Ruling party: The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is led by Hun Sen, the current prime minister and a Khmer Rouge defector. The CPP was originally the Cambodian Communist Party— the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP)—installed by the Vietnamese after they ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979. It changed its name and renounced Communism before the 1993 election.

Major opposition parties: 1) The Sam Rainsy Party led by Sam Rainsy, the popular former finance minister. 2) FUNCINPEC (the United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia) is the royalist party led by Prince Norodom Randariddh, a son of King Sihanouk.

Three main political parties have dominated Cambodian politics over the last decade: the Cambodian People's Party(CPP), the United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC) and, more recently, the Sam Rainsy Party. Although the CPP dominated the elections held on July 27, 2003, it did not win the two-thirds majority required under the constitution to form a government on its own. A new government was formed on July 15, 2004 after protracted negotiations between the CPP and FUNCINPEC on forming a coalition government. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In early 2006, the CPP further consolidated its hold on power by passing an amendment to the constitution through Parliament that will allow for a 50 percent plus one majority in the National Assembly to form a government (instead of the two-thirds majority), thereby reducing its future reliance on FUNCINPEC or another coalition partner.

See Elections, History

Political Parties in Cambodia in the 1980s

In the late 1980s, the ruling political organization in Phnom Penh was the Marxist-Leninist Kampuchean (or Khmer) People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP), a political offshoot of the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1930. Heng Samrin headed both the state bureaucracy and the party apparatus in late 1987. Hun Sen, prime minister since January 1985, chaired the single-party, KPRP-run government, that was administered by the Council of Ministers. In seeking to enlist mass support for its regime, the KPRP depended on an umbrella popular front organization, affiliated with numerous social and political groups, that was called the Kampuchean (or Khmer) United Front for National Construction and Defense (KUFNCD). The KPRP, in exercising power in Phnom Penh under Vietnamese mentorship, pursued three main objectives: to combat the enemy (anti-Vietnamese resistance groups); to intensify production for the fulfillment of targets set in the First Five-Year Program of Socioeconomic Restoration and Development (1986-90), hereafter known as the First Plan; and to build up the party's revolutionary forces by strengthening the regime's political and administrative infrastructure and its national security establishment. The party's foreign policy goals were to reinforce solidarity with Vietnam and to develop cooperation with the Soviet Union, the principal source of economic assistance to the government in Phnom Penh. [Source: Library of Congress, December 1987 *]

The other regime competing for legitimacy in the 1980s was an unlikely partnership of feuding communist and noncommunist factions, the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK). The coalition government, with Sihanouk serving on and off as president, was formed in 1982 under the sponsorship of China and the ASEAN states. The coalition comprised the Khmer Rouge and two noncommunist groups led by Sihanouk and Son Sann. Son Sann, a former prime minister under Sihanouk, was known for his dislike of Sihanouk and of the Khmer Rouge. *

Despite its claim that it was based inside Cambodia, the CGDK was a government in exile. It operated out of Beijing, Pyongyang, or Bangkok, or wherever its three leaders — Sihanouk, Khieu Samphan, and Son Sann — happened to be, whether or not they were together. In the 1984 to 1985 Vietnamese dry-season offensive, the coalition lost nearly all of its fixed guerrilla bases along the Thai border. Nonetheless, its fighters continued to operate in small bands in many Cambodian provinces. The CGDK's forces sought to drive the Vietnamese out of the country, to win over the Cambodians who were resentful of the Vietnamese, to destabilize the Heng Samrin regime, and to seek international aid for continued resistance. The coalition government had a distinct asset that its rival lacked — it was recognized by the United Nations as the lawful representative of the state of Cambodia.*

Cambodian People's Party

The Cambodian People's Party was formerly known as the Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP). It was the sole legal party in the country at the time of the People's Republic of Kampuchea and the first two years of the State of Cambodia. Its name was changed during the transitional times of the State of Cambodia, when the single-party system, as well as the Marxist-Leninist ideology were abandoned. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The original Kampuchean People's Revolutionary Party (KPRP) was founded in French colonial times, in September 1951, when the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1930, was dismembered into three national parties, the KPRP, the Vietnam Workers' Party and the Lao Itsala, prior to the independence of the three countries. The name of the party was changed to the WPK in 1960 and then to the KCP in 1966. In one sense the KPRP was a new organization; in another sense it is the continuation of the parties that preceded it. The date of the KPRP founding is uncertain, although the First Party Congress held publicly was convened in May 1981; the party may have come into existence after mid-1978. In 1991 the party was renamed Cambodian People's Party (CPP) during a UN-sponsored peace and reconciliation process. +

