The Norodom Ranariddh Party on Sunday made moves to clarify a Thursday announcement by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, saying that the prince had resigned as president of the NRP but has not yet decided to leave politics entirely.
On Thursday evening, Prince Ranariddh hosted a dinner for local journalists and announced that he had already informed King Norodom Sihamoni that he would be leaving politics.
“I promised the King that I had stopped doing politics. As a person, I want to serve the country,” the prince told reporters. “The King would like me to work closely with him to assist him. I am ready if the King would like me to serve him and the country.”
But on Sunday, NRP spokesman Suth Dina insisted that all the prince meant by his announcement was that he had stepped down as the head of the party that bears his name.
“The prince only resigns as the party’s president. The prince has not mentioned that he has retired from politics,” Suth Dina said. “The prince wants to rest for a while…. It is unclear whether the prince is retiring from politics.”
According to a Saturday statement from the NRP, Prince Ranariddh submitted his formal resignation to the party Friday, and control of the party has been handed to the deputy president, Chhim Seak Leng, until a congress can be held to vote in a new leader.
The prince has permitted the party to continue using the NRP name and the party logo, which bears the face of Prince Ranariddh, the statement added.
Suth Dina said that the resignation of the party’s president and namesake will not have serious effects on the NRP’s ability to compete in the political arena.
“It will not affect the party,” he said. “The prince was absent for two years; now members are happy for the prince to have his full freedom.”
Suth Dina added that even having resigned the party presidency, Prince Ranariddh was still hoping that officials from his party could serve in the newly formed government.
That assertion echoes comments made by the prince on Thursday: “The NRP is not an opposition [party]…. NRP officials aim to serve the country under the circumstances decided by Prime Minister Hun Sen.”
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said by telephone Sunday that he welcomed the news of Prince Ranariddh’s resignation from the NRP presidency and expressed hope that the prince was indeed ending his political career.
“It is important for the country,” he said of the resignation. “I welcome the prince. It is more important [for him] to do social work rather than this political life.”
Cheam Yeap added that neither the ruling party nor the prime minister made the prince’s exit from political leadership a criterion for securing the pardon that enabled the prince to return to Cambodia after more than 20 months of self-imposed exile. Prince Ranariddh had left the country to avoid a prison sentence handed down in a breach of trust case brought against him by his former party, Funcinpec.
“This is the prince’s political will; it is not because of the pardon—there was no pressure,” Cheam Yeap said.