at the FUNCINPEC congress. Ranariddh likened his role as that of a "puppet prime minister" as well as that of Funcinpec Ministers as puppets, and questioned of outstanding delays in appointing FUNCINPEC district officials as district chief. Ranariddh issued a threat to dissolve the National Assembly before the end of 1996 should Funcinpec's demands are not met.[53] Several FUNCINPEC MPs, especially Loy Sim Chheang and Ahmad Yahya, called on Ranariddh to reconcile with Sam Rainsy and work with his newly formed Khmer Nation Party to contest in the subsequent general election.[54] A month after the FUNCINPEC congress, Ranariddh took a vacation to Paris where he attended a meeting with Sihanouk, Rainsy, Chakrapong and Sirivudh. A few days after the meeting on 27 April, Sihanouk declared that FUNCINPEC had no intention to leave the coalition government, dissociated themselves from anti-CPP protests and appraised Hun Sen and the CPP. According to Widyono, Sihanouk's statement was an attempt to defuse Ranariddh's tension with Hun Sen.[55]

At the beginning of May 1996, Hun Sen's government formally established relations with South Korea, a move which Ranariddh had long resisted due to Sihanouk's long-standing relations with North Korea.[55] Several Funcinpec MPs took the advantage of Ranariddh's absence to secretly declare their support for Hun Sen, and among them included the then-governor of Siem Reap Toan Chhay and Agriculture Minister Tao Seng Huor.[56] Around the same time, Ranariddh implicitly expressed his discomfort with Hun Sen by stating that the Cambodian constitution only provides for one prime minister, and that the dual Prime Minister system was ineffective and technically illegal.[57] During a series of CPP party meetings in late June, Hun Sen urged provincial governors from the CPP not to attend events hosted by Ranariddh. Hun Sen chided Ranariddh for not following up his threat to leave the coalition government in March, and went on to call him a "real dog".[58]

Construction of the resort-cum-casino at Sihanoukville, which Ranariddh had signed an agreement with Ariston in January 1995 had not started. Ranariddh expressed concern over the repeated delays as early as February 1996,[59] and Ariston responded that the absence of developmental authority in Sihanoukville was the main cause of delay. At the end of April 1995, Ranariddh and Hun Sen jointly formed the Sihanoukville Developmental Authority (SDA) to oversee regulatory affairs to facilitate Ariston's developmental plans.[60] The cause of delays was a sore point for Ranariddh, and at a conference in May 1996, Ranariddh charged that CPP-controlled ministries were deliberately delaying administrative aspects of approving Ariston's project. According to Tioulong Saumura, she saw the delays as Hun Sen's strategy to undermine projects associated with Ranariddh.[59] In an apparent act of retaliation, Ranariddh directed FUNCINPEC's co-minister of the interior You Hockry to close down all existing casinos in the country, citing the absence of casino laws in the country.[61] Ranariddh also went further to propose the cancellation of Ariston's contracts due to the delays. Hun Sen responded by arranging a meeting with Mahathir, and assured that agreements which Ranariddh have previously approved would not be scrapped.[62]

Conflict escalation & 1997 clashes[edit]

On 21 February 1997, FUNCINPEC troops commanded by Serey Kosal intercepted a convoy of 200 CPP troops at Battambang who were travelling en route to Pailin. The convoy was stopped and disarmed, but news of the incident spread to nearby areas and fighting soon broke out between the FUNCINPEC and CPP troops, leaving at least 21 dead.[63][64] A week later, Ranariddh launched the coalition "National United Front". The coalition consisted of Funcinpec, Khmer Nation Party, BLDP and the Khmer Neutral Party and Ranariddh publicly declared the intention of the coalition to contest against the CPP in the 1998 elections.[65]

During this period of time in February, Ranariddh sent a letter to Ariston Berhad to declare three agreements signed in September 1996 null and void. The agreements provided for the leasing of land to Ariston to develop a golf course, holiday resort and an airport in Sihanoukville. Ranariddh was upset at the agreements being signed unilaterally by CPP's minister Sok An without the knowledge of Ranariddh or other FUNCINPEC ministers. Ranariddh also implicitly charged Ariston of taking sides in the political divide between FUNCINPEC and the CPP. Ariston argued back that attempts by the company to send representatives to participate in the signing of the agreement were unsuccessful.[66] Hun Sen separately sent a letter to Mahathir in April 1997 to reassure the legitimacy of the agreements, and at the same time slammed Ranariddh's attempt to void them.[67]