The KPRP was originally a Marxist-Leninist party, although it took on a more reformist outlook in the mid-1980s under Heng Samrin's leadership. In the 1990s, the KPRP officially dropped its Marxist-Leninist ideology when it renamed itself as the Cambodian People's Party. However, most of its KPRP-era members remained within the party, and certain aspects of its outlook that it inherited from its Communist era are still preseved. The party is headed by a 34-member Central Executive Committee, still referred to as the Politburo. +

Prime Minister Hun Sen has continued to lead the party to election victories after the transition to democracy. It won 64 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly in the 1998 elections, 73 seats in the 2003 elections, and 90 seats in the 2008 elections, winning the popular vote by the biggest margin ever for a National Assembly election with 58% of the vote. The CPP also won the 2006 Senate elections. +


FUNCINPEC ((Front Uni National pour un Cambodge Indépendant Neutre, Pacifique, et Coopératif, or The National United Front for an Independent, Peaceful, Neutral, and Cooperative Cambodia) is a royalist political party in Cambodia. It was first founded by late King Norodom Sihanouk in 1981. Sihanouk's son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, led the party to electoral victory in the 1993 UNTAC-sponsored elections. At that time, Ranariddh was co-prime minister in a "two-prime ministers" government with Hun Sen for four years until there was a bloody factional fighting in 1997 and Ranariddh was ousted from the position. Since then, the party's popularity has gradually declined due to internal rifts and it won fewer seats at the National Assembly from term to term. In the general election in July 2008, FUNCINPEC won only 2 seats out of the 123 parliamentary seats, while the CPP won 90 seats, followed by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party with 26 seats, the Human Rights Party three seats, the Norodom Ranariddh Party two seats.

The party traces its roots to Norodom Sihanouk, the Cambodian independence leader, former King of Cambodia, Prime Minister and latterly Head of State during the period between 1955 and 1970. Sihanouk set up FUNCINPEC in Paris in February 1981, with a central committee of 100 prominent Cambodian exiles. FUNCINPEC was formed, with the encouragement of ASEAN states, in order to provide an alternative resistance against the Vietnamese to that offered by the Khmer Rouge. [Source: Wikipedia]

FUNCINPEC emerged in 1987 as an increasingly popular resistance group, that drew support from a broad range of Cambodians. FUNCINPEC's indispensable asset was Sihanouk himself. He maintained residences in Pyongyang, in Mougins (located in southern France), and in Beijing. His son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was Sihanouk's sole authorized spokesman and was the head of FUNCINPEC's office in Bangkok. Among his confidants were Nhek Tioulong, a former cabinet minister under Sihanouk; Buor Hel, a cousin of Sihanouk's; and Chak Saroeun, FUNCINPEC secretary general. As vice president of the organization's Executive Committee and commander in chief of the ANS, former prime minister In Tam was also a key FUNCINPEC loyalist, but he resigned in March 1985 as the result of a feud with Prince Ranariddh. [Source: Library of Congress, December 1987 *]

FUNCINPEC had its share of internal problems. After In Tam's departure, Ranariddh, to the dismay of In Tam's supporters, became the ANS's temporary commander in chief. In January 1986, Sihanouk reshuffled the ANS high command, formally appointing his son commander in chief and, in addition, ANS chief of staff. Sihanouk also dismissed General Teap Ben, who had been chief of staff since 1981, for alleged embezzlement of refugee funds and for disloyalty; Tean Ben was relegated to the nominal post of deputy commander in chief of the Joint Military Command. In May 1986, Sihanouk, citing Ranariddh's heavy workload, was reported to be considering the appointment of General Toal Chay as the new ANS chief of staff. At the end of 1987, however, Sihanouk's son continued to hold the two key military posts. *

In the 1993 election, FUNCINPEC (the United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia), the royalist party led by Prince Norodom Randariddh, a son of King Sihanouk won but not with a clear majority. The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) was in second. It was led by Hun Sen, a Khmer Rouge defector, who led the Vietnamese-backed government before the elections.FUNCINPEC took 58 seats in the National Assembly, while the CPP, which represented the previous communist government, took 51 seats.

After the 1993 election, Hun Sen claimed he had been cheated and threatened to go war—and seven provinces declared their were going to secede in protest—if he was not allowed to share power. The United Nations and the United States, neither having the stomach for more turmoil, caved in to Hun Sen’s demands. Hun Sen still controlled a large military force that was loyal to him and they were prepared to fight United Nations troops.

