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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 July 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 political party and 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 the party won the most seats in the 1993 Cambodian general election, he became the First Prime Minister of Cambodia in a coalition government with Hun Sen as the Second Prime Minister. Ranariddh promoted business interests in Cambodia to leaders from regional countries and established the Cambodian Development Council (CDC). Relations between Ranariddh and Hun Sen became increasingly strained from 1996 onwards which led to policy and administration conflicts in the government.

In August 1997, Ranariddh was ousted from his position as the First Prime Minister following a major military clash between troops aligned to the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and FUNCINPEC. Ranariddh subsequently went into exile and returned to Cambodia in March 1998, leading FUNCINPEC to contest in the 1998 Cambodian general election. When FUNCINPEC lost the elections to the CPP, Ranariddh briefly challenged the election results, before agreeing to join the CPP to form a coalition government. He was subsequently appointed as the President of the National Assembly in November 1998. Ranariddh was seen as a potential successor to Sihanouk as the next King of Cambodia until 2001, 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.

Ranariddh resigned as the President of the National Assembly in March 2006 and was ousted as the President of FUNCINPEC in October 2006. The following month, Ranariddh founded the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). After two criminal charges were laid against him, Ranariddh went into exile in Malaysia. He was sentenced to imprisonment in March 2007, and received a pardon from Sihamoni 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 by his first wife[1] Phat Kanhol, a ballet dancer attached to the royal court.[2] Ranariddh was separated from his mother at three years old 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 part of his high school studies at Lycee Descartes in Phnom Penh.[4] During his childhood, Ranariddh developed a close relationship with his grandparents, King Suramarit and Queen 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 Queen Kossamak to study law instead. After finishing high school in 1961, Ranariddh enrolled into 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 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 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 spent six months in prison 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] where he taught 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 become the 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 persuaded Ranariddh to run in the elections, and he heeded Akashi's advice.[24] 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.[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 Cambodian People's Party (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 suggestions 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 request,[29] and included an agreement to provide for a dual Prime Minster 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]

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

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 for the country's membership in the International Organization of the Francophonie.[35] The decision to enter the Francophonie was criticised from students in higher educational institutes; Ranariddh responded by approaching both English and French-speaking countries to ask for more technical assistance to support the country's language curriculum.[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 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 its chairperson.[41] The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, showed strong enthusiasm for Ranariddh's plans, and encouraged Malaysian businessmen to invest and assist in the development of the tourism, infrastructural development and telecommunications industries.[40]

As the chairman of the CDC, Ranariddh gave his approval to 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 the early December.[44] The Tourism Minister, Veng Sereyvuth suspected that there was insider trading activities between CDC and Ariston,[42] who were nevertheless awarded the contract, which Ranariddh signed in January 1995.[43] 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 border regions of western and northern Cambodia with Thailand,[47] and obtained its revenues by selling timber to Thai forestry companies. The Cambodian government on its part, 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 the former's ouster in 1997.[46] According to Canadian geographer Philippe Le Billon, Ranariddh and Hun Sen were tacitly supportive of continued logging activities by the Khmer Rouge 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 northeastern provinces of Rattanakiri which was populated by 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]

Authority challenges and conflicts within the government[edit]

In late June 1994, Chakrapong and Sin Song met with Sin Sen, a former CPP internal security chief who shared their grievance at being excluded from government office. The three discussed plans to stage a coup against the coalition government. On 2 July, Sin Song commanded 12 APCs and three hundred police troops in a march from Prey Veng towards Phnom Penh.[53] Nhek Bun Chhay, a military general from FUNCINPEC and allied to Ranariddh, detected Sin Song's troop movements and sent his forces to intercept them.[54] Upon meeting Nhek Bun Chhay's troops, Sin Song promptly ordered his troops to return to Prey Veng. Over the next few days, government troops arrested Sin Song, Sin Sen and Chakrapong, and placed them under house arrest. Sin Song later escaped to Thailand, while Chakrapong was exiled to Malaysia.[55]