At the end of May 1997, Ranariddh was caught with importing a three-ton shipment of rocket launchers, assault rifles and handguns from Sihanoukville covertly labelled as "spare parts". Some of the ammunitions were seized by officers from the Air Force, and Ranariddh's officers were allowed to keep the light ammunition.[68] Following the incident, Ranariddh held secret talks with Khmer Rouge forces allied with Khieu Samphan in June 1997 around Preah Vihear. When news of the meeting was conveyed to Hun Sen, a firefight between Ranariddh's bodyguards and the Police loyal to CPP broke out in Phnom Penh. Hun Sen subsequently issued an ultimatum to Ranariddh either to co-operate with the CPP or with the Khmer Rouge.[69] On 3 July, Ranariddh's motorcade convoy was travelling to Phnom Penh when they encountered security forces allied with Hun Sen which led to the latter disarming Ranariddh's bodyguards. The incident prompted Ranariddh to flee Cambodia following day.[64]

On 5 July 1997, several regiments of regular forces and military police aligned to the CPP converged at the Taing Krassang military base, Phnom Penh International Airport and the residence of Nhek Bun Chhay. Fighting broke out in the afternoon between CPP troops and FUNCINPEC troops led by Nhek Bun Chay and Serey Kosal. Hun Sen quickly returned from his vacation at Vung Tau. The following day, Hun Sen deployed his bodyguard units to the regular forces fighting FUNCINPEC troops. FUNCINPEC troops initiated two attempts to attack CPP troops, but were quickly repulsed by Hun Sen's bodyguards and regular troops. FUNCINPEC troops subsequently retreated from their positions following the failed attempts.[70]

Continued leadership in FUNCINPEC (1997-2006)[edit]

Exile, return and 1998 elections[edit]

After his ouster, Ranariddh several interviews to international press such as the Far Eastern Economic Review to make public denunciations against the clashes.[71] The foreign ministers of Indonesia, Philippines and Thai foreign ministers met with Ranariddh, which incurred the wrath of Hun Sen. Ung Huot was nominated by FUNCINPEC MPs loyal to Hun Sen to replace Ranariddh during a party meeting in mid-July,[72] and was formally voted in as First Prime Minister during a National Assembly sitting on 6 August 1997.[73] A few days later, Sihanouk voiced his unhappiness over the clashes and proposed to abdicate the throne to take over the premiership. Sihanouk also charged that Ranariddh's ouster was unconstitutional and initially refused to endorse Ung Huot's appointment,[74] although he later relented as ASEAN member states recognised Ung Huot's appointment.[75] In September 1997, then-UN secretary general, Kofi Annan met with Ranariddh and Hun Sen to separately to mediate the return of FUNCINPEC politicians and prepare for the 1998 Cambodian general elections. While Ranariddh and Hun Sen agreed to allow UN representatives to monitor the election, Hun Sen insisted that Ranariddh be tried and prosecuted for his crimes. In return, Ranariddh snubbed at Hun Sen's suggestion, and threatened that any prosecution would see FUNCINPEC boycotting the general elections altogether.[76]

FUNCINPEC troops continued to fight with CPP troops in Oddar Meanchey province along with Khmer Rouge,[77] until February 1998 when a ceasefire was brokered between Nhek Bun Chhay and Hun Sen.[78] In March 1998, Ranariddh was convicted of illegally smuggling ammunitions in May 1997 and collusion with the Khmer Rouge to cause instability in the country. He was sentenced to a total of 35 years imprisonment, but was subsequently pardoned by Sihanouk.[79] Ranariddh subsequently returned to Cambodia at the end of March 1998 to lead FUNCINPEC's election campaign.[80] FUNCINPEC's election campaign focused on pro-monarchical sentiments[81] and anti-Vietnamese rhetoric.[82] FUNCINPEC faced numerous hindrances during the campaign, including the loss of access to television and radio channels as well as its supporters facing blockades to rallies.[83] When the election voting was carried out in July 1998, FUNCINPEC won 43 seats and polled 32% of the total votes.[84]