To avoid violence and turmoil, the FUNCINPEC was forced to form a coalition government with Hun Sen. Prince Sihanouk brokered a power sharing deal between Hun Sen and Prince Randariddh and declared himself a constitutional monarch. Under the compromise arrangement, a three-party coalition formed a government headed by two prime ministers; FUNCINPEC's Prince Norodom Ranariddh became first prime minister, while Hun Sen became second prime minister. With all the messiness seemingly under control, the United Nations forces left.

In the 1998 election—which took place after FUNCIPEC was ousted in a 1997 coup by Hun Sen—the three main parties won 88 percent of the vote. Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) came in first place with 41.4 percent of the vote and 64 of 122 seats by using a new formula to allocate seats. FUNCINPEC was second with 32.2 percent and 45 seats. And the party led by Sam Rainsy, the popular former finance minister, was third with 14.4 percent of the vote and 13 seats. The remainder was divided among the smaller parties.

Prince Ranariddh and another opposition candidate, Sam Rainsy, took refuge abroad and contested the outcome of the election. In November the CPP and FUNCINPEC reached an agreement whereby Hun Sen became sole prime minister and Ranariddh became president of the National Assembly.The parties formed a coalition government, dividing control over the various cabinet ministries. In early 1999 the constitution was amended to create a Senate, called for in the 1998 agreement. These signs that Cambodia's political situation was stabilizing encouraged ASEAN to admit Cambodia to its membership a short time later.

Sam Rainsy Party

The Sam Rainsy Party (Khmer: Kanakpak Sam Rainsy; SRP) is a personalist liberal party in Cambodia. The party is a member of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, Liberal International, and the Alliance of Democrats. The name of the leader, Sam Rainsy, is pronounced in Khmer as “Som Rangsee”. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Sam Rainsy Party, founded in 1995 as the Khmer National Party and given its current name in 1998, constitutes the official opposition to the ruling Cambodian People's Party. Since the decline of the junior coalition partner, FUNCINPEC, in the 2008 National Assembly elections, the Sam Rainsy Party is now considered the second largest party in Cambodia. +

The Sam Rainsy Party won 15 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly in the 1998 elections, 24 seats in the 2003 elections, and 26 seats in the 2008 elections with 21 percent of the vote. The SRP won two seats in the 2006 Senate elections. +

In 2009, it formally allied with the Human Rights Party in the Democratic Movement of Change. In 2008, party activist Tuot Saron was arrested on a charge of "being an accomplice to unlawful confinement".International human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International described the charges as a politically motivated attempt to intimidate other SRP activists. Tuot Saron was released on 26 November 2010, following a Royal Pardon decree. +

In the 2012 Cambodian Senate elections, the Sam Rainsy Party gained nine new seats in the Senate. It has now become a part of the National Sustaining Party (also known as the National Salvation Party). +

Opposition Politicians

Mu Sochua of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party was convicted for defaming Hun Sen during an news conference, in which she announced plans to sue the premier for allegedly insulting her. Mu Sochua has been involved in helping Cambodian women trafficked to Thailand return home and various political activities.

Sam Rainsy

Many Cambodians look to Sam Rainsy, a former investment banker, finance minister and committed corruption fighter, as their savior. After he established Cambodia's first opposition party—the Khmer Nation Party—in November 1995 the party was declared illegal because it was not properly registered. Some 30,000 people joined the party in the first month and lines with 500 people waited outside the party headquarters to sign up. The Party later became known as the Sam Rainsy Party.

Sam Rainsy looks like a university professor. He wear glasses, oxford shirts and dark suits. He is known for sticking up for the rights of workers and the poor. In 2000, Rainsy went on a hunger strike to protest the embezzlement of funds by corrupt officials intended to help victims of severe floods.

Sam Rainsy was born in Phnom Penh in 1949. His father, Sam Sary fled the country in 1959 when Sam Rainsy was ten, while his mother was thrown into prison. He moved to France in 1965, studied there and then worked as an investment manager and executive director in a variety of Parisian financial companies. He became a member of the Cambodian FUNCINPEC Party, and after returning to Cambodia in 1992 was elected a member of parliament for Siem Reap Province the following year. He became Minister of Finance, but was expelled from the party after losing a vote of no-confidence in 1994. In 1995, he founded the Khmer Nation Party (KNP), which changed its name before the 1998 elections to the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) to avoid registration issues. Sam was elected a member of parliament for Kompong Cham province in those elections, and the party polled 14 percent of the vote. In the 2003 elections, it polled 22 percent of the vote. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Sam went into self-exile on 3 February 2005, citing fear of arrest after a vote in the National Assembly removed parliamentary immunity from himself and fellow SRP MPs Chea Poch and Cheam Channy[2] On that same day, Parliamentarian Cheam Channy was arrested, and detained in the Cambodian Military Prison. Sam faced multiple criminal defamation charges after accusing the Cambodian People's Party and FUNCINPEC of corruption in the formation of the current coalition government. He has also accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of involvement in the 22 January 2004 murder of SRP-affiliated union leader Chea Vichea. +

