Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) – A Cambodian prince who was a candidate in upcoming general elections was transferred early Monday to a hospital in Thailand after being injured in a road crash that killed his wife, said a fellow politician and a Cambodian news agency.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh, 74, was in a convoy along with senior members of his FUNCINPEC party heading toward Sihanoukville in southwest Cambodia on Sunday morning when a taxi traveling in the opposite direction slammed into his SUV, said a senior party member in the group.
Ranariddh’s wife also was standing as a candidate in Cambodia’s general election next month.
His 39-year-old wife, Ouk Phalla, died in a hospital after the crash, and Ranariddh suffered head injuries and was transferred to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, for urgent treatment, Sihanoukville police chief Gen. Chuon Narin said.
Ranariddh, who was originally reported severely injured, suffered broken ribs, a politician familiar with his situation told The Associated Press. The politician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information, said Ranariddh was flown to Bangkok at 1 a.m. Monday for medical care on request from the country’s Royal Palace. Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni is Ranariddh’s half-brother.
Fresh News, a news agency close to the government, also reported that Ranariddh had been taken to Thailand.
Nhep Bun Chin, a FUNCINPEC spokesman, said Ranariddh’s condition had improved, but declined to confirm his evacuation to Bangkok.
Health care in Cambodia has a poor reputation, and senior officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as the well-to-do, often go abroad for serious medical problems.
Ranariddh was Cambodia’s co-prime minister for four years in an uneasy power-sharing arrangement with Hun Sen after his party won a United Nations-organized election in 1993. His party’s popularity was largely due to its royalist credentials, although Ranariddh’s personal relations with his popular father, late King Norodom Sihanouk, were often strained.
He was ousted in July 1997 and fled abroad when long-simmering tensions between him and Hun Sen exploded into two days of bitter fighting in Phnom Penh between his forces and those loyal to Hun Sen.
Ranariddh was allowed to return to contest elections the following year but failed to repeat his success at the ballot. He slid into political irrelevancy, as FUNCINPEC became co-opted by Hun Sen, a much savvier and tougher politician than Ranariddh.
Ranariddh is currently president of FUNCINPEC. It holds 41 seats in the National Assembly, but only because seats held by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party were redistributed after CNRP was dissolved.
The dissolution was widely seen as a maneuver to ensure an easy victory for Hun Sen in the general election, with parties contesting the polls generally seen as hopelessly weak or fronting for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party so it can claim it ran a fair race by allowing opposition candidates.
Ranariddh is also president of the Supreme Privy Advisory Council to King Norodom Sihamoni.
Ouk Phalla, a classical Cambodian dancer reported to be descended from a separate royal family branch, was Ranariddh’s second wife.