Cambodian prince injured, wife killed in road crash

The site of an accident yesterday between a taxi and a motorcade carrying Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his wife in Preah Sihanouk province.
The site of an accident yesterday between a taxi and a motorcade carrying Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his wife in Preah Sihanouk province.PHOTO: GENERAL COMMISSARIAT OF NATIONAL POLICE

PHNOM PENH • A Cambodian prince and former prime minister was injured and his wife killed in a head-on collision on a highway in the country's south-west yesterday, officials said.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his wife Ouk Phalla, 39, were taken to hospital after a taxi travelling in the other direction slammed into their motorcade in Preah Sihanouk province.

Prince Ranariddh, 74, the head of the royalist Funcinpec party, was flown to Phnom Penh for further treatment.

Ms Phalla, an exponent of traditional dance, died at a nearby hospital. Her death is the loss of "a national hero for the Funcinpec party", a posting on Prince Ranariddh's official Facebook page said