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.[56] RRainsy's dismissal upset Norodom Sirivudh, who resigned as Foreign Minister the following month.[57] In March 1995, during a corruption forum, Rainsy publicly questioned Ranariddh's acceptance of an Fokker 28 airplane and a $108 million commission from Ariston Berhad.[58] Rainsy's continued criticisms of the government offended Ranariddh, who in June 1995 introduced a motion to remove Rainsy as a Member of Parliament.[59]

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 countersigned the circular, and when its contents were publicised, 12 lawmakers from FUNCINPEC sent a letter of protest to Sihanouk over the holiday's reinstatement. A few days later, Ranariddh accused the Vietnamese army of encroaching into territory of four Cambodian provinces bordering Vietnam, apparently to tone down dissatisfaction from party members.[60] 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.[61]

In February 1996, 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.[62] Ariston responded by citing the absence of a governmental authority in Sihanoukville as the main cause of delay. At the end of April 1996, the government formed the Sihanoukville Developmental Authority (SDA) to oversee regulatory affairs and facilitate developmental plans.[63] The delays upset Ranariddh, and at a conference in May 1996, he charged that CPP-controlled ministries were deliberately delaying paperwork to complete the approval of Ariston's project. According to Tioulong Saumura, the former deputy governor of Cambodia's Central Bank, the delays were Hun Sen's strategy to undermine projects associated with Ranariddh.[62] 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.[64] 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 him that agreements which Ranariddh had previously approved would be honoured.[65]

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 Prime Ministerial position, and that of the FUNCINPEC Ministers, as "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 demands not be met.[61] 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.[66] A month after the FUNCINPEC congress, Ranariddh took a vacation to Paris where on 27 April he attended a meeting with Sihanouk, Rainsy, Chakrapong and Sirivudh. A few days after the meeting, Sihanouk issued a declaration that FUNCINPEC had no intention of leaving the coalition government, dissociated themselves from anti-CPP protests while also praising Hun Sen and the CPP at the same time. According to Widyono, Sihanouk's statement was an attempt to defuse Ranariddh's tension with Hun Sen.[67]

At the beginning of May 1996, Hun Sen spearheaded efforts to formally establish relations with South Korea, which Ranariddh had long resisted because of Sihanouk's long-standing relations with North Korea.[67] 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.[68] 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.[69] 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 up his threat to leave the coalition government in March, and went on to call him a "real dog".[70]

Conflict escalation & 1997 clashes[edit]

On 10 February 1997, the first armed conflict between Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) troops seperately aligned to FUNCINPEC and CPP broke out at Battambang Province.[71] On that day, troops under the command of the FUNCINPEC provincial deputy governor, Serey Kosal intercepted a convoy of 200 CPP troops who were travelling en route to Samlout. The convoy was stopped and disarmed, but news of the incident spread to nearby areas and fighting soon broke out between troops from both rival factions, leaving at least 21 troops dead.[72][73] On 27 February 1997, a political coalition named as "National United Front" (NUF) was launched with the aim competing 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.[74] The CPP condemned the formation of NUF, and questioned FUNCINPEC's reasoning in associating with the Khmer Rouge, which had maintained an insurgency against the Cambodian government. Around the same time, the CPP formed a rival political coalition that consisted of political parties ideologically aligned to the former Khmer Republic.[75]

During this same 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. He also implicitly charged Ariston of taking sides in the political divide between FUNCINPEC and the CPP. Ariston responded that they had previously tried unsuccessfully to contact FUNCINPEC officials to participate in the signing of the agreement.[76] Hun Sen criticised Ranariddh's announcement, and separately sent a letter to Mahathir in April 1997 to reassure the validity of the agreements.[77]

