Cambodian politician-prince returns home from exile

Other News Materials 28 September 2008 13:17 (UTC +04:00)

Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned home Sunday from a self-imposed exile three days after a royal pardon was granted by his half-brother, King Norodom Sihamoni, reported dpa.

Ranariddh was convicted last year of embezzling 3.6 million dollars from his former political party, the royalist Funcinpec, through a private sale of the party headquarters.

His Funcinpec won the country's first democratic elections after 30 years of civil war in 1993, but was forced into a coalition with Prime Minister Hun Sen and ultimately ousted in what the government calls "factional fighting" in 1997.

He fled to Malaysia to avoid an 18-month prison term on the embezzlement charges which he claims were politically motivated.

He faced additional charges under Cambodia's new bigamy laws, which punish marital infidelity with jail. The prince openly lives with his mistress, a former classical dancer, and their son.

He set up a new party, the Norodom Ranariddh Party, which won two seats in the July 27 parliamentary election, and told reporters Sunday he was ready to serve again, government permitting.

Ranariddh said little on his return to the sacred city, 300 kilometres north of the capital, with his second family, but thanked King Sihamoni and Hun Sen.

Party officials said last week that his return to Siem Reap is to honour Cambodia's festival of ancestors which is currently underway, and not because his daughter Princess Rattana Devi has turned his former villa in the capital into a swank French restaurant.