Hun Sen made an offer to FUNCINPEC to form a coalition government with FUNCINPEC. However, FUNCINPEC rejected the offer as they believed that the CPP-led government had carried out voter intimidation and tampering of the ballot boxes to skew the election results to the CPP's advantage.[85] Both FUNCINPEC and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), which had came in third in the elections, filed petitions to the Election Commission and Constitutional Court over the allegations. When the petitions were rejected by the Constitutional Court in August, Ranariddh and Rainsy organised street protests to demand that Hun Sen relinquish power. The number of protesters reached 15,000 by the end of the month, and Sihanouk invited Ranariddh, Hun Sen and Rainsy for a summit meeting in Siem Reap to discuss for a political solution in September 1998. On the day of the meeting with Sihanouk, a B40 rocket was fired from an RPG-2 rocket launcher at the direction of Hun Sen's motorcade. The rocket missed the motorcade, and Hun Sen escaped unhurt. Following the attack, the police accused Rainsy of planning the attack, a claim which the latter denied. As the police issued threats to arrest Ranariddh and Rainsy, both of them left the country in October.[86]

President of the National Assembly (1998-2006)[edit]

Ranariddh meets then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Phnom Penh, 2003.

Ranariddh later returned to Cambodia in November 1998 and struck a deal with Hun Sen, whereby FUNCINPEC would get the post of the National Assembly Presidency in addition to several low and mid-key ministries. On 25 November 1998, Ranariddh was formally nominated as the Chairman of the National Assembly.[84] Part of the deal included a condition for FUNCINPEC to support the creation of the Cambodian senate, which Ranariddh publicly expressed support in February 1999. Mehta noted that the creation of the senate was to provide an alternative platform to pass legislations in the event that Ranariddh may exert his influence as the Chairman to veto laws.[87] Ranariddh also worked with Hun Sen to integrate members of his FUNCINPEC troops into the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).[88] Ranariddh spearheaded efforts to seek better relations with Vietnam, in a bid to reduce diplomatic tensions due to long-standing border dispute issues.[89] The efforts culminated in several high profile visits between Ranariddh and Vietnamese leaders including Nong Duc Manh between 1999 and 2000,[90] but proved to become unsuccessful as border clashes erupted in 2000 and 2001.[89]

Ranariddh steered FUNCINPEC on the course of political rapprochement with the CPP, and actively discouraged FUNCINPEC ministers and MPs to criticise the CPP. During the party's congress in March 2001, Ranariddh declared the CPP as an "eternal partner".[91] A sizeable minority of FUNCINPEC's politicians were reportedly unhappy with Ranariddh's leadership as early as 1999, when rumours of Ranariddh accepting bribes from the CPP began to circulate.[92] Discontent within FUNCINPEC surfaced in February 2002 when FUNCINPEC performed poorly in the commune elections and was only able to secure 10 out of 1,600 seats. The deputy commander-in-chief of the RCAF, Khan Savoeun accused the co-Minister of the Interior, You Hockry of corruption and nepotism that led to FUNCINPEC's poor electoral performance. As Savoeun's accusations found support from only a fraction of the party members, this led to an apparent split in the party. Hockry resigned from his ministerial position in May 2002 after Ranariddh expressed support for Savoeun's cause. Within days of Hockry's resignation, two political parties espousing royalist platforms similar to FUNCINPEC, the Khmer Soul Party and the Hang Dara democratic party, were introduced to the press. The politicla parties were led by Ranariddh's half-brother Chakrapong and Hang Dara, both of them former FUNCINPEC members.[93] Both parties attracted sizeable numbers of members defecting from FUNCINPEC, who were apparently unhappy with Ranariddh's leadership of FUNCINPEC. At this time, Ranariddh expressed worry of FUNCINPEC faring poorly in the 2003 general elections.[94]