At the end of May 1997, Ranariddh was caught with covertly importing a three-ton shipment of rocket launchers, assault rifles and handguns from Sihanoukville labelled as "spare parts". Some of the ammunitions were seized by Cambodian Air Force officers aligned to the CPP, while Ranariddh's officers were allowed to keep the light ammunition.[78] Following the incident, Ranariddh held secret talks with Khmer Rouge forces allied to Khieu Samphan in June 1997 at Preah Vihear. When news of the meeting was conveyed to Hun Sen, a firefight broke out between Ranariddh's bodyguards and the police forces loyal to CPP in Phnom Penh. Hun Sen subsequently issued an ultimatum to Ranariddh either to co-operate with the CPP or with the Khmer Rouge.[79] On 3 July, when Ranariddh's motorcade convoy was travelling to Phnom Penh, they encountered bodyguards serving under Hun Sen, who disarmed Ranariddh's bodyguards travelling with him. The incident prompted Ranariddh to flee Cambodia the following day.[73]

On 5 July 1997, CPP troops led by general Ke Kim Yan surrounded a military garrison belonging to Nhek Bun Chhay in Kampong Speu Province. Ke Kim Yan attempted to coax Nhek Bun Chhay to disband his garrison, but failed.[80] At the same time, military police aligned to CPP approached the residence of another FUNCINPEC general, Chao Sambath and demanded FUNCINPEC troops to surrender their weapons.[81] Nhek Bun Chhay responded by ordering FUNCINPEC troops to resist the advances made by CPP's troops and military police,[82] and heavy fighting broke out at the Taing Krassang military base and Phnom Penh International Airport, where most of FUNCINPEC troops were based in.[81] Hun Sen quickly returned from his vacation at Vung Tau.[83] The following day, Hun Sen deployed his bodyguard units to bolster the CPP troops fighting FUNCINPEC troops. The FUNCINPEC troops initiated two attempts to attack CPP troops, but were quickly repulsed by the combined strength of Hun Sen's bodyguards and CPP troops, suffering heavy casualties in the process. After which, FUNCINPEC troops subsequently retreated from their positions[84] and fled to O'Smach in Oddar Meanchey Province.[85]

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

Exile, return and 1998 elections[edit]

Ranariddh gave several interviews to international press, such as the Far Eastern Economic Review to make denunciations against the 1997 military clashes.[86] The foreign ministers of Indonesia, Philippines and Thai foreign ministers met with Ranariddh, and the meeting displeased of Hun Sen. Ung Huot was nominated by FUNCINPEC MPs loyal to Hun Sen to replace Ranariddh during a party meeting in mid-July,[87] and was formally voted in as First Prime Minister during a National Assembly sitting on 6 August 1997.[88] A few days later, Sihanouk expressed his unhappiness over the clashes and proposed to abdicate the throne so as to take over the premiership. Sihanouk also claimed that Ranariddh's ouster was unconstitutional and initially refused to endorse Ung Huot's appointment,[89] although he later relented as ASEAN member states supported Ung Huot's appointment.[90] In September 1997, the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan separately met with Ranariddh and Hun Sen to mediate the return of FUNCINPEC politicians and prepare for the 1998 Cambodian general elections. A proposal was also made to allow UN representatives to monitor the elections, which both Ranariddh and Hun Sen agreed. However, Hun Sen insisted that Ranariddh have to be prepared to face "criminal charges". In return, Ranariddh snubbed at Hun Sen's suggestion, and threatened to boycott the elections if he has to face the criminal charges.[91]

FUNCINPEC troops continued to fight with CPP troops in O'Smach along with Khmer Rouge[92] until February 1998, when a ceasefire was arranged between FUNCINPEC and CPP forces by the Japanese government. 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.[93] Ranariddh returned to Cambodia at the end of March 1998 to lead FUNCINPEC's election campaign.[94] FUNCINPEC's election campaign focused on pro-monarchical sentiments[95] and anti-Vietnamese rhetoric.[96] 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.[97] When the election voting was carried out in July 1998, FUNCINPEC won 43 seats and polled 32 percent of the total votes. The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), which was renamed from the KNP and led by Sam Rainsy, came in third place in the elections.[98]