At that time, the US Embassy in Phnom Penh said it was "deeply concerned" that the government appeared to be trying to "silence the opposition". Other embassies, local and international organizations shared the same concerns. Sam was tried in absentia on 22 December 2005 in relation to the defamation lawsuits. The court sentenced him to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay around US$14,000 in fines and compensation. On 5 February 2006, Rainsy received a Royal Pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni at Prime Minister Hun Sen's request. He then returned to Cambodia on 10 February 2006. +

In July 2012, Cambodia’s two largest opposition parties – the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the Human Rights Party (HRP) merged under the banner of the Democratic Movement for National Rescue (DMNR). Analysts said this represented a great sign of hope for Cambodia’s beleaguered democracy. For the first time in two decades, the Cambodian electorate may be given the option of a genuine and viable alternative to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). +

Sam Rainsy's father, Sam Sary had served as a minister in the Education, planning and finance portfolios before becoming a Deputy Prime Minister in Sihanouk's government in the 1950s. Sam Rainsy's grandfather, Sam Nhean had served as the President of the Royal Council of Cambodia and was a prominent member of the Democratic Party (Cambodia) in the 1940s. Sam Rainsy's mother, In Em was quoted to be the first Cambodian woman to have completed the Baccalauréat exam. Sam Rainsy is married to Tioulong Samura, who is also member of parliament for his current party, and has three children: Patrice Sam, Muriel Sam and Rachel Sam. Tioulong Samura's father, Nhiek Tioulong was a military general who founded the Khmer Renovation party and briefly served as an Acting Prime Minister in 1962. Both Sam Rainsy and his wife claimed to having Chinese ancestry, the former having revealed that one of his great-great grandfather was a Chinese immigrant, while Nhiek Tioulong revealed that he had a Chinese grandfather during a dialogue session with Zhou Enlai in 1954. +

Sam Rainsy Sentenced to 10 Years in Jail

In October 2009, Rainsy led local residents at the Cambodia-Vietnam border in a protest against alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory, in which he was alleged to have encouraged villagers to uproot border markings he claimed to have been illegally placed by Vietnam. On October 25, Rainsy was charged with racial incitement and destruction of property, and the Cambodian parliament stripped Rainsy of his immunity from prosecution in November. Rainsy was issued a summons to appear in court for a hearing. On January 1, 2010, the Svay Rieng provincial court issued an arrest warrant for Rainsy after he failed to appear in court. Rainsy is currently in Australia, and says that he will let the court try him In absentia, as the charges against him are politically motivated. [Source: Wikipedia]

In September 2010, the BBC reported: Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been sentenced to 10 years in jail after being found guilty of altering public documents and disinformation. The government accused Mr Rainsy of manipulating a map to show that Vietnam had encroached on Cambodia's territory. His party has accused the Cambodian government of ceding territory to its larger and more powerful neighbour. Mr Rainsy was sentenced in his absence as he has been living in self-imposed exile in France for the past year. Sam Rainsy was sentenced in his absence as he is living in self-imposed exile. [Source: BBC, September 23, 2010 ~]

The BBC's Guy Delauney in Phnom Penh says the only surprise was that Mr Rainsy's sentence was not longer. He could have faced up to 18 years in prison.The opposition leader has been spending recent weeks trying to engineer a way of coming back to Cambodia, but now his return seems further away than ever, our correspondent says. Mr Rainsy is paying a heavy price for his attempts to show that Cambodia is losing land to Vietnam - a sensitive subject, as many Cambodians make no secret of their loathing for all things Vietnamese, he adds. ~

The two countries officially began demarcating their contentious border in September 2006, in a bid to end decades of territorial disputes.The 1,270km (790-mile) border has remained essentially unmarked and vague since French colonial times, with stone markers and boundary flags having disappeared, while trees once lining it were cut down. When a new border line was agreed by the two governments, some Cambodians lost their land, and Mr Rainsy took up their case. ~