The general election was held in July 2003, and Harish Mehta noted that FUNCINPEC took care to refrain from confronting the CPP in their electoral campaign.[95] According to FUNCINPEC party members interviewed by Stephen Heder, part of the reason that the party put up a nuanced electoral campaign was attributed to CPP-linked businessmen such as Ly Yong Phat, who had provided the party with funds to finance their electoral campaign.[96] The CPP won the election, and FUNCINPEC secured 26 seats and polled 21% of the popular vote. The results marked an 11% point drop in the share of popular votes as compared to FUNCINPEC's performance in 1998.[97] Both Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy expressed unhappiness with the outcome of the election, and alleged the CPP had engineered its election victory by manipulating vote counts and intimidating the electorate. In August 2003, Ranariddh and Rainsy forged an alliance, named the "Alliance of Democrats" (AD). The AD called on the CPP form a three-party government consisting of the CPP, FUNCINPEC and the SRP, and at the same time calling on Hun Sen to step down as Prime Minister.[98] Hun Sen rejected AD's demands, and according to Heder he allegedly launched a spree of assassinations on prominent FUNCINPEC's activists. Several months later in March 2004, Ranariddh negotiated privately with Hun Sen that FUNCINPEC would join CPP as a junior coalition partner in the new government. Ranariddh led senior FUNCINPEC members to additional rounds of negotiations with the CPP, and a "package vote" was agreed upon by June 2004 whereby FUNCINPEC would continue to support Hun Sen to retain his premiership. In return, Ranariddh retained his appointment as the President of the National Assembly, as well as a promise to provide FUNCINPEC with 40 percent of all profits from state-owned enterprises.[99] The package vote was formalised in a parliamentary session on July 2004.[100]

Expulsion from FUNCINPEC[edit]

On 2 March 2006, the national assembly passed a constitutional amendment which required only a simple majority of parliamentarians to support a government, instead of a two-thirds majority that was previously stipulated. A day later, the government relieved Norodom Sirivudh and Nhek Bun Chhay of their posts as FUNCINPEC's co-minister of interior and co-minister of defense respectively.[101] Ranariddh resigned as the President of the National Assembly on 14 March in protest of the government's decision, and left Cambodia to reside in France. Shortly after Ranariddh left for France, local tabloids published stories that Ranariddh had an affair with Ouk Phalla, an apsara dancer.[102] Two months later, the party's secretary general, Nhek Bun Chhay issued an order to relieve 40 deputy provincial governors of their duties.[103] In September 2006, Hun Sen and Nhek Bun Chhay claimed that Phalla had lobbied Ranariddh to appoint her relatives to official positions. A month later in October 2006, Ranariddh was relieved of his position as the FUNCINPEC chairman and named as the "historic leader" in an emergency congress.[104]

Recent political activities (2006-present)[edit]

Norodom Ranariddh Party, exile and retirement[edit]

Following Ranariddh's expulsion, Nhek Bun Chhay filed a lawsuit in November 2006 against Ranariddh. Nhek Bun Chhay accused Ranariddh for pocketing the proceeds from the sale of FUNCINPEC headquarters to the French embassy back in 2005 amounting to $3.6 million.[105] In mid-November, Ranariddh returned to Cambodia and announced the formation of the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). In December, Ranariddh was expelled from the National Assembly as a Member of Parliament,[102] and within days his wife filed another lawsuit against Ranariddh for adultery. Ranariddh was also joined by his half-brother Chakrapong, who was also expelled from FUNCINPEC just weeks after Ranariddh was ousted. Chakrapong had served as a senator under FUNCINPEC when he rejoined the party in 2004. After Chakrapong joined the NRP, Ranariddh appointed him as the party's deputy president.[102][106] In March 2007, Ranariddh was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for embezzlement over the sale of FUNCINPEC headquarters, and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. A few days later, Ranariddh was formally charged for adultery by his first wife Eng Marie.[107] Ranariddh had sought asylum in Malaysia days before his sentencing and was able to avoid imprisonment.[108]

