Sihanouk, Ranariddh: a Cambodian political dynasty
They share a passion for politics and a striking physical resemblance, but Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk and his son Ranariddh have at times been poles apart, according to the prince's first biography, reports AFP.
In his portrait of Ranariddh published this month in Singapore, Indian journalist Harish Mehta casts a sometimes harsh light on the often stormy relationship between father and son.
"I still profoundly admire him. He's a good father to the people of Cambodia, but as a father to his children, he is not a real father," says Ranariddh.
"He is rather the father of the nation, instead of the father of his own children," he says while recalling a childhood spent apart from the king. "I have seen several times that while he clearly does have affection for me, he is not very just. Not completely equitable.
He is the greatest politician, a genius, difficult to match, difficult to try to resemble, and we should not try to do so," he reveals, with a hint of bitterness.
Titled "Warrior Prince: Norodom Ranariddh, son of King Sihanouk of Cambodia," the biography clearly sides with Ranariddh, and salutes his independence from the palace.
The prince makes no secret of regarding the family likeness -- the same plumpness, the same high-pitched voice, the abundant energy of his father -- as "a big burden."
"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'."
Born in 1944 to Sihanouk's first wife, Princess Phap Kanhol, Ranariddh spent his youth first in Phnom Penh and then Paris, where his father accused him of living the life of a "playboy".
Chased out of Phnom Penh in 1973 by the republic of Lon Nol, who ousted Sihanouk three years earlier at the height of the Vietnam War, he was forced to spend a decade in the south of France with his wife Marie and their children as Cambodia descended into chaos.
Under Lon Nol's regime, which preceded the Khmer Rouge genocide, he spent several short spells in prison which, he says, marked him for life. Ranariddh was a late convert to politics in 1983, when Sihanouk, exiled in China, asked him to reorganise the demoralised National Sihanoukist Army and the royalist FUNCINPEC party. The doctor of law at Aix-en-Provence succeeded his father as head of FUNCINPEC in 1991 and led the royalists to victory in the general elections of May 1993, held under the auspices of the United Nations. However, after the ballot the prince mis-stepped by accepting a powersharing arrangement with the ex-communist Cambodian People's Party, from which emerged powerful Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Ranariddh never quit the turbulent Cambodian political scene, even though he was forced to retreat to the Thai capital for several months in 1997 as rivalries within the coalition government degenerated into armed confrontation with the "brutal" Hun Sen.The two rivals were reconciled in 1998 under the tutelage of Sihanouk, who famously describes them as his "two sons."
Under Cambodia's constitution, Norodom Ranariddh is regarded as one of the main favourites to succeed his father, along with Prince Sihamoni, the ballet-dancer son of the current Queen Monique.But the "Warrior Prince", who nevertheless admits to a distaste for "the noise of guns and artillery", remains divided between political ambition and the honour of the monarchy.
"Of course, as a human being I am facing a great dilemma. I don't want to praise myself that everyone acknowledges that among the members of the royal family, maybe I am the only one ... (fit to become the next king).
"But as the same time FUNCINPEC needs me, and I am still fighting for the victory of my party, but it is up to the people."
With this portrait, Mehta completes a chronicle of modern Cambodian history that began with a biography of "strongman" Hun Sen in 1998.
source: Asia Pacific /bangladesh.com/, July 30, 2001