Kind words are being paid in tribute to the late Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, who passed away in France at the age of 77 on November 28.
In his early political career, Prince Ranariddh served as First Prime Minister of Cambodia with Hun Sen as Second Prime Minister in a coalition government following an election organised by the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia in 1993.
“He was a person with a good heart who loved his colleagues and subordinates and achieved things for the people like building streets, water wells and making donations to the poor,” said Nhek Bun Chhay, the prince’s close companion since the 1980s and the leader of the Khmer National United Party (KNUP).
Bun Chhay said he was saddened by the loss of Prince Ranariddh whom he had followed since the 1980s through various struggles, including 1993 and the subsequent period where he was prime minister, although they did have some disagreements with each other.
“I last saw him on September 13, 2019, before he left to get medical treatment in France. We both wanted the KNUP and FUNCINPEC parties to merge but the plan got hung up due to some problems. His intention was to unify all of the royalist factions but the attempt failed due to objections from some people,” he said.
All Cambodian people, from ordinary citizens to government leaders, share the sorrows of the royal family. They include Prime Minister Hun Sen, National Assembly president Heng Samrin, Senate President Say Chhum, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng and Minister of Defence Tea Banh.
Ranariddh’s eldest son Prince Norodom Chakravuth, who is once again apparently the president of FUNCINPEC, wrote a letter informing party members and the general public of his father’s death.
“The body of Prince Norodom Ranariddh will be escorted to Cambodia soon,” he said in the letter.
Chakravuth also led party members in a gathering to pay their respects to the memory of his father at Botum pagoda in Phnom Penh on November 29.
Keo Remy, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said he used to work with Ranariddh frequently and even when they had opposite views from each other he was able to find some middle-ground compromise with him.
The Australian embassy in Phnom Penh extended their condolences to the royal family and the Cambodian people on the death of Prince Ranariddh, saying his contributions to Cambodian politics would always be remembered.
US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy also expressed his condolences for the loss of the prince, mentioning his many years of public service which included his role as prime minister from 1993 to 1997 and serving as NA president from 1998 to 2006.
“My condolences to the royal family and to the people of the Kingdom for your loss,” he tweeted.
Similarly, UK ambassador to Cambodia Tina Redshaw tweeted: “My sincerest condolences to the Cambodian royal family and the people of Cambodian on the passing of HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh , who played such a critical role in Cambodian politics.”
Veteran journalist and journalism professor Moeun Chhean Narith, who interviewed Prince Ranariddh many times over the years, said it was his view that the prince had a firm understanding of the principles of democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of the press that was rooted in the time that the prince spent as a law professor in France, which was his full-time career before he entered Cambodian politics in 1993.
“When he was the president of FUNCINPEC, first prime minister and president of the National Assembly, he always gave opportunities for journalists to interview him,” Chhean Narith said, adding that he felt Ranariddh was a model for good leadership in a democratic society.
“Like the old saying goes – the leaf doesn’t fall far from the tree. He had the mentality, heart and demeanour of his father. He was always friendly to everyone without discrimination and just loved all people in general,” he said.