Ranariddh remained in exile in Malaysia to avoid imprisonment, and communicated to his party members and supporters through telephone and video conferencing. When the electoral campaign for the 2008 general elections kicked off in June 2008, Ranariddh mainly targeted on the presence of stateless Vietnamese in Cambodia to stir nationalistic sentiments, with a secondary focus to curb illegal logging and a promise to lower prices of gasoline.[109] The NRP won 2 seats in parliament when voting was carried out in July. For a short period of time immediately after the election, NRP supported the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party in their accusations against the Election Commission for electoral fraud, but dropped their demands when Hun Sen was believed to have brokered a secret deal with Ranariddh to allow him to return from exile.[110] Ranariddh received a royal pardon at the request of Hun Sen, and returned to Cambodia in September 2008. Following his return, Ranariddh announced his retirement from politics as well as a pledge to support the CPP-led government.[108]

After his announced retirement, Ranariddh dedicated most of his time to philanthropy work and supporting royal activities. In late 2010, NRP and FUNCINPEC leaders such as Nhek Bun Chhay publicly called for Ranariddh to resume his political activities. Ranariddh initially resisted the calls,[111] but changed his mind and announced his return in December 2010.[112] For the next one-and-a-half years, Ranariddh and Nhek Bun Chhay negotiated at length for a bipartisan merger between NRP and FUNCINPEC. A merger agreement was formalised in May 2012 whereby Ranariddh would be made the president of FUNCINPEC while Nhek Bun Chhay would become its vice-president.[113] However, the merger agreement was rescinded a month later when Nhek Bun Chhay charged Ranariddh for supporting other opposition parties.[114] Two months later, Ranariddh declared his resignation from the politics for a second time and tended his resignation as the president of NRP.[115]

Community of Royalist People's Party[edit]

Norodom Ranariddh speaking with interviewers from the Voice of America in February 2014.

In March 2014, Ranariddh launched the royalist Community of Royalist People's Party (CRPP), which was formally registered with the Interior Ministry the following month.[116] Ranariddh stated that his return to politics was to draw pro-monarchial sentiments from the electorate, which according to him was becoming more republican in nature following the 2013 general elections. Ranariddh's comments drew flak from the main opposition party CNRP. Its president, Sam Rainsy charged that Ranariddh had the intention of splitting the opposition vote to favour the ruling CPP in subsequent elections.[117] The CRPP attracted support from some senior FUNCINPEC party members, and in December 2014 an ex-secretary of state, senator and deputy police chief from FUNCINPEC declared support for the CRPP.[118] At this point of time, Hun Sen secretly intervened to encourage Ranariddh to return to FUNCINPEC.[119]

Return to FUNCINPEC[edit]

In early January 2015, Ranariddh announced his intention to dissolve the CRPP and return to FUNCINPEC.[119] Ranariddh was reappointed as FUNCINPEC president at the party congress in the later part of the month. Ranariddh's half-sister and previous FUNCINPEC president, Norodom Arunrasmy as the first vice-president, while Nhek Bun Chhay was appointed as FUNCINPEC second vice-president.[120] In March 2015, Ranariddh launched a party congress where he appointed four additional vice-presidents to the FUNCINPEC executive committee.[121] He also managed to convince the congress to adopt a new party logo, which had a design almost identical that of the now-defunct CRPP.[122]

Palace relations[edit]