Both Ranariddh and Rainsy protested against the election results as they claimed 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,[99] and they filed petitions to the Election Commission and Constitutional Court over the allegations. When the petitions were rejected by the Constitutional Court in August 1998,[100] Ranariddh and Rainsy organised street protests to demand that Hun Sen relinquish power. The government responded by banning street protests and cracking down on protestors on 7 September 1998.[101] At this point of time, Sihanouk intervened and held a summit meeting on 24 September 1998, in Siem Reap with Hun Sen, Ranariddh and Rainsy to discuss for 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. 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 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 formally nominated as the Chairman of the National Assembly.[98] 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.[104] After his appointment, Ranariddh worked with Hun Sen to integrate members of the FUNCINPEC army into the RCAF.[105] He also participated in government efforts to seek better relations with Vietnam, and liaised with the Vietnamese National Assembly president Nông Đức Mạnh to come up with friendship and cooperation initiatives.[106] This led to several mutual visits between Cambodian and Vietnamese political leaders to their respective countries 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 on the course of political rapprochement with the CPP, and actively discouraged FUNCINPEC ministers and MPs to criticise 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 reportedly unhappy with Ranariddh's leadership as early as 1999, when rumours of Ranariddh accepting bribes from the CPP began to circulate.[109] Discontent within FUNCINPEC surfaced again 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 schism 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 political parties were led by Chakrapong and Hang Dara, both of them being former FUNCINPEC members.[110] Both parties attracted sizeable numbers of FUNCINPEC defectors, who were apparently unhappy with Ranariddh's leadership in the party. At this time, Ranariddh became wary of FUNCINPEC faring poorly in the 2003 general elections.[111]

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.[112] According to FUNCINPEC party members interviewed by American journalist 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 FUNCINPEC with funds to finance their electoral campaign.[113] The CPP won the election, and FUNCINPEC secured 26 seats and polled 21 percent of the popular vote. The results marked an 11 percent point drop in the share of popular votes as compared to FUNCINPEC's performance in 1998.[114] 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.[115] 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 disburse FUNCINPEC with 40 percent of all profits from state-owned enterprises.[116] The package vote was formally endorsed during a parliamentary session in July 2004.[117]

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.[118] Ranariddh protested the dismissals, and resigned as the President of the National Assembly on 14 March as a protest, and left Cambodia to reside in France. Shortly after Ranariddh's departure, local tabloids published stories that Ranariddh had an affair with Ouk Phalla, an Apsara dancer.[119] Two months later, the party's secretary general, Nhek Bun Chhay issued an order to relieve 40 deputy provincial governors of their duties.[120] 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 ousted of his position as the FUNCINPEC chairman and named as the "historic leader" in an emergency congress.[121]

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. In the lawsuit, he accused Ranariddh of pocketing the proceeds from the sale of FUNCINPEC headquarters to the French embassy back in 2005, which amounted to $3.6 million.[122] 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 a Member of Parliament,[119] and within days his first wife Eng Marie filed another lawsuit against Ranariddh for adultery. At the same time, his half-brother Chakrapong was also expelled from the party just weeks after Ranariddh's ouster who also joined the NRP. In turn, Ranariddh appointed him as NRP's deputy president.[119][123] In March 2007, Ranariddh was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for embezzling the sale proceeds of FUNCINPEC headquarters, and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. A few days later, Ranariddh was formally charged by the court for adultery by Eng Marie.[124] Ranariddh had sought asylum in Malaysia shortly before the court's sentencing to avoid imprisonment.[125]

While living in exile in Malaysia, Ranariddh communicated to NRP party members and supporters through telephone and video conferencing. When the election campaign for the 2008 general elections kicked off in June 2008, Ranariddh spoke on border disputes with Cambodia's neighbours, illegal logging in the country and a promise to lower prices of gasoline.[126] The NRP won 2 seats in parliament when voting was carried out in July. For a short period of time immediately after the election, the NRP supported the Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party in their accusations against the Election Commission for electoral fraud. However, the NRP dropped their accusations against the CPP, when Hun Sen was believed to have brokered a secret deal with Ranariddh to allow him to return from exile.[127] 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.[125]

