Prince Norodom Ranariddh has died, Cambodia’s government announced Monday night. He was 77.
Mr. Ranariddh, considered one of Cambodia’s foremost modern politicians, ran the country from 1993 until 1998. After leaving government, he returned to politics as the king’s representative in the opposition party. He has remained a vocal opponent of the Hun Sen regime and a proponent of independent media and a liberalized political environment.
Cambodia’s current prime minister, Hun Sen, led the Gen. Lon Nol regime, which was allied with Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and which crushed a Cambodian rebellion led by the fallen dictator Lon Nol’s son, Pol Pot. Mr. Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia since 1985, when he took over the reigns of the country from the late Hun Sen. After the end of the Vietnamese occupation in 1979, the country experienced three cycles of military and political upheaval that kept the regime in power.
Hun Sen has said that the late prince was a “friend of mine,” and he has pointed to his influence over Mr. Ranariddh’s young son as one of the reasons that the prince was opposed to Hun Sen’s rule.
There are many rumors about the cause of Mr. Ranariddh’s death. Thai news reports suggest that he had been battling dementia. Cambodian political observers have hinted that he had been suffering from hepatitis.
The royal family in Cambodia lives a lavish lifestyle: His son is one of the princes who holds the title of “lady-in-waiting.” But the prince had been living in relative poverty.