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Norodom Ranariddh

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His Royal Highness
Samdech Krom Preah

Norodom Ranariddh
នរោត្ដម រណឫទ្ធិ
Ranariddh self portrait.jpg
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
35th Prime Minister of Cambodia
First Prime Minister of Cambodia
In office
2 July 1993 – 6 August 1997
Monarch Norodom Sihanouk
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
Parents Norodom Sihanouk
Phat Kanhol
Alma mater University of Provence
Religion Buddhism
House House of Norodom
Website Official website
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, a Cambodian royalist political party. Three years later in 1986, he became the chief-of-staff and commander-in-chief of the Armee Nationale Sihanoukiste. Ranariddh became the secretary-general of FUNCINPEC in 1989, and its president in 1992. When FUNCINPEC won the 1993 Cambodian general election, it formed a coalition government which was jointly headed by two concurrently serving Prime Ministers, with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Ranariddh became the First Prime Minister of Cambodia while Hun Sen, who was from the CPP, became the Second Prime Minister. As the First Prime Minister, Ranariddh promoted business interests in Cambodia to leaders from regional countries and established the Cambodian Development Council (CDC).

From early 1996 onwards, relations between Ranariddh and Hun Sen deterioated as Ranariddh complained of unequal distribution of government authority between FUNCINPEC and the CPP. Subsequently, both leaders publicly disputed with each other over issues that ranged from the implementation of construction projects, signing of property development contracts to their rival alliances with the Khmer Rouge. In July 1997, a major clash between troops separately aligned to FUNCINPEC and the CPP took place, forcing Ranariddh into exile. The following month, Ranariddh was ousted from his position as the First Prime Minister. He returned to Cambodia in March 1998, and led his party to contest in the 1998 Cambodian general election. When FUNCINPEC lost the elections to the CPP, Ranariddh briefly challenged the election results. He later accepted the results, and was made the President of the National Assembly in November 1998. Until 2001, Ranariddh was seen as a potential successor to Sihanouk as the next King of Cambodia, when he renounced his interest in succeeding to the throne. As the President of the National Assembly, Ranariddh was one of the nine members of the throne council which selected Sihamoni to succeed Sihanouk in 2004.

In March 2006, Ranariddh resigned as the President of the National Assembly and was subsequently ousted as the President of FUNCINPEC in October 2006. The following month, Ranariddh founded the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). The following month, two lawsuits were filed against Ranariddh which accused him of embezzlement and adultery, forcing him to go into exile once again. In March 2007, Ranariddh was found guilty of both charges and sentenced to imprisonment, which were commuted after he received a pardon in September 2008. Ranariddh returned to Cambodia and announced his retirement from politics. In December 2008, Ranariddh was made the President of the Supreme Privy Council. He came out of retirement to lead the NRP again in December 2010, and after a failed attempt to merge the NRP and FUNCINPEC, Ranariddh announced his retirement from politics for a second time. In March 2014, he came out of retirement again and launched the Community of Royalist People's Party (CRPP). 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 his first wife[1] Phat Kanhol, a ballet dancer attached to the royal court.[2] Ranariddh was separated from his mother at three years of age when she remarried, and subsequently grew up mostly under the care of his aunt, Norodom Ketkanya and grandaunt, Norodom Sobhana.[3] Ranariddh attended primary school at Norodom School and completed part of his high school studies at Lycee Descartes in Phnom Penh.[4] During his childhood, Ranariddh developed a close relationship with his grandparents, Norodom Suramarit and Sisowath Kossamak but had a distant relationship with his father.[5] In 1958, Ranariddh was sent to a boarding school in Marseille together with his half-brother Norodom Chakrapong.[6] Ranariddh initially planned to pursue medical studies as he did well in science subjects, but was persuaded by Kossamak to study law instead. After finishing high school in 1961, Ranariddh enrolled in the undergraduate programme of law at the University of Paris. In Paris, Ranariddh struggled to focus on his studies, which he attributed to the differing lifestyle norms between Marseille and Paris.[7]

In 1962, Ranariddh returned to Marseille, where he enrolled in the law faculty at the University of Provence (now part of Aix-Marseille University). He obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees in 1968 and 1969 respectively, both specialising in Public Law.[8] After completing his master's, Ranariddh took the PhD qualifying examinations in 1969. He returned to Cambodia in January 1970, and worked briefly as a secretary at the Interior Ministry.[9] When Lon Nol staged a successful coup against Sihanouk in March 1970, Ranariddh was dismissed from his job and fled into the jungle where he associated closely with the anti-Lon Nol resistance leaders.[10] Ranariddh was captured in 1971 along with several members of the royal family, and was held in prison six months before being released. He was rearrested the following year, and spent another three months in detention.[11] In 1973, Ranariddh returned to the University of Provence,[12] where he completed his PhD in 1975.[13] Between 1976 and 1979, Ranariddh worked as a research fellow at the CNRS,[14] and was awarded a diploma of higher studies in air transport when he left in 1979.[15] In the same year, Ranariddh went back to the University of Provence for the third time as an associate professor[16] teaching courses in constitutional law and political sociology.[17]

