Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Nov 29 (EFE).- Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the first democratically elected prime minister of Cambodia, has passed away in Paris at the age of 77, the government said.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who succeeded Ranariddh in 1997, said he and his wife were “heartbroken” at the news of the prince’s death.
Sen described Ranariddh as “a dignitary, (a) member of the royal family who was patriotic to the nation, religion, the king.”
His children and other royal family members said they were flying his remains from Paris to Phnom Penh in a charter flight.
A royal funeral will be held in his honor, local newspaper Khmer Times reported on Monday.
Ranariddh led the royalist FUNCINPEC party to victory in the first democratic elections held in 1993 after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime, which ruled between 1975 to 1979.
However, the party failed to secure an absolute majority and subsequently entered into a power-sharing agreement with the party led by Hun Sen, who became a co-prime minister.
Ranariddh stepped down from his post in 1997 amid a climate of violence with clashes between the police and the militias that supported Hun Sen.
It left the current prime minister free to occupy the position, which he has not abandoned for two and half decades.
Ranariddh is Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni’s half-brother and son of the previous monarch, Norodom Sihanouk.
He has been the most political member of the royal family in recent decades, during which he was also a parliament speaker (1998-2006).
His half-brother, King Norodom Sihamoni, has been the king of Cambodia since the abdication in 2004 of their father, Norodom Sihanouk, who died in Beijing in 2012. EFE