Prince Norodom Ranariddh, whose Funcinpec Party has filed a complaint against the opposition CNRP, spoke to Alan Parkhouse about his return to political prominence. Prince Ranariddh, 73, had senior Funcinpec officials You Hockry, Por Bun Sroeu, Yim Sawy, Nhep Bunchin and Nuth Sokhom present during the interview.
KT: Can you explain why you and your party filed a complaint and asked that the opposition CNRP be dissolved, and what prompted your decision to do so?
Prince Ranariddh: It is a very common question. Firstly, I call Kem Sokha a former representative of the people. I have to do the same for the people of Cambodia – represent them. We have to listen to the people of Cambodia. Secondly, he has taken money from the people of Cambodia, so he has to abide by the people. They are sinking.
We have the right to file our complaint with the court, whatever the result. But you have to ask them (pointing to his party members).
I was not here. I was in hospital joining the club of people with stents. You have to ask whether we think we have the right to file a complaint against Kem Sokha.
I have watched TV – Kem Sokha was smiling. He said he hoped the American house would fill up. You know, we are representing our party. It is not my party.
It is Prince Sihanouk’s party, and I can tell you he hated when pressure was coming from the United States.
Cambodia is a small country – we are only 15 million people. But let us assume our responsibilities before the people. My father didn’t talk too much to me, but he did once.
He said: “Don’t forget that you are very lucky to have been born a prince of Cambodia. But never, never, never forget that the real masters of the people, the real masters of Cambodia, are the Cambodians.”
So we have learned, and I hope that you have learned that lesson as well. The lesson is this: You are the common people, I’m a prince, but do you see when my father chased away the French, and after that the communist Vietnamese? He did that when all the people of Cambodia were around him. And Lon Nol chased him away years after.
And so there are three reasons that we filed our complaint, and we have a right to do so. We don’t have any seats in the National Assembly for the time being.
But as Cambodians, they have the right. My father hated the anti- Sihanoukists. We are royalists. My father hated all the Cambodians who listened to others, those from the super powers. And finally, for the Americans, there are two million, according to the tribunal who judged the Khmer Rouge, who passed away under the Khmer Rouge. Two million.
What did the Americans do? Nothing. They preferred to watch us being killed. A lot of people had their parents killed by Pol Pot and they survived because they are very lucky. Look at Dr Sokhom (Nuth Sokhom, seated near the prince), he joined the resistance, otherwise they would have been killed by Pol Pot.
What did the Americans do? Let me tell you something, thanks to our victory of 1993 it was – hey, I vote for you and you win the election and you share the power with the loser. Maybe, but without me, one thing is very interesting is the change of regime.
You are going from the communists to liberalism, that’s very important. It cost a lot of lives of the people. Because of the Americans, Lon Nol was in power and they snuck away. We used to be monarchists and as monarchists, when the French came, it was monarchy. And who pushed that away, who asked Pol Pot to come? You have to ask the Americans.
KT: The US once played a role in trying to unseat your father. Do you think the US has been trying to do the same thing to Mr Hun Sen?
Prince Ranariddh: No. I believe – it’s my own feeling – that what the US is doing is to throw away Hun Sun, throw away Sihanouk, all the people who refuse to be the valet of the Americans, they throw them away. They keep only the people who are selling out their country to them. That’s it – nothing else.
KT: Do you expect that your party will benefit by being handed the seats made vacant if the CNRP is dissolved?
Prince Ranariddh: Why not? I told them, I was sleeping, you were sleeping, all the people were sleeping if you are interested in Cambodian politics. If we benefit from the CPP, if we benefit from the CNRP, why not? We say thank you, thank you mister, thank you very much. We benefit from 41 seats. Why not?
KT: Do you have members of your party ready to take on those roles?
Prince Ranariddh: It’s my problem. All of the parties, they are ready to take that role. There are royalists and Sihanoukists in every province of Cambodia I have met. It is my problem. It is my problem to help the people who need a car.
But in between, the drivers and the cars is the problem. And I hope that those people will change their mind and their manner of thinking. You know, in Cambodia there are two things – you oppose, you oppose, you oppose, but I know Kem Sokha, I know Sam Rainsy, I know Madam Sochua, I know every one of those people very well.