Entry into politics[edit]

Initial years in FUNCINPEC[edit]

When Sihanouk formed FUNCINPEC in 1981, Ranariddh initially declined his father's invitation to join the party as he disagreed with its association with the Khmer Rouge.[16] After being persuaded by his father, Ranariddh eventually joined FUNCINPEC in June 1983, and was appointed as a personal representative to Sihanouk.[18] In March 1985, Ranariddh was appointed the inspector-general of the Armee Nationale Sihanoukiste (ANS).[14] In January 1986, Ranariddh was promoted to commander-in-chief and chief-of-staff for ANS.[19] In August 1989, Ranariddh was made the secretary-general of FUNCINPEC at the same time as Sihanouk stepped down as its president.[20] In July 1991, Ranariddh was made a member of the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC), an administrative body tasked with overseeing sovereign affairs of Cambodia, on an interim basis at the United Nations.[21] When the 1991 Paris Peace Accords officially ending the Cambodian–Vietnamese War were signed in October of that year, Ranariddh was one of the signatories from the SNC.[14] In February 1992, Ranariddh was elected as the president of FUNCINPEC.[22]

1993 elections[edit]

When the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was formed in 1992, Ranariddh was appointed one of the council members. He spent time travelling between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and while in Phnom Penh led efforts to open FUNCINPEC party offices across Cambodia.[23] However, party offices in the rural parts of the country faced attacks and killings of low-level party officials from government troops, who were wary of FUNCINPEC's influence in the country. The attacks led close aides of Ranariddh, such as Norodom Sirivudh and Sam Rainsy to try to dissuade him from registering the party for the 1993 general elections. On the other hand, the chief-de-mission for UNTAC, Yasushi Akashi encouraged Ranariddh to run in the elections. Persuaded by Akashi,[24] he registered the party and the election campaign began in April 1993. Ranariddh, as well as other FUNCINPEC officials, wore T-shirts depicting Sihanouk on the campaign trail, despite an election rule stipulated by the UNTAC administration not to use Sihanouk's name for the election.[25] Voting took place 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 CPP refused to recognise the election results and complained of electoral fraud.

On 3 June 1993, CPP leaders Chea Sim and Hun Sen met with Sihanouk, persuaded him to assume state authority and also asked for equal power-sharing between CPP and FUNCINPEC in a new government. Sihanouk accepted the terms and announced the formation of an interim government headed by him that evening.[26] Ranariddh, who was not consulted prior to the announcement, expressed surprise. At the same time, the United States and China declared their opposition to the announcement, prompting Sihanouk to rescind his announcement the following day.[27] On 10 June 1993, CPP leaders led by General Sin Song and Chakrapong threatened to secede eight eastern provinces from Cambodia.[28] The secession threat prompted Ranariddh to accede to CPP's power-sharing demand,[29] and included an agreement to provide for a dual Prime Minister arrangement in the new government.[30] Four days later, Ranariddh presided over a parliamentary meeting which made Sihanouk the Head of State of Cambodia, with Hun Sen and Ranariddh serving as co-Prime Ministers in an interim government.[31] A new constitution was drafted over the next three months, and completed in early September 1993. On 24 September 1993, Sihanouk resigned as the Head of State and was reinstated as the King of Cambodia. In turn, Ranariddh and Hun Sen were appointed as the First Prime Minister and Second Prime Minister, respectively, in the new government.[32]

Co-premiership (1993-1997)[edit]

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

Ranariddh giving a press conference to journalists in 1993.

Benny Widyono, who served as the UN secretary-general's representative in Cambodia from 1994 to 1997,[33] observed that although Ranariddh held a nominally senior position to Hun Sen, he held less executive powers. Ranariddh developed a close working relationship with Hun Sen, and both attended public functions together regularly until 1996.[34] While Cambodia was still under the administration of an interim government in August 1993, Ranariddh and Hun Sen jointly applied to make the country a member in the International Organization of the Francophonie.[35] The decision to enter the Francophonie was criticised by students from higher educational institutes; Ranariddh responded by approaching both English and French-speaking countries to ask for more technical assistance in supporting Cambodia's language curricula.[36]

