Prince Norodom Ranariddh has again said he will return to Cambodia and focus on politics after completing his duties at the French university from which he is soon to retire, officials said Tuesday.
The prince is due back Feb 28 to participate in the campaign for April’s commune elections, said Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Channtha, adding that the prince plans to visit constituents upon his return.
Before returning, however, Prince Ranariddh must proctor an exam as part of his contract with the university in Aix-en-Provence, Muth Channtha said.
Muth Channtha said he could not say precisely what Prince Ranariddh’s future travel plans were, but he added: “He has to work for two or three more months before he finishes his contract [in France].”
In November, Prince Ranariddh announced his retirement from the university where has been teaching a two-month term in law and political science for the last 30 years. He pledged at that time to return to Cambodia and “do only politics.”
But after returning to Cambodia in December, the prince went abroad in early January and has not been back since. Muth Channtha said the prince has been a strong leader in absentia.
“We have telephone conferences where the prince consults with us,” he said. “Even though the prince is absent, he continues to lead the party. The party is moving forward.”
Funcinpec spokesman Nouv Sovathero claimed Prince Ranariddh may be extending his stay in France to avoid a lawsuit filed against him by Funcinpec for allegedly selling the party’s headquarters for personal benefit.
Muth Channtha said Prince Ranariddh’s lawyer asked Ke Sakhorn, an investigating judge at the municipal court, to delay court summons until March to allow the prince to complete his French university obligations.
Hang Puthea, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, said the prince’s frequent absences are undermining his party. “Telephone communication is weaker than the prince’s presence,” he said. “Party supporters are suspicious about his absence.”