Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh has died in France at the age of 77. (Photo: AFP)
Tributes and condolences have flowed into Cambodia following the death of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a former prime minister and half-brother to King Norodom Sihamoni.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he and his wife Bun Rany were heartbroken by the death of his former political rival, adding Ranariddh was an “outstanding royal dignitary” and a member of the royal family who was patriotic and loved the nation, religion and the king.
The exact cause of death was not released but 77-year-old Ranariddh died in Paris on Nov. 28 after a long battle to recover from a 2018 car accident in Cambodia that killed his second wife Ouk Phalla, a 39-year-old classical dancer. They had two children.
Reports said the former head of the royalist Funcinpec party was admitted to hospital in Paris in late 2019 with a broken pelvis.
“You were my father’s favorite cousin and you loved him like a brother. Now you both are together and finally at peace,” wrote Soma Norodom, a minor royal and the daughter of Norodom Vatvani, in an online post.
US ambassador Patrick Murphy sent his condolences to the royal family and to the people of Cambodia, noting the prince’s public service included his role as Cambodia’s first prime minister from 1993 to 1997 when in a coalition government with Hun Sen.
The prince, like all royal family members, always tried to promote and protect Buddhism as the religion of the state
The coalition between Ranariddh and Hun Sen was always uneasy. Funcinpec and the still ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) both maintained their own militaries and the prince was ousted by Hun Sen after a final and bloody showdown.
That consolidation of power enabled Hun Sen to launch an offensive against the last vestiges of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia’s 30-year war finally came to an end in late 1998.
Venerable Thung Thul, abbot of the Phnom Del pagoda in Kampong Cham province, said the passing of Ranariddh was a great loss for both the royal family and the Cambodian people.
“The prince, like all royal family members, always tried to promote and protect Buddhism as the religion of the state,” he said. “We are very saddened by his passing.”
Meanwhile, Sam Rainsy, the leader-in-exile of the outlawed Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), described Ranariddh as “a respectable Cambodian resistance leader from the late 1980s until the UN-organized election in May 1993” amid the long-running civil war. “I pay my respects to his memory,” he said.
In 2008, Ranariddh was pardoned over his conviction for fraud which resulted in his expulsion from Funcinpec.
Ranariddh was attempting a political comeback and was on the hustings when the car he was traveling in was involved in a head-on collision. Funcinpec had attempted to reorganize earlier this year ahead of elections scheduled for 2023 with Ranariddh at the helm. However, doubts persisted over his health.
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