During an interview in August 1995, Ranariddh expressed admiration for the political and economic systems of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. As Ranariddh saw it, these countries, 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 should take precedence over democratic and human rights.[37] In the initial months of the administration, Ranariddh actively courted political leaders from various regional countries, including Indonesia,[38] Singapore[39] and Malaysia, with a view to encourage investment in Cambodia. In early 1994, Ranariddh established the Cambodian Development Council (CDC),[40] a statutory body to oversee government administration affairs pertaining to foreign investment, on which he served as the chairperson.[41] The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, showed strong enthusiasm for Ranariddh's plans, and encouraged[42] Malaysian businessmen to invest and assist in developing the tourism, infrastructural development and telecommunications industries.[40]

As the chairman of the CDC, Ranariddh gave his approval to at least 17 business contracts submitted by Malaysian businessmen between August 1994 and January 1995. The projects mostly covered infrastructural development, and included construction of a racing track, power plants and petrol stations.[42][43] In November 1994, the CDC opened a tender to build a casino off Sihanoukville and proposals submitted by three companies were shortlisted; 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 included bringing a luxury cruiser fitted with a casino to Cambodia, to be used while the Sihanoukville resort was built. Before the tender was concluded, Ariston's luxury cruiser was brought to Phnom Penh in early December.[44] The Tourism Minister, Veng Sereyvuth suspected that there was insider trading activities between CDC and Ariston,[43] who were nevertheless awarded the contract, which Ranariddh signed in January 1995.[42] Ariston conceded the operations of the luxury cruiser, named Heritage to Unicentral Corporation.[45]

In 1992, the UNTAC administration had banned forest logging and timber exports. In October 1993, Ranariddh issued an order to lift the ban on a temporary basis so as to allow trees that were already felled to be exported for timber.[46] The Khmer Rouge still controlled large tracts of forests in the regions of western and northern Cambodia bordering Thailand,[47] and generated revenue by selling timber to Thai forestry companies. The Cambodian government was unable to impose any law in territory controlled by the Khmer Rouge, and were eager to retrieve some of the logging revenues that went to the Khmer Rouge.[48] In January 1994, Ranariddh and Hun Sen signed a bilateral agreement with Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. The agreement provided for felled trees to be legally exported to Thailand on a temporary basis until 31 March 1994. The agreement also arranged for specially-designated customs zones to be created within Thai territory, which allowed Cambodian custom officials to inspect the logs and collect revenues from companies.[49]

The logging ban was reinstated on 31 March 1994, but more trees continued to be fallen and a new stockpile of timber was created. In turn, Ranariddh and Hun Sen gave special authorisation for the new stockpile of felled trees to be exported to North Korea.[50] Ranariddh and Hun Sen would continue the practice of periodically lifting export bans and granting special approvals to clear fallen timber on an on-and off-basis, until Ranariddh's ouster in 1997.[46] According to Canadian geographer Philippe Le Billon, Ranariddh and Hun Sen were tacitly supportive of continued Khmer Rouge logging activities as it provided a lucrative source of revenue[49] to finance their own political activities.[46] In addition to Khmer Rouge-controlled areas, substantial logging also occurred in the remote northeastern province of Rattanakiri which is predominantly populated by indigenous ethnic minorities collectively known as the Khmer Loeu.[51] Under Ranariddh's co-administration, Malaysia's Samling Berhad and Indonesia's Macro-Panin were among the largest beneficiaries of government contracts, as these two logging companies secured rights to log 805,000 hectares and 1.4 million hectares of forests, respectively, in 1994 and 1995.[46][52]

Conflicts within the government[edit]

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

In October 1994, Ranariddh and Hun Sen jointly dropped Sam Rainsy as Finance Minister during a cabinet reshuffle. Rainsy had been appointed as Finance Minister by Ranariddh in 1993, but both Prime Ministers became uncomfortable working with Rainsy, because of his pursuit of allegations of corruption inside the government.[53] Rainsy's dismissal upset Norodom Sirivudh, who resigned as Foreign Minister the following month.[54] In March 1995, during a corruption forum, Rainsy publicly questioned Ranariddh's acceptance of a Fokker 28 airplane and a USD 108 million commission from Ariston Berhad.[55] Rainsy's continued criticisms of the government offended Ranariddh, who in June 1995 introduced a motion to remove Rainsy as a Member of Parliament.[56]

From January 1996 onwards, Ranariddh's relations with Hun Sen began to sour. Hun Sen submitted a government circular to reinstate January 7, the anniversary of the liberation of Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese forces from the Khmer Rouge, as a national holiday. Ranariddh had complied by countersigning the circular, which incurred the ire of Sihanouk and several FUNCINPEC leaders. A few days later, apparently to tone down dissatisfaction from party members,[57] Ranariddh publicly accused the Vietnamese army of encroaching into the territories of four Cambodian provinces bordering Vietnam. As Widyono and the Khmer Rouge saw it, Ranariddh intended to test Hun Sen's response over his accusations, of which the latter chose to remain quiet.[58] 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.[59]