Royal Family of Cambodia
Royal Arms of Cambodia

HM The King

HM The Queen Mother

  • HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh
    HRH Princess Norodom Phalla Ranariddh
  • HRH Princess Norodom Bopha Devi
    • HRH Princess Sisowath Moni Kossoma
    • HRH Princess Sisowath Kalyan Tevi
    • Keo Chinsita Forsinetti
    • HRH Prince Sisowath Chivannariddh
    • HRH Prince Sisowath Veakchiravuddh
  • HRH Prince Norodom Yuvaneath
    HRH Princess Norodom Kim Yuvaneath
    • HRH Princess Norodom Chhavann-rangsi
    • HRH Prince Norodom Yuveakduri
    • HRH Prince Norodom Veakchearavouth
      HRH Princess Norodom Veakchearavouth
    • HRH Prince Norodom Veakcharin
    • HRH Princess Norodom Pekina
    • HRH Princess Norodom Yuveakdevi
  • HRH Prince Norodom Chakrapong
    HRH Princess Norodom Kachanipha Chakrapong
    • HRH Prince Norodom Buddhapong
    • HRH Prince Norodom Amarithivong
    • HRH Prince Norodom Naravong
    • HRH Prince Norodom Narithipong
    • HRH Prince Norodom Ravichak
    • HRH Princess Norodom Nanda Dévi
    • HRH Princess Norodom Vimalea
    • HRH Princess Norodom Bophary
    • HRH Prince Norodom Ithipong
    • HRH Prince Norodom Rindra
    • HRH Prince Norodom Charurak
    • HRH Prince Norodom Pongmonireth
    • HRH Princess Norodom Pongsoriya
  • HRH Princess Norodom Narindrapong
    • HRH Princess Norodom Simonarine
    • HRH Princess Norodom Moninouk
  • HRH Princess Norodom Arunrasmy
    HE Keo Puth Rasmey
    • HRH Prince Sisowath Nakia
    • HRH Prince Sisowath Nando
    • HRH Princess Sisowath Sirikith Nathalie
    • HRH Princess Keo Ponita
    • HRH Prince Keo Khemuni

Awards and royal appointments[edit]

Ranariddh was given the royal title of "Sdech Krom Luong" in June 1993, which translates to "Senior Prince" in English. Five months later in November 1993, Ranariddh was elevated to the royal title of Samdech Krom Preah in recognition of his efforts to re-instate Sihanouk as the King of Cambodia.[123] The title translates to as "Leading Senior Prince" in English.[124] Ranariddh was a recipient of several awards from the palace; in December 1992 he was decorated as the Grand Officer of the Royal Order of Cambodia. In May 2001, Ranariddh was bestowed with the Grand Order of National Merit and in October 2001, Ranariddh was awarded the Order of Sovatara with the class of Mohasereivadh.[125] Ranariddh was also awarded the Grand Officer de l’Ordre de la Pleaide by the La Francophonie in March 2000.[126]

In December 2008, Sihamoni appointed Ranariddh as the President of the Supreme Privy Council of Cambodia. Ranariddh's royal appointment carries an honorary position that provides an equivalent rank to the Prime Minister,[127] and during an interview in December 2010 Ranariddh revealed that his royal appointment entitles him to a monthly salary of three million riels.[112]

Candidacy to the throne[edit]

The debate for the successor to the throne started as early as November 1993[128] shortly Sihanouk was diagnosed with cancer.[129] Ranariddh was an early favourite choice succeed Sihanouk while he was the Prime Minister. In a 1995 poll conducted by the Khmer Journalists' Associations over seven hundred people showed 24% of all respondents preferred Ranariddh to the throne, although a larger proportion of correspondents had indicate no preference over any members of the royal family.[130] In a March 1996 interview with the Cambodia Daily, Sihanouk stated Ranariddh was an appropriate candidate to the throne. Sihanouk also expressed his concern over the problem of finding another capable leader to lead FUNCINPEC should Ranariddh accept the throne, as the constitution required Ranariddh give up his political career.[131] Sihanouk stated the same opinion of Ranariddh's candidacy to the throne in an interview with the Phnom Penh Post in February 1997. Sihanouk also quoted Sihamoni as another potential candidate, but added that the latter felt that the responsibilities attached to the throne were "frightening".[132] Sihamoni's candidacy found favour with Hun Sen and Chea Sim due to his non-involvement in politics.[133]

In two reports from 1993 and 1996, Ranariddh rejected the notion of becoming the next king.[128][131] In November 1997, Ranariddh expressed that his outspoken and passionate personality make him an unsuitable candidate for the throne.[134] However in March 1999, Ranariddh became more receptive to the idea of succeeding his father as the next King.[135] In early 2001, Ranariddh stated in an interview to Indian academic Harish Mehta of his conflicting desire to take the throne and staying in politics.[136][137] In November 2001, Ranariddh told the Cambodia Daily that he had decided to prioritize his political career over the throne, and quoted that Sihamoni had expressed support for Ranariddh to take the throne in the past.[138] In September 2004, Ranariddh commented that he had been offered the throne by Sihanouk and Monireath, but he would prefer to see Sihamoni take the throne instead. When the throne council convened in October 2004 to officially select Sihanouk's successor, Ranariddh was part of the council which unanimously chose Norodom Sihamoni to be the next king.[139]

Personal life[edit]

Ranariddh on an inspection tour with Sihanouk while serving in the ANS during the 1980s.

