O 290822Z OCT 04
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3153
INFO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
C O N F I D E N T I A L PHNOM PENH 001701
DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV
DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS USAID/ANE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2014
TAGS: PGOV KDEM CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA'S MAN WHO WON'T BE KING -- RANARIDDH'S
Classified By: DCM Mark C. Storella for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) As Cambodia crowns King Norodom Sihamoni today, his
half-brother, Norodom Ranariddh, is infuriating even
supporters through childish and petulant behavior. Ranariddh
is stealing local headlines from the solemn coronation
ceremonies through a series recent missteps:
-- On October 25, Ranariddh's car was not permitted to enter
the palace through the central gate, as Ranariddh sought to
follow in behind the new King's motorcade. Ranariddh was
furious. On October 26, Ranariddh insisted on removal of the
senior palace police security officer for closing the gates
in his face.
-- On October 26, Ranariddh called for the ouster of senior
palace minister Kong Som-ol, arguing that the position should
not be held by an individual aligned with a political party,
-- Also on October 26, Ranariddh, who is president of the
National Assembly, attacked Information Minister Khieu
Ranariddh for halting live broadcasts on government TV of
National Assembly sessions in favor of 15-minute summaries.
Kanharith argued that viewers were not interested and that
the only ones asking for airing of the full sessions were the
-- On October 28, Ranariddh raised eyebrows throughout the
royal family by failing to attend a Buddhist coronation rite
-- On October 29, Ranariddh emerged from one of the
coronation ceremonies to face a phalanx of reporters. He
avoided controversy until the end when he was asked if he
regretted that he was not King. Ranariddh responded that he
did not mind because, while not King, he was "a King maker."
2. (C) Over dinner October 28 with Ambassador and visiting
U.S. ECOSOC Ambassador Sichan Siv, three leading members of
Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC party all expressed disgust with the
Prince's behavior. While all three had some personal reasons
to be angry with Ranariddh, the strength of their
condemnations was striking. Prince Sisowath Sirirath noted
that Ranariddh did not even know that, under palace protocol,
only the King, the PM and heads of state were permitted to
use the gate from which Ranariddh had been blocked. Sirirath
told the story of Napoleon, who approached the gates of
Fontainbleau in normal clothes and was barred by the guard.
On returning in full imperial regalia, he elevated the guard
to general of his guard for sticking to the rules. Sirirath
commented that that was the way a leader should act, whereas
Ranariddh had responded with pique and fired someone who was
simply following orders.
3. (C) FUNCINPEC Deputy Secretary General Sina Than
expressed frustration with Ranariddh's inability to keep his
mouth shut. Sina noted that the National Assembly and
FUNCINPEC had spokesmen and Ranariddh should avail himself of
their services rather than speaking every time there was an
open microphone. The group went on to say that Ranariddh had
become increasingly unserious as a political leader. They
expressed irritation with his fawning efforts to curry favor
with Hun Sen, noting Ranariddh's recent declaration that the
police should report directly to the PM so that they would
not be subject to political manipulation. The FUNCINPEC
members considered this patent nonsense. Japanese Ambassador
Takahashi told Ambassador that Sihanouk had expressed his own
disgust with Ranariddh during an audience October 27.
Sihanouk reportedly said that Ranariddh had demonstrated
consistent bad judgment and tat Sihamoni was the better
choice to preserve the monarchy.
4. (C) Comment: Ranariddh's poor comportment over the past
week clearly demonstrates his pique at being passed over for
a younger half-brother as King. While Ranariddh has
vociferously denied any desire to ascent the throne of late,
former King Sihanouk has commented simply that, "anyone who
tells you they do not want to be King is lying." Our dinner
companions October 28 expressed grave doubt in Ranariddh's
leadership ability, suggesting that, rather than raising his
stature, he is increasingly making himself a laughing stock.
King Sihamoni's reserved and respectful behavior, by
contrast, seems quite regal indeed.