The following month, Ranariddh started to express concern over repeated delays in the construction of the resort-cum-casino complex at Sihanoukville, for which he had signed an earlier agreement with Ariston in January 1995.[60] Ariston responded by citing the absence of a governmental authority in Sihanoukville as the main cause of its delay. At the end of April 1996, the government formed the Sihanoukville Developmental Authority (SDA) to oversee regulatory affairs and facilitate developmental plans.[61] The delays upset Ranariddh and at a conference in May 1996, he charged that CPP-controlled ministries were deliberately delaying paperwork needed to complete the approval of Ariston's project. According to Tioulong Saumura, the former deputy governor of Cambodia's Central Bank and Sam Rainsy's wife, the delays were Hun Sen's strategy to undermine projects associated with Ranariddh.[60] 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.[62] Ranariddh also went further, proposing the cancellation of Ariston's contracts due to the delays. Hun Sen responded by arranging a meeting with Mahathir, and assured him that agreements which Ranariddh had previously approved would be honoured.[63]

When a FUNCINPEC congress was held in March 1996, Ranariddh openly expressed unhappiness over his relationship with Hun Sen and the CPP. Ranariddh likened his position as Prime Minister, and those of the FUNCINPEC Ministers, to "puppets", and questioned the CPP's outstanding delays in appointing FUNCINPEC district officials as district chiefs. Ranariddh threatened to dissolve the National Assembly before the end of 1996 should FUNCINPEC's concerns remain unresolved.[59] Several FUNCINPEC MPs including Loy Sim Chheang and Ahmad Yahya called on Ranariddh to reconcile with Sam Rainsy and work with his newly formed Khmer Nation Party (KNP) in the forthcoming general election.[64] A month after the FUNCINPEC congress, Ranariddh, while vacationing in Paris, attended a meeting with Sihanouk, Rainsy, Chakrapong and Sirivudh on 27 April. A few days after the meeting, Sihanouk issued a declaration praising Hun Sen and the CPP and stating that FUNCINPEC had no intention of leaving the coalition government and dissociated themselves from anti-CPP protests. According to Widyono, Sihanouk's statement was an attempt to defuse Ranariddh's tension with Hun Sen.[65]

At the beginning of May 1996, Hun Sen spearheaded efforts to formally establish relations with South Korea, a move which Ranariddh had long resisted because of Sihanouk's long-standing relations with North Korea.[65] Several FUNCINPEC MPs took advantage of Ranariddh's absence to secretly declare their support for Hun Sen, among them the governor of Siem Reap, Toan Chhay, and the Agriculture Minister, Tao Seng Huor.[66] 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.[67] During a series of CPP party meetings in late June, Hun Sen urged provincial governors from the CPP not to attend speech rallies hosted by Ranariddh. Hun Sen chided Ranariddh for not following through on his March threat to leave the coalition government, and went on to call him a "real dog".[68]

Conflict escalation & military clashes[edit]

In August 1996, in a radio broadcast, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot publicly denounced his deputy, Ieng Sary. Ieng Sary responded by breaking away and establishing his own political party, the Democratic National Union Movement.[69] Pol Pot's announcement prompted Ranariddh and Hun Sen to briefly set aside their political differences and jointly seek a royal pardon for Ieng Sary,[70] to nullify a death sentence imposed on him by the PRK government in 1979.[69] On 11 October 1996, Ranariddh visited Ieng Sary in his fiefdom at Pailin, which prompted Hun Sen to make similar visits on 23 October and 11 December 1996. At the end of his second visit, Hun Sen announced that almost all of the Khmer Rouge soldiers that he met had joined the CPP.[70] When Ranariddh announced plans to visit another Khmer Rouge-controlled town of Samlout, the newly-CPP-aligned Khmer Rouge soldiers conveyed a threat to shoot down his helicopter if he went there, prompting Ranariddh to cancel his visit.[71]

On 27 February 1997, a political coalition styled "National United Front" (NUF) was launched, to compete against the CPP in the 1998 general elections. The NUF consisted of FUNCINPEC, KNP, Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party and the Khmer Neutral Party, and nominated Ranariddh as its president.[72] The CPP issued a statement to condemn NUF’s formation. Around this time, the CPP formed a rival political coalition consisting of political parties ideologically aligned to the former Khmer Republic.[73] During this same period, Ranariddh sent a letter to Ariston Berhad, to declare three agreements signed in September 1996 null and void. These agreements had 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 having being signed unilaterally by CPP's minister Sok An, without the knowledge of Ranariddh or other FUNCINPEC ministers. Ranariddh also implicitly charged Ariston with taking sides in the political divide between FUNCINPEC and the CPP. Ariston responded that they had tried unsuccessfully to contact FUNCINPEC officials, inviting them to participate in the signing of the agreement.[74] Hun Sen criticised Ranariddh's announcement, and separately sent a letter to Mahathir in April 1997 to reassure him of the validity of the agreements.[75]