Ranariddh is known for his physical resemblance to his father Sihanouk, inheriting his facial features, high-pitched voice and mannerisms. Contemporaries such as Harish Mehta,[140] Lee Kuan Yew[141] and Benny Widyono[19] have made such references from their discourse with him. An opinion poll conducted in July 1997 by the Cambodian Information Centre also supports similar observations of Ranariddh's physical resemblance to Sihanouk.[142] Journalists such as those from the Phnom Penh Post have observed that Ranariddh had used his resemblance to canvass support for FUNCINPEC during the 1993 and 1998 general elections.[83] Ranariddh acknowledged these observations during an interview with Mehta in 2001, saying:

"People adore the king and I look like him. It is not my achievement they are remembering, but the deeds of my father. On the contrary, if I fail the people would say 'Oh you are the son, but you are not like your father'. It's rather a burden."[143]

Ranariddh speaks Khmer, French and English fluently.[143] He also holds dual Cambodian[144] and French citizenship, having obtained the latter from his long periods of residence in France between the 1960s and 1980s.[145] Ranariddh enjoyed listening to music and watching films, though he described himself as lacking the artistic talent which Sihanouk possesses in a 2001 interview.[13] In 2002, Ranariddh produced and directed a 90-minute film, titled "Raja Bori" which was shot at Angkor Wat.[146]


Ranariddh has 12 half-siblings from his father by different wives, and Norodom Buppha Devi is the only full-sibling of Ranariddh. Buppha Devi became a ballet dancer like their mother, Phat Kanthol during her younger days and also served as the Minister of Culture between 1998 and 2004.[147] Kanthol remarried in 1947 to a military officer, Chap Huot, and had five children with him. Phat Kanhol died from cancer at 49 years old in February 1969, while Chap Huot was killed in an explosion a year later. Four of Ranariddh's half-siblings by his mother and Chap Huot were killed during the years, while one of them, Chap Nhalyvoud survived.[148] Chap Nhalyvoud served as the governor of Siem Reap and Kampong Speu province between the 1990s and 2000s.[149]

Ranariddh met his first wife, Eng Marie in early 1968. Marie was the eldest child of Eng Meas, an Interior Ministry official of Sino-Khmer descent, and Sarah Hay, a Muslim of Cham ethnicity.[150][151] Marie had nine younger siblings, and among them was Roland Eng, the former ambassador to Thailand and United States.[152] The couple married in September 1968 at the royal palace,[153] and went on to have 3 children: Chakravuth (born 1970), Sihariddh (born 1972) and Rattana Devi (born 1973). The couple separated and filed for divorce in March 2006 when Ranariddh was found to have relations with Ouk Phalla,[102] but was not finalised until June 2010.[154] Ranariddh has 2 sons with Ouk Phalla, Sothearidh (born 2003)[155] and Ranavong (born 2011).[156] Phalla is a descendant of King Sisowath and was a classical dancer.[157] She met Ranariddh when the latter was producing and directing the movie, Raja Bori in 2002.[158]


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Political offices
Preceded by
Hun Sen
Prime Minister of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Ung Huot
Preceded by
Chea Sim
President of the National Assembly of Cambodia
Succeeded by
Heng Samrin
Party political offices
Preceded by
Norodom Arunrasmy
President of the Funcinpec Party
New office President of the Community of Royalist People's Party
Position abolished
Dissolution of CRPP
New office President of the Norodom Ranariddh Party
Succeeded by
Chhim Siek Leng
Preceded by
Nhiek Tioulong
President of the Funcinpec Party
Succeeded by
Keo Puth Rasmey