In January, he was given a two-year jail term for encouraging villagers to uproot border markings, in protest at Cambodia's government. The following month, he was charged with manipulating a map to show that Vietnam had encroached on Cambodia's territory. In his defence, Mr Rainsy said he had simply downloaded the document from Google. The Sam Rainsy Party has accused the government of using the judicial system to silence the opposition. But the government insists that the courts are independent - and simply enforcing the law. ~

Kem Sokha

Kem Sokha, born on 27 June 1953 in Takéo, Cambodia, is the President of the Human Rights Party, a member of Parliament in Cambodia, and Vice President of the Cambodia Democratic Movement for National Rescue formed in July 2012 as a joint movement between the Human Rights Party and Sam Rainsy Party to create a new political party called "Cambodia National Rescue Party". [Source: Wikipedia +]

Kem Sokha is well known for his weekly town hall meetings at local level throughout the country. He was the first to introduce a free and open forum discussing issues concerning civic and political rights, as well as social and economic development, at village level in Cambodia. Kem Sokha is known for his non-violent, political tolerant policy standing on democratic and unity principles. One of his frequent quotes is "No Khmer is an enemy." +

Kem Sokha has been an active opponent of illegal evictions and developed Voice of Human Rights, a daily radio program that raises awareness of human rights, specifically civic and political rights, violations He has also been a leading advocate for respect of human rights. He chaired the National Assembly Commission on Human Rights and Reception of Complaints and discovered a “secret prison” torturing political prisoners. On top of that he was the first legislator to introduce an anti-corruption law, the Anti-Corruption and Asset Declaration draft laws. +

Kem Sokha was one of the leaders of a months-long demonstration participated by tens of thousands to contest the fraudulent results of the 1998 general elections. He took refuge at the U.S. Embassy Cambodia for 50 days after a security threat from the government for organizing a mass demonstration. He co-organized the celebration of Human Rights Day in 2005, joined by local NGOs, and displayed banners with written expressions/concerns by citizens. He was accused and charged for defamation based on the banners in December 31, 2005. He was imprisoned on the charge and released 17 days after political pressure from international community. +

Kem Sokha has a Master of Science in Biochemistry from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague, Czech Republic and a law degree from the Royal University of Law and Economics, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. +

Cheam Channy

Cheam Channy is a Cambodian politician and member of parliament for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). Born on February 15, 1961, he was elected as a representative for Battambang Province in the 1998 National Elections, then again for Kompong Cham province in 2003. In 2005 he was charged by the Cambodian Military Court with the criminal offences of Organised Crime and Fraud, as well as a military charge of disobeying orders. These charges relate to accusations that Cheam had created an illegal army for the Sam Rainsy Party. [Source: Wikipedia]

In August 2005, the New York Times reported: “A military court convicted and sentenced Cheam Channy to seven years in prison for illegally trying to form an armed group to oppose the government.The verdict quickly drew criticism from activists who said the case was politically motivated. It also prompted a strong condemnation from the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia. The case has been widely seen as a government attempt to clamp down on dissent, because it was initiated at the same time as cases against two other opposition lawmakers. Cheam Channy, of the Sam Rainsy Party, was arrested in February after the National Assembly revoked his immunity along with that of Sam Rainsy and a third lawmaker of the opposition party, Chea Poch. The other two men fled the country immediately. [Source: New York Times, August 10, 2005 ^^]

"I have decided to sentence Cheam Channy to seven years in jail, beginning from his arrest on February 3, 2005," Judge Ney Thol told a packed courtroom, one day after a six-hour trial. He said the court had been presented with enough evidence to find both Cheam Channy and Khom Piseth - a supporter of the opposition party who was tried in absentia after being granted political asylum in Norway - guilty as charged of attempts to form an armed group. Khom Piseth received a five-year sentence. Cheam Channy also was tried and convicted on a charge of fraudulently collecting fees from would-be recruits. ^^

Cheam Channy, 44, has denied the charges. He has said he only acted as head of his party's parliamentary defense committee to gather information about problems related to defense and security matters.But the judge said the accused was "in fact trying to build up covert forces among the military." "His main objective was to collect military intelligence and cause damage to the existing government's military," Ney Thol said. "This is harmful to the interest and secrecy of the military, and can affect the entire national security," he said. ^^

After the verdict, the military police escorted Cheam Channy back to a military prison next door to the court building. His wife, Chum Siek Leng, 25, and other relatives cried out loud when they heard the judge pronounce the guilty verdict. "My husband has never committed any act they have accused him of," Chum Siek Leng said outside the courtroom. She appealed to King Norodom Sihamoni to intervene to obtain justice for her husband. ^^