On 21 May 1997, another Khmer Rouge leader, Khieu Samphan announced that his Khmer National Solidarity Party (KNSP) would lend support to the NUF.[73] Ranariddh welcomed Samphan's announcement, and on 4 June both signed a joint communiqué pledging mutual support.[76] On 26 May 1997, customs officials at Sihanoukville discovered an imported three-ton shipment of rocket launchers, assault rifles and handguns, labelled "spare parts" and addressed to Ranariddh. Some of the arms were seized by Cambodian Air Force officers aligned to the CPP, while Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) officials aligned to FUNCINPEC were allowed to keep the light weapons.[77] In mid-June, Khmer Rouge radio, controlled by Khieu Samphan, broadcast a speech praising the KNSP-NUF alliance and calling for an armed struggle against Hun Sen. Fighting subsequently broke out between bodyguard troops separately working for Ranariddh and Hun Sen.[69]

Hun Sen subsequently issued an ultimatum calling for Ranariddh make a choice between siding with the Khmer Rouge or the coalition government.[69] Eleven days later, he followed up by announcing that he would stop working with Ranariddh altogether.[78] On 3 July, while travelling en route to Phnom Penh to receive Ranariddh, his bodyguards encountered troops aligned to the CPP. These troops persuaded the bodyguards to surrender their weapons,[78] which prompted Ranariddh to flee Cambodia the following day.[79] On 5 July 1997, military clashes broke out between RCAF troops separately aligned to CPP and FUNCINPEC, after CPP-aligned generals unsuccessfully attempted to coax FUNCINPEC-aligned troops into surrendering their weapons.[80] The FUNCINPEC-aligned troops suffered major casualties after further fighting the following day, and subsequently fled from Phnom Penh[81] to the border town of O Smach in Oddar Meanchey Province.[82]

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

Exile, return and 1998 elections[edit]

On 9 July 1997, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry issued a White paper which labelled Ranariddh a "criminal" and a "traitor", and accused him of bringing in the Khmer Rouge to destabilise the government. At the same time, Hun Sen issued a statement which declared that the defeat of pro-FUNCINPEC troops in the military clashes on 6 July 1997 had effectively ousted Ranariddh.[83] Ranariddh travelled to the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia, where he met with Fidel Ramos, Goh Chok Tong and Suharto respectively to seek their help in restoring his working relations with Hun Sen.[84] During a party meeting on 16 July 1997, Ung Huot was nominated by FUNCINPEC MPs loyal to Hun Sen to replace Ranariddh as First Prime Minister.[85] Huot was subsequently endorsed as First Prime Minister during a National Assembly sitting on 6 August 1997.[86] A few days later, Sihanouk expressed his unhappiness over the clashes, and threatened to abdicate the throne and take over the premiership. Sihanouk also claimed that Ranariddh's ouster was unconstitutional, and initially refused to endorse Ung Huot's appointment,[87] but later relented as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states supported Ung Huot's appointment.[88] In September 1997, the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan met separately with Ranariddh and Hun Sen, to mediate the return of FUNCINPEC politicians and prepare for the 1998 Cambodian general elections. The UN proposed to allow its representatives to monitor the elections, to which both Ranariddh and Hun Sen agreed. However, Hun Sen insisted that Ranariddh be prepared to face court charges. Ranariddh snubbed at Hun Sen's suggestion, and threatened to boycott the elections if he was required to face any of such charges.[89]

At O'Smach, FUNCINPEC-aligned troops fought along with the Khmer Rouge forces against the CPP-aligned troops[90] until February 1998, when a ceasefire was arranged between FUNCINPEC and CPP forces by the Japanese government. In March 1998, Ranariddh was convicted by the military court[91] of illegally smuggling ammunitions in May 1997 and collusion with the Khmer Rouge to cause instability in the country. Ranariddh was sentenced to a total of 35 years imprisonment,[92] whose charges were subsequently nullified after he received a pardon from Sihanouk.[93] Ranariddh returned to Cambodia at the end of March 1998 to lead FUNCINPEC's election campaign.[94] The campaign focused on pro-monarchical sentiments[95] and anti-Vietnamese rhetoric.[96] FUNCINPEC faced numerous hindrances, including the loss of access to television and radio channels which came under CPP's exclusive control following the 1997 clashes, as well as its supporters facing blockades to rallies.[97] When voting was carried out on 26 July 1998, FUNCINPEC polled 31.7 percent of the total votes and secured 43 out of a total of 120 parliamentary seats. The CPP won the elections by polling 41.4% of all votes, while the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), which was renamed from the KNP and led by Sam Rainsy, came in third place and obtained 14.3% of all votes.[98]

