Phnom Penh, June 17 : Former Cambodian Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh was seriously injured Sunday in a road crash that killed his wife and injured at least seven other people, officials said.
The 74-year-old Ranariddh was in a convoy along with senior figures of his FUNCINPEC party heading toward Sihanoukville in southwest Cambodia when a taxi traveling in the opposite direction slammed into his SUV, said a senior party member in the group.
Cambodia will hold a general election next month in which both Ranariddh and his wife were standing as candidates.
Sihanoukville police chief Gen. Chuon Narin said Ranariddh — a son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk — suffered head injuries. He was sent to Phnom Penh for urgent treatment. Chuon Narin said Ranariddh’s wife, Ouk Phalla, died in a hospital.
Ranariddh was Cambodia’s co-prime minister for four years in an uneasy power-sharing arrangement with current Prime Minister 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 were often strained.
He was ousted in July 1997 and then 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 more savvy and tougher politician than Ranariddh.
Ranariddh is currently president of FUNCINPEC. The party holds 41 seats in the National Assembly, but only because seats held by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party were distributed to other parties after CNRP was dissolved.
The dissolution was widely seen as a maneuver to ensure an easy victory for Hun Sen in next month’s 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, his half-brother.
Ouk Phalla, a classical Cambodian dancer reported to be descended from a separate royal family branch, was Ranariddh’s second wife.