After his 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,[128] but changed his mind and announced his return in December 2010.[129] 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.[130] However, the merger agreement was rescinded a month later when Nhek Bun Chhay accused Ranariddh for supporting other opposition parties.[131] Two months later, Ranariddh declared his resignation from the politics for a second time and tendered his resignation as the president of NRP.[132]

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 Community of Royalist People's Party (CRPP), which was formally registered with the Interior Ministry the following month.[133] 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.[134] The CRPP attracted support from some senior FUNCINPEC party members, and in December 2014 three senior FUNCINPEC members consisting of an ex-secretary of state, senator and deputy police chief declared support for the CRPP.[135] At this point of time, Hun Sen proposed to Ranariddh to return to FUNCINPEC.[136]

Return to FUNCINPEC[edit]

In early January 2015, Ranariddh announced his intention to dissolve the CRPP and return to FUNCINPEC.[136] 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.[137] In March 2015, Ranariddh launched a party congress where he appointed four additional vice-presidents to the FUNCINPEC executive committee.[138] 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.[139]

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" (Senior Prince) in June 1993. Five months later in November 1993, Ranariddh was elevated to the royal title of Samdech Krom Preah (Leading Senior Prince) in recognition of his efforts to re-instate Sihanouk as the King of Cambodia.[140][141] 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.[142] Ranariddh was also awarded the Grand Officer de l’Ordre de la Pleaide by the La Francophonie in March 2000.[143]

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,[144] and during an interview in December 2010 Ranariddh revealed that his royal appointment entitles him to a monthly salary of three million riels.[129]

Candidacy to the throne[edit]

The debate for the successor to the throne started in November 1993,[145] shortly Sihanouk was diagnosed with cancer.[146] Ranariddh was an early favourite choice to succeed Sihanouk while he was the Prime Minister. 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.[147] In a March 1996 interview with the Cambodia Daily, Sihanouk encouraged Ranariddh to succeed him as King, but also expressed concern of that a leadership vacuum within FUNCINPEC would occur should Ranariddh accept the throne.[148] Sihanouk repeated his concerns with Ranariddh's candidacy to the throne in a later 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".[149] Sihamoni's candidacy found favour with Hun Sen and Chea Sim due to his non-involvement in politics.[150]

In two reports from 1993 and 1996, Ranariddh rejected the notion of becoming the next king.[145][148] In November 1997, Ranariddh expressed that his outspoken and passionate personality make him an unsuitable candidate for the throne.[151] However, in March 1999, Ranariddh became more receptive to the idea of succeeding his father as the next King.[152] 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.[153][154] 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 succeed their father in the past.[155] 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.[156]

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,[157] Lee Kuan Yew[158] 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.[159] 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."[160]

Ranariddh speaks Khmer, French and English fluently.[160] He also holds dual Cambodian[161] and French citizenship, having obtained the latter in 1979.[13] Ranariddh enjoyed listening to music and watching films, though he described himself as lacking the artistic talent which Sihanouk possesses in a 2001 interview.[162] In 2002, Ranariddh produced and directed a 90-minute film, titled "Raja Bori" which was shot at Angkor Wat.[163]


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.[164] 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.[165]

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.[166][167] Marie had nine younger siblings, and among them was Roland Eng, the former ambassador to Thailand and United States.[168] The couple married in September 1968 at the royal palace,[169] 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,[119] but was not finalised until June 2010.[170] Ranariddh has 2 sons with Ouk Phalla, Sothearidh (born 2003)[171] and Ranavong (born 2011).[172] Phalla is a descendant of King Sisowath and was a classical dancer.[173] She met Ranariddh when the latter was producing and directing the movie, Raja Bori in 2002.[174]


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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