Both Ranariddh and Rainsy protested against the election results, claiming that the CPP-led government had carried out voter intimidation and had tampered with the ballot boxes.,[99] They filed petitions to the Election Commission and Constitutional Court; when these were rejected in August 1998,[100] Ranariddh and Rainsy organised street protests to demand that Hun Sen relinquish power. The government responded on 7 September 1998, by banning street protests and cracking down on protestors.[101] At this point Sihanouk intervened, and arranged a summit meeting on 24 September 1998 in Siem Reap. He summoned Hun Sen, Ranariddh and Rainsy, for discussions aimd at a political solution.[102] 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. The police accused Rainsy of planning the attack, a claim which the latter denied. After the police threatened to arrest Ranariddh and Rainsy, both left the country in October 1998.[103]

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

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

Ranariddh returned to Cambodia in November 1998 and resumed negotiations with Hun Sen. An agreement was reached whereby FUNCINPEC would get the post of the National Assembly Presidency as well as several low and mid-key cabinet posts, in exchange for FUNCINPEC's support for the creation of the Cambodian Senate. On 25 November 1998, Ranariddh was nominated as the President of the National Assembly.[98] According to Indian academic Harish Mehta, the creation of the Senate was to provide an alternative platform to pass legislation in the event that Ranariddh exerts his influence as the President of the National Assembly to veto laws.[104] After his appointment, Ranariddh worked with Hun Sen to integrate members of the FUNCINPEC army into the RCAF.[105] He also participated in efforts to seek better relations with Vietnam, and liaised with the Vietnamese National Assembly president Nông Đức Mạnh to develop friendship and cooperation initiatives.[106] This led to several mutual visits between Cambodian and Vietnamese political leaders, between 1999 and 2000,[107] but bilateral relations between Cambodia and Vietnam deterioated from September 2000 onwards as fresh incidents of border clashes erupted.[106]

Ranariddh steered FUNCINPEC towards political rapprochement with the CPP, and actively discouraged FUNCINPEC ministers and MPs from criticising them. During the party's congress in March 2001, Ranariddh declared the CPP an "eternal partner".[108] A sizeable minority of FUNCINPEC's politicians were unhappy with Ranariddh's leadership as early as 1999, when rumours of Ranariddh accepting bribes from the CPP began to circulate.[109] Discontent within the party surfaced again in February 2002 when FUNCINPEC performed poorly in the commune elections and only won 10 out of 1,600 commune seats.[110] The following month, Khan Savoeun, a senior FUNCINPEC leader accused You Hockry, a fellow party leader, of engaging in corruption and nepotism in his capacity as the co-Minister of the Interior, which factors had contributed to the party's poor election performance.[111] When Ranariddh expressed support for Savoeun in May 2002, Hockry resigned his ministry. Around the same time, two new political parties, splintered from FUNCINPEC, were formed: the Khmer Soul Party, led by Norodom Chakrapong, and the Hang Dara Democratic Party, led by Hang Dara.[110] Both new parties attracted sizeable numbers of FUNCINPEC defectors, who were apparently unhappy with Ranariddh's leadership. The defections caused Ranariddh to fear that FUNCINPEC would fare poorly in the 2003 general elections.[112]

When general elections were held in July 2003, the CPP won the election, while FUNCINPEC polled 20.8 percent of the popular vote and secured 26 out of a total of 120 parliamentary seats. This marked an 11 percentage point drop in FUNCINPEC's share of the popular vote compared with 1998.[113] Both Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy, whose SRP had also participated in the elections, expressed unhappiness with the outcome of the election, and alleged that the CPP had engineered its election victory by manipulating vote counts and intimidating the electorate. In August 2003, Ranariddh and Rainsy launched a political alliance, the "Alliance of Democrats" (AD), which called on the CPP to form a three-party government consisting of the CPP, FUNCINPEC and the SRP. At the same time, they also called for Hun Sen step down as Prime Minister.[114] Hun Sen rejected their demands, and several FUNCINPEC's activists were subsequently assassinated. In March 2004 Ranariddh negotiated privately with Hun Sen for FUNCINPEC to join CPP in the new government as a junior coalition partner. Ranariddh led senior FUNCINPEC members to further rounds of negotiations, and a "package vote" was agreed upon by June 2004 whereby FUNCINPEC would support Hun Sen's retention of the premiership. In return, Ranariddh would keep his position as the President of the National Assembly, and FUNCINPEC would receive 40 percent of all profits from state-owned enterprises.[115] The package vote was formally passed during a parliamentary sitting in July 2004.[116]