The legal actions against the opposition members have been criticized by the United States, the United Nations and human rights groups. Observers had expected the guilty verdict, citing the Cambodian judicial system's reputation for being weak, corrupt and susceptible to political influence. "The trial was a complete sham," Brad Adams, Asia director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said. "Once again Cambodia's politicized judiciary has been used as a tool to silence the opposition." The U.S. Embassy, in a statement released Tuesday, condemned the verdict and said "the conduct of the trial raises again questions about the competence and independence of Cambodia's judiciary, and constitutes further intimidation of opposition voices." "We urge appropriate review of this case so that justice may be served," the statement read. In a statement on Monday, Sam Rainsy said the charges were "politically motivated." ^^

Following his conviction, Cheam was returned to solitary confinement in the Phnom Penh military prison. On February 2, 2006, King Norodom Sihamoni reduced Cheam's sentence from seven years' imprisonment to three years. Four days later, Cheam received a full royal pardon, and was released from prison. ^^

Prince Norodom Ranariddh

Prince Ranariddh was Prime Minister of Cambodia from 1993 until 1997 and remains active in royalist politics today. He was regarded as optimistic, charming but weak, feckless, politically unskilled an kind of stupid. He seemed to relish in the perks of power more anything. According to some his closest advisor was his cocker spaniel Tiffin.

The second son of King Sihanouk and a half-brother of the current king, Norodom Sihamoni, Prince Ranariddh was born in January 1944. he received a law degree from a university in France in 1967 and a doctorate in public law in 1976. He was given asylum in France in 1970 and stayed in France during the Khmer Rouge years in power. He was named chief of staff in FUNCINPEC in 1986 and made chairman in 1991.

Hun Sen muscled in on Prince Ranariddh’s premiership. He justified his actions with the belief that Prince Ranariddh was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and enjoyed a life of luxury in exile while he stayed in Cambodia during the worst years and did his best to hold Cambodia together when he was the leader.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh grew up in Phnom Penh and he lived in France for many years. He was appointed a lecturer in law at the University of Provence, now Aix-Marseille Université and remains one of the world experts in aspects of maritime law. Until recently he still gave lectures at the university, even when he was Prime Minister. [Source: Wikipedia +]

For most of the period of the Vietnamese Occupation of Cambodia 1979–1989, Prince Ranariddh led the Royalist movement, FUNCINPEC. When the monarchy was restored in 1993, his political party won the elections, the first free elections since 1972. As such he is regarded by many Cambodians as the man who brought democracy back to the country. He became Prime Minister, but had to serve jointly with his father's rival Hun Sen who had lost the 1993 elections but wanted to hang onto power and insisted that he remained in the government. By agreement, the two first shared the title of Prime Minister with Ranariddh as First Prime Minister, while Hun Sen became Second Prime Minister. Prince Ranarddh tried to reform the country but was obstructed by Hun Sen. These differences came to a head in July 1997 when Rannaridh was ousted by Hun Sen in a bloody coup d'état which saw some of Prince Ranariddh's supporters being killed, and his house looted. +

After initially fleeing the country,Prince Ranariddh returned to Cambodia to participate in the national elections held in 1998. Because campaigning freely was not allowed, his party suffered heavy losses yet managed to form a new coalition with Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh became Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly. When King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated in October 2004, Ranariddh was a likely choice for king owing to his popularity. However, he renounced his interest in the post, and later that month he was part of the nine-member throne council which convened and chose Norodom Sihamoni to be the next king. +

Ranariddh has had two wives: 1) Princess Eng Marie to whom he married in 1968, with whom he had two sons and one daughter. The couple formally divorced in 2009; and 2) Ouk Phalla, a former classical dancer with the Royal Ballet (and a member of the Royal family through the Sisowath line) with whom he has two sons. Before he was pardoned, he was living in Kuala Lumpur with his second wife and his son, Prince Norodom Sothearidh. Prince Norodom Ranavong was born in December 2011. +

Wikileaks on Prince Ranariddh

In July 2011, WikiLeaks released its small cache of Cambodia-related dispatches. The 777 cables from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh span the period from 1992 to 2010, nearly the entire life of democratic Cambodia. Cambodia's feckless royalists provide a target-rich environment for sharp-tongued US diplomats. "Cambodia's royal family", states one May 2006 cable (06PHNOMPENH839), "is a tragedy, comedy and melodrama all rolled into one that could have provided grist for at least a half dozen Shakespeare plays." [Source: Sebastian Strangio, Asia Times, July 27, 2011 ^^]

