Offering a rare public glimpse into his private life, Prince Norodom Ranariddh defended his long-time relationship with classical dancer Ouk Phalla on Friday and challenged other political leaders to be equally honest about their extra-marital affairs.
Speaking at the headquarters of his recently-launched Norodom Ranariddh Party in Chamkar Mon district, the prince, who has vowed to rebuild his political career and his personal reputation, spoke of his love for Ouk Phalla and their three-year-old son Norodom Sotheariddh.
Prince Ranariddh resigned as National Assembly president and left the country in March after coming under indirect attack from Prime Minister Hun Sen who unleashed scathing criticism of so-called “elderly gangsters” and their mistresses.
One particularly infamous mistress, whom Hun Sen referred to as the “evil fox,” was acting as a broker for people seeking jobs in government, Hun Sen said at the time. Many believed that the focus of Hun Sen’s wrath was Ouk Phalla.
“He who criticizes me is worse than I, but they have no courage and take no responsibility,” Prince Ranariddh told reporters at his party offices.
“How dare any leader of any party tell the nation that they would never have an [affair]. Secondly, certain persons loved a girl and made her pregnant, but they abandoned her. Some killed them too,” he said.
“My father had seven or eight wives and they were recognized…. The Norodom family has firm courage and takes responsibility for the future of my son, Norodom Sotheariddh. I recognize my son. I am a brave and responsible man,” he added.
Prince Ranariddh said that Ouk Phalla is not legally recognized as his second wife, and making such an admission had become impossible since the National Assembly’s recent passage of the controversial anti-adultery law. Many believe the law was politically contrived to make life uncomfortable for the prince.
“Although my next wife is not legally recognized, she is recognized by my own father retired King Norodom Sihanouk as Neak Moneang. Neak Moneang means my wife. He also recognizes Norodom Sotheariddh my son. King Norodom Sihamoni, my dear monarch, from the beginning recognized my current wife as Neak Moneang,” he added.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the prince has a good heart but his actions were questionable, particularly allowing “bad people select officials for positions in government.”
“Let the others select officials,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Chea Vannath, former president of the Center for Social Development, said the prince should focus more on his supporters than on disclosures about his love life.
“All his supporters and voters are watching his actions and his interest in helping the people. He should trade nice words for good deeds,” she said.