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. The following day, Hun Sen relieved Norodom Sirivudh and Nhek Bun Chhay of their posts as FUNCINPEC's co-minister of interior and co-minister of defense respectively.[117] Ranariddh protested the dismissals, and resigned as the President of the National Assembly on 14 March. He then left Cambodia to reside in France. Shortly after Ranariddh's departure, local tabloids published stories that Ranariddh had had an affair with Ouk Phalla, an Apsara dancer.[118] In early September 2006, a new law was passed to outlaw adultery,[119] and Ranariddh responded by accusing the government of attempting to undermine FUNCINPEC.[120] On 18 September 2006, Hun Sen and Nhek Bun Chhay called for Ranariddh to be replaced as FUNCINPEC's president, after FUNCINPEC party reports have suggested that Phalla had lobbied Ranariddh to appoint her relatives to government posts. On 18 October 2006, Nhek Bun Chhay convened a party congress which led to Ranariddh was ouster from his position as FUNCINPEC's President.[121] In turn, he was given the titular position of "historic president". At the congress, Nhek Bun Chhay justified Ranariddh's ouster to deteriorating relations between the latter with Hun Sen as well as his practice of spending prolonged periods of time overseas.[122]

Recent political activities (2006-present)[edit]

Norodom Ranariddh Party, exile and retirement[edit]

Ranariddh at the funeral of his father, Norodom Sihanouk in February 2013.

Following Ranariddh's expulsion, Nhek Bun Chhay filed a lawsuit in November 2006 against him, accusing Ranariddh of pocketing $3.6 million from the sale of FUNCINPEC headquarters to the French embassy in 2005.[123] In mid-November, Ranariddh returned to Cambodia and announced the formation of the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). The following month, Ranariddh was expelled from the National Assembly as its Member of Parliament.[118] Within days his wife, Eng Marie filed a second lawsuit against him for adultery. Ranariddh's half-brother Chakrapong was also expelled from the party, and joined the NRP as the party's deputy president.[118][124] In March 2007, Ranariddh was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for embezzlement of the sale proceeds of FUNCINPEC headquarters, and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. A few days later, in the same court, he was charged by Eng Marie with adultery.[125] To avoid imprisonment, Ranariddh sought asylum in Malaysia shortly before the court's sentencing.[126]

While living in exile in Malaysia, Ranariddh communicated to NRP party members and supporters through telephone and video conferencing.[127] In November 2007, Ranariddh proposed a merger between the NRP, SRP and the Human Rights Party, to improve their prospects of competing against the CPP in the 2008 general elections. However, the leader of SRP, Sam Rainsy rejected his proposal.[128] When the election campaign began in June 2008, Ranariddh raised issues such as border disputes with Cambodia's neighbours, illegal logging in the country, and a promise to lower gasoline prices.[127] Voting took place in July, when the NRP won 2 seats. For a short period immediately after the election, the NRP supported the SRP and the HRP in accusing the Election Commission for election irregularities. However, the NRP subsequently dropped their accusations after Hun Sen apparently brokered a secret deal with Ranariddh, which allowed him to return from exile in exchange for his NRP's recognition of the election results.[129][130]

In September 2008, Ranariddh received a pardon for his embezzlement and adultery charges, allowing him to return to Cambodia. Following his return, Ranariddh announced his retirement from politics as well as a pledge to support the CPP-led government.[126] After his retirement, Ranariddh dedicated most of his time to philanthropic work and supporting royal activities. In late 2010, NRP and FUNCINPEC leaders including Nhek Bun Chhay publicly called for Ranariddh to resume his political activities. Ranariddh initially resisted the calls,[131] but changed his mind and announced his return in December 2010.[132] For the next one-and-a-half years, Ranariddh and Nhek Bun Chhay negotiated for a merger between NRP and FUNCINPEC. An agreement was formalised in May 2012, whereby Ranariddh would be made the president of FUNCINPEC, while Nhek Bun Chhay would become its vice-president.[133] However, the merger agreement was rescinded a month later, when Nhek Bun Chhay accused Ranariddh of supporting other opposition parties.[134] Two months later, Ranariddh declared his retirement from politics for a second time, and tendered his resignation as the president of NRP.[135]

Community of Royalist People's Party[edit]

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

In March 2014, Ranariddh renounced his retirement and launched a new political party, the Community of Royalist People's Party (CRPP). Sam Rainsy, now president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), accused Ranariddh of intending to split the opposition vote to favour the ruling CPP in subsequent elections. Ranariddh responded by accusing the CNRP of harbouring republican sentiments, while also expressing that his motivation for launching CRPP was to reunite royalist supporters among the Cambodian electorate.[136] The CRPP attracted support from some senior FUNCINPEC party members; in December 2014 an ex-secretary of state, a senator and a deputy police chief declared their support for the CRPP.[137] Hun Sen then proposed to Ranariddh that he return to FUNCINPEC.[138]