A particular target is Prince Norodom Ranariddh, then leader of the FUNCINPEC party, whose limelight-stealing antics following the October 2004 abdication of King Norodom Sihanouk and the accession of the prince's half-brother Sihamoni prompted some colorful take-downs from embassy officials. One cable (04PHNOMPENH1701), titled "Cambodia's Man Who Won't Be King - Ranariddh's Snit Fit", paints a picture of a prince acting in "childish and petulant" manner, out of apparent pique at being "passed over for a younger half-brother as King". ^^

“In one instance documented in the cable, Ranariddh flew into a rage when he had the central palace gates closed in his face while he was attempting to follow the king's motorcade, ordering the dismissal of the palace's head of security; a few days later, he failed to attend a Buddhist coronation ceremony for royals. "[R]ather than raising his stature," the cable concluded, "he is increasingly making himself a laughing stock." In a December 2009 cable (09PHNOMPENH920), following FUNCINPEC's implosion at the 2008 national elections, ambassador Rodley wrote that the moribund royalists "don't have much of a presence, or a future" in Cambodian politics. ^^

In contrast, the cables paint a positive picture of King Sihamoni, describing his "regal" behavior during his coronation (04PHNOMPENH1701). Another dispatch following the coronation (04PHNOMPENH1985) claimed that he had brought "a new sense of dignity to the royal house" and was a welcome change to Sihanouk and the wayward Ranariddh."His careful, well-modulated speeches, though prompted as much by his lack of familiarity with his native Khmer as anything, have been a welcome change from the high-pitched speech characteristic of his father and older half brother," it stated. ^^

Prince Ranariddh Removed as FUNCINPEC Leader

Prince Ranariddh was removed as chairman of the FUNCINPEC political party but by a party vote in October 2006, which was led by once his closest advisor and general Gen. Nhek Bun Chhay. Subsequently he established the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), which outpolled FUNCINPEC and is currently the third largest party in Cambodia. [Source: Wikipedia]

Sopheng Cheang of Associated Press wrote: “Cambodia's royalist party voted to remove Prince Norodom Ranariddh as its leader, saying his long absences from the country left him unable to lead the fractious party. The FUNCINPEC party elected Keo Puth Rasmey, Cambodia's ambassador to Germany and Ranariddh's brother-in-law, to replace the prince. "The prince has rarely spent time inside the country, and we needed a leader who is regularly at work with the party in the country," Nhek Bun Chhay, the party's secretary-general, told a news conference Wednesday. He said Ranariddh was also removed because his relationship with Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party had caused problems. FUNCINPEC is a junior coalition partner with the CPP. [Source: Sopheng Cheang, Associated Press, October 19, 2006 =]

“Ranariddh's dismissal came after a bitter verbal exchange with Hun Sen recently. The prime minister criticized the prince's weak leadership and called for FUNCINPEC to dump him. Over the last six months, Ranariddh has lived in a self-imposed exile despite a brief return to Cambodia in September. He has a residence in France. Political embarrassment was a key reason behind his long absence. In March, Hun Sen's party, which dominates seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, succeeded in changing voting rules from a two-thirds to a simple majority. This meant the CPP no longer needed the support of Ranariddh's lawmakers. =

“FUNCINPEC was originally founded on a platform to defend Cambodia's monarchy and to unseat Hun Sen. But the party's popularity had steadily declined Under Ranariddh's leadership and its main rival, Hun Sen's CPP, defeated FUNCINPEC in the last two general elections in 1998 and 2003. Ranariddh's removal came as the party was trying to restore its credibility ahead of local elections in April 2007 and a general election in 2008. Ranariddh, who is currently in Malaysia, said he does not recognize the party's decision and will file a complaint with Cambodian courts, according to his adviser, Ok Socheat. =

Prince Ranariddh Sentenced to Jail

In March 2007, Prince Ranariddh was sentenced in absentia to 18 months imprisonment in March 2007 in a political show trial over a US$3.6 million property sale. The court ruled he improperly sold his former political party headquarters and used proceeds from the sale to purchase another property in his own name. The building had actually been part of the house of his father-in-law, Eng Meas (who had been murdered by the Communists), and had been given to him and his wife in 1991 because his own house was occupied by a Russian diplomat who did not want to vacate it. [Source: Wikipedia]

China Daily reported: “Former Cambodian Prime Minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on embezzlement charges, initiated by members of the very royalist political party of which he was once the leader. The sentence will represent a real obstacle for Ranariddh, a once-influential national figure and son of former King Norodom Sihanouk, should he wish to mount a political comeback. Supporters claimed the charges were politically motivated. [Source: China Daily via agencies March 14, 2007 ]

“The FUNCINPEC party, which removed Ranariddh from its presidency in October 2006, accused the prince of embezzling some US$3.6 million after the party's headquarters were sold in August that year. Judge Sao Meach, of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, found the prince guilty of breach of trust and sentenced him to 18 months in prison. Muong Arun, Ranariddh's lawyer, decried the verdict as unjust while the defendant's whereabouts remained unclear.

