Last Nov. 28, our dear friend, Prince Norodom Ranariddh of Cambodia, succumbed to a lingering sickness. He was 77.
Prince Ranarridh, son of the late legendary King Norodom Sihanouk and brother of the current King, Norodom Sihamoni, was not only our personal friend but also a good friend of the Philippines and the Filipino people, for he worked vigorously in strengthening political, socio-economic, cultural, as well as parliamentary ties between our country and Cambodia.
We in the House of Representatives conferred on him the Congressional Medal of Achievement in 2002 for fostering deep relations between our two countries.
As then speaker of the House of Representatives, we initiated and institutionalized the Congressional Medal of Achievement in 2002 to “honor political, economic and cultural leaders who have distinguished themselves through their life-work and vision” and who have contributed to enriching relations with the Philippines and Asia.
Prince Ranariddh served as co-prime minister of Cambodia, with incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen, from 1993 to 1997, and later president of the National Assembly from 1998 to 2006. He was also president of the royalist political party, Funcinpec.
Prince Ranariddh, then Speaker of Parliament, graciously accepted our invitation to the founding and launching of our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) in Manila in September 2000. He was one of the co-founders of ICAPP, now with some 350-member-political parties from 52 countries in Asia.
He joined Benazir Bhutto, the first woman prime minister of Pakistan and in the Muslim world; former President Kim Young-sam of South Korea; Speaker of Parliament and former president of the UN General Assembly Humayan Rasheed Choudhury of Bangladesh; Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai of Thailand; Vice President Hassan Ghafouri Fard of Iran, our then President Joseph Estrada, and former Presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos, among other Philippines and Asian leaders, at the ICAPP inaugural.
We last saw Prince Ranariddh in Phnom Penh in November 2019 at the wake of his sister, Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, who was a privy counsellor to the current King and a member of the Constitutional Council and who earlier served as minister of culture and fine arts of Cambodia.
We felt bad seeing the bright, dynamic, eloquent, and outspoken prince-politician confined in a wheelchair and had difficulty speaking, following his near-fatal car crash in 2018 which instantaneously killed his wife.
Before joining politics, the French-educated Prince Ranariddh was a law professor in France. He spoke fluent Khmer, English, and French.
Perhaps by stroke of fate, Prince Ranarridh, Princess Buppha Devi, and their other brother, Prince Norodom Yuvaneath, who passed away in January this year, all died at the age of 77.
Years ago, Prince Ranariddh and his then wife Princess Marie hosted a breakfast reception for us and our wife Gina and our small Filipino group on the grounds of Angkor Wat, just as the sun was rising, which our wife Gina described as magical, and indeed memorable. He and Princess Marie and their daughter Princess Ratana spent several days with us in our home in Pangasinan.
We and our wife Gina and our family will always treasure our friendship with the good Prince Ranariddh, Princess Marie, and their daughter Princess Ratana.
We are also honored to have met a few times Prince Ranarridh’s late father, the highly-revered King Norodom Sihanouk, who became Cambodia’s reigning monarch in 1941, at the age of 18. In between his rule as King, he served as his country’s prime minister, president, foreign minister, and ambassador to the United Nations.
Under Sihanouk as prime minister and later as president, from 1955 to 1970, Cambodia experienced relative peace and prosperity while many countries in Asia were experiencing political upheavals.
King Sihanouk, with current Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Ranarridh, who was concurrently a general in the Royal Army, fought and defeated the barbarous Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot, which butchered millions of Cambodian people.
We are also privileged to have been received by the current King, Norodom Sihamoni, and the still beautiful Queen Mother, half-French Norodom Monineath, perhaps now in her mid-80s, at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh some three years ago.
The renowned King Norodom Sihanouk visited Manila in 1969. Some Filipino historians wrote that the first king who visited the Philippines was King Sihanouk’s grandfather, King Norodom I, in 1872.