Return to FUNCINPEC[edit]

In early January 2015, Ranariddh announced his intention to dissolve the CRPP and return to FUNCINPEC.[138] 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 became the first vice-president, while Nhek Bun Chhay was appointed as second vice-president.[139] In March 2015, Ranariddh launched a party congress where he appointed four additional vice-presidents to the FUNCINPEC executive committee.[140] 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.[141]

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 Cambodian royal title of "Sdech Krom Luong" (Khmer: ស្ដេចក្រុមលួង) in June 1993, which translates as "Senior Prince" in English. Five months later in November 1993, Ranariddh was elevated to the royal title of "Samdech Krom Preah" (Khmer: សម្ដេចក្រុមព្រះ), or "Leading Senior Prince" in English, in recognition of his efforts to re-instate Sihanouk as the King of Cambodia.[142][143] 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.[144] Ranariddh was also awarded the Grand Officer de l’Ordre de la Pleaide by the La Francophonie in March 2000.[145]

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,[146] and during an interview in December 2010 Ranariddh revealed that his royal appointment entitles him to a monthly salary of three million riels.[132]

Candidacy to the throne[edit]

The debate for the successor to the throne started in November 1993,[147] shortly after Sihanouk was diagnosed with cancer.[148] In a 1995 poll conducted by the Khmer Journalists' Associations over seven hundred people showed 24 percent of all respondents preferred Ranariddh to take the throne, although a larger proportion of correspondents had indicate no preference over any members of the royal family.[149] In a March 1996 interview with the Cambodia Daily, Sihanouk encouraged Ranariddh to succeed him as King, but also expressed concern that a leadership vacuum within FUNCINPEC would occur, should Ranariddh accept the throne.[150] Sihanouk repeated his concerns over Ranariddh's possible succession in an interview with the Phnom Penh Post in February 1997. Sihanouk mentioned Sihamoni as another potential candidate, adding that the latter felt that the responsibilities attached to the throne were "frightening".[151] Sihamoni's candidacy found favour with Hun Sen and Chea Sim, because of his non-involvement in politics.[152]

In two reports from 1993 and 1996, Ranariddh rejected the notion of becoming the next king.[147][150] In November 1997, Ranariddh suggested that his outspoken and passionate personality made him an unsuitable candidate for the throne.[153] However, by March 1999 Ranariddh had become became more receptive to the idea of succeeding his father.[154] In early 2001, in an interview to Harish Mehta, Ranariddh discussed his conflicting desires between taking the throne and staying in politics.[155][156] In November 2001, Ranariddh told the Cambodia Daily that he had decided to prioritize his political career over the throne. In the same interview, Ranariddh also added that Sihamoni had in the past, supported him to become the next king.[157] In September 2004, Ranariddh revealed that he had been offered the throne by Sihanouk and Monineath, who was Sihamoni's mother, 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.[158]

Personal life[edit]

Ranariddh (left) on an inspection tour with Sihanouk (right) 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 including Harish Mehta,[159] Lee Kuan Yew[160] and Benny Widyono[22] 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.[161] 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.[97] 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."[162]

Ranariddh speaks Khmer, French and English fluently.[162] He also holds dual Cambodian[163] and French citizenship, having obtained the latter in 1979.[13] Ranariddh enjoyed listening to music and watching films, though in a 2001 interview he described himself as lacking the artistic talent which Sihanouk possesses.[164] In 2002, Ranariddh produced and directed a 90-minute film, titled "Raja Bori" which was shot at Angkor Wat.[165]


Ranariddh has 12 half-siblings from his father by different wives; Norodom Buppha Devi is the only full-sibling of Ranariddh. Buppha Devi became a ballet dancer like their mother, Phat Kanhol during her younger days.[166] Kanhol 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. Chap Nhalyvoud served as the governor of Siem Reap between 1998[3] and 2004.[167]

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.[168][169] Marie had nine younger siblings, and among them was Roland Eng, the former ambassador to Thailand and United States.[170] The couple married in September 1968 at the royal palace,[171] 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 had relations with Ouk Phalla.[118] The divorce was not finalised until June 2010.[172] Ranariddh has 2 sons with Ouk Phalla, Sothearidh (born 2003)[173] and Ranavong (born 2011).[174] Phalla is a descendant of King Sisowath and was a classical dancer.[175] She met Ranariddh when the latter was producing and directing the movie, Raja Bori in 2002.[176]


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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