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Cambodia: Norodom Ranariddh to Head FUNCINPEC By Carlyle A. Thayer

C3S Paper No. 0015/ 2015

We request a quick assessment on the return of Prince Norodom Ranariddh to lead FUNCINPEC [Front uni national pour un Cambodge indépendant, neutre, pacifique, et coopératif, or National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia (រណសិរបង ប បង ម តិេដមីកម ឯកជ អពកិត សនិព និងសហបតិបតិ រ)], the party was ousted from power between eight and nine years ago. Ranariddh said that Hun Sen was partly involved in his return.

Q1. What is your analysis of Ranariddh’s return?

ANSWER: By letting Norodom Ranariddh return to Cambodia Hun Sen has resolved a political problem. By letting Ranariddh return Hun Sen has alleviated to a certain extent external pressures on him from the US, Japan, Australia and the EU. Hun Sen’s actions are designed to let the people at grassroots level see that Hun Sen is still in charge.

Q2. Do you think Ranariddh’s return will help strengthen Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) against the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in the next elections?

ANSWER: The royalists faded a long time ago as a major force in Cambodian domestic politics. The CNRP has grown from strength to strength and marginalized both FUNCINPEC and Norodom Ranariddh.

Q3. Will this matter much?

ANSWER: If Hun Sen and CPP make any gains from Ranariddh’s return they will be marginal.

Q4. What do you think Hun Sen is doing right now: helping Ranariddh back to FUNCINPEC?

ANSWER: Hun Sen is “stirring the pot” by opening a potential third party challenge to  Sam Rainsy and the CNRP. Hun Sen may have calculated that a rejuvenated  FUNCINPEC will draw support away from the CNRP. There is always the possibility of a CPP-FUNCINPEC electoral alliance. Hun Sen’s ploy is risky because it could destabilize FUNCINPEC. Hun Sen stands to gain in the eyes of the international community for letting Ranariddh return. As the saying goes “swings and roundabouts,” Hun Sen may gain here and loose there by letting Ranariddh back in the country.

(Article reprinted with the permission of the author Carlyle A. Thayer, Emeritus Professor,The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra email:

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