“Since being thrown out, Ranariddh had formed his own political party named after himself, the Norodom Ranariddh Party. However, the verdict against him would rule him out from running for public office in Cambodia before having served two-thirds of his jail term or receiving a royal pardon from his brother, King Norodom Sihamoni. Muth Chantha, Ranariddh's party spokesman, denounced the verdict as being "politically motivated to prevent the prince from taking part in future elections." He added that the prince would not appeal the verdict, since such an action would be legitimizing it.

After Prime Minister Hun Sen was re-elected in the 2008 Cambodian elections, King Norodom Sihamoni granted a royal pardon upon the request of the re-elected Prime Minister. When Prince Ranariddh returned to Cambodia, half of the house became the party headquarters, and he lived in the other half. All serious commentators on Cambodia viewed the court ruling as a political move to try to remove the influence of Prince Ranariddh and force him from the country, and this is what happened. Shortly after he was pardoned, he read out a letter on television thanking King Sihamoni, his half brother, for giving him "full freedom in order to join in the development of the nation." The prince also thanked Prime Minister Hun Sen for helping to arrange the royal pardon for him and said that he would return to Cambodia soon: he subsequently returned, and has retired from politics taking part in promoting charity work in the country partly through the Norodom Ranariddh Foundation. In December 2008, King Norodom Sihamoni selected Prince Ranariddh as chief advisor of his advisory court, the Privy Council President of the Supreme Privy Council to HM the King of Kingdom of Cambodia with the rank of Prime Minister. +

King Sihanouk’s Daughter Becomes Head of FUNCIPEC

In March 2013, Xinhua reported: “Princess Norodom Arun Rasmey, the youngest daughter of Cambodia's late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, was formally elected as the president of the royalist party FUNCINPEC and the candidate for the post of prime minister if the party wins the general election on July. The princess, who is currently Cambodian ambassador to Malaysia, was officially endorsed by the party's congress attended by about 4,000 members at its headquarters in Russei Keo district on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The party's former Executive President Nhik Bun Chhay was elected as the party's secretary general. [Source: Xinhua, March 23, 2013 ]

“FUNCINPEC is currently in the coalition government with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen. "It's a big obligation for me. As the party's president, I will try all my best to unite royalists, Sihanoukists in order to build a prosperous society for Cambodian people,"Princess Arun Rasmey told the congress, adding that under her leadership, the party's stance would be"neutral"with all political parties in the country and other countries.

“She said she would lead the party by sticking to the political guidelines of late King Father Norodom Sihanouk. "King Father Sinahouk's wishes are: to seek full independence for the nation and to defense territorial integrity; to maintain peace and national unification and reconciliation; and to encourage people to join together to develop the nation,"she said. Nhik Bun Chhay said the party decided to elect the princess as the president because she came from a political background with an impeccable resume. "FUNCINPEC is a royalist party, so it is the party's top priority to elect a royal member to lead the party,"he said." Also, the party wants to promote women into politics and to attract female voters."

“Political analysts predicted that under the princess' leadership, the party will definitely restore its popularity in the forthcoming polls. "Yes, the party's popularity will be restored, but just some extent only because people will feel FUNCINPEC is linked to the deceased King-Father,"Dr. Lao Mong Hay, a prominent political analyst in Cambodia, told Xinhua. "But it is very difficult for the party to regain its past popularity because of its affiliation with the CPP. More importantly, FUNCINPEC has no resources and time is too short for the new leader to project the party's new image."

“Prince Sisowath Thomico, former personal secretary of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, said the princess is qualified enough to lead the party because she has been a diplomat for many years and, moreover, she had followed the late King-Father ever since the beginning of the 1980s. "I believe that she has experienced enough to lead the FUNCINPEC,"the prince told Xinhua. He said the presence of the princess will restore some of the legitimacy it has lost since 2006 after Prince Norodom Ranariddh was ousted. "Surely, her leadership will slow down or maybe even stop the decrease in the party's popularity, but it will take time for her to reorganize the FUNCINPEC in order to reverse the trend and to restore its popularity,"he said."There is only one way for the FUNCINPEC to restore the confidence: to defend and promote the legacy of the late King Father's politics."

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourism of Cambodia, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated May 2014

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