Thanks to me, they can oppose. They oppose the CPP, thanks to me. Without me, they cannot oppose any more. Maybe they are put in the jail. So, I know them very well. In Cambodia, you oppose, oppose, oppose, or you can go halfway. Half full is better than half empty. The CNRP had selected half empty. Okay, it is up to them to select half empty, but we prefer half full.
KT: Would you take one of those seats if they become available?
Prince Ranariddh: Yes, of course. Already they said that the CPP has offered – only the CPP – has offered to us only 40 seats. And the answer was this – this one is for you. The 40 was for them and one for me. Okay, I agree.
KT: How would you feel working with Prime Minister Hun Sen as part of the government?
Prince Ranariddh: Prince Ranariddh: I have always worked with him. You know, Samdech Hun Sen told me two Sundays ago: “You know, you have now come a full circle.”
Because, it is very important for Cambodia, for our country, peace, stability, liberalism, so on and so forth, which is more important than democracy. Without liberalism you cannot come into my house today. Have you seen all the buildings, built by the Chinese, but without peace and stability, political peace and political stability, there would be no way the Chinese would work here.
I asked him, “are you ready to send a letter to Xi Jinping who has just been elected again for five more years?” He said tomorrow I will send you and you will sign the letter for Xi Jinping. Okay, it is liberalism. As we said, half full is better than half empty.
KT: You recently said you would go to North Korea. Do you still plan to go?
Prince Ranariddh: No, I have been unwell and I don’t want to go. It’s better to watch what Mr Donald Trump says – today he said this, tomorrow he says that. The North Koreans have never told us what to do, so why should I go there to tell them what to do? I leave that to Mr Donald Trump. I hate it when one country interferes in the internal affairs of another country.
KT: Are you happy with the progress Cambodia has made?
Prince Ranariddh: No. There are a lot of things – I still remember. One day in Kampong Speu, I asked the Cambodian people, what happens if you are ill in the afternoon or the evening? They said, the only way out for us is to die.
Why do 15 million Cambodian people have to die? We are not happy, but we have no choice but to be with Samdech Hun Sen, and Hun Sen is to be with me. You see, it’s much more easy to blame one man and to say it’s because of him. It’s less easy to blame five people, without counting 10 people.
You know, I think that Samdech Hun Sen wants his country to progress quite well. Why you can do it in Australia, New Zealand, why not us? And so, it’s better to be half full than half empty. Let’s just say that we are not happy, but we have no way out – the only way out is to be half full than half empty.
To oppose, oppose, oppose without end, what will happen? You know, you can oppose, but one journalist asked me, are you happy with your small house?
I said I’m happy with my small house. Most Cambodian people have a small house, maybe smaller than I do. It’s better to have a small house than to have a big house and know that the people have suffered too much.
If you oppose, you have to have the result. You cannot oppose without any result. And like my father always said, if all the Cambodians are all together, and they oppose working all together for the country, they can’t progress. We can progress. There is only one way.
We don’t really know about the future for our country. But we will do our best to make the future of Cambodia better than today.
The people of Cambodia have the right to choose what they want to do.
We do what we want to do and we do believe that without intervention, without outside pressure and so on, we will do better.
Maybe Hun Sen is right, maybe he is wrong, but we have one leadership in this country.
KT: When you won the election in the early ’90s, did you have a lot of pressure from other countries at that time?
Prince Ranariddh: It’s better to have no pressure. If there is pressure, please don’t listen to the foreigners. As Cambodians, we are our own masters.
KT: Is your party’s structure ready?
Prince Ranariddh: As I said earlier, in every province you find two things – royalists and Sihanoukists. And I don’t want to be the president of the party any more. Zero. But I still have the people of Cambodia, so the structure of the party does exist. But the problem is whether they want to implement the structure of the party. The basis are there, but (pointing to his colleagues), I count on them.
They are five and they represent the party. So the structure of the party does exist – do they want to improve it and strengthen it? It is up to them. I hope they will do their best and the Cambodian people are there to help them.
Please remember what my father said. He said: ‘My son, you are so lucky, we are so lucky, when we were born as monarchists. But never forget, never, never forget, that the real masters of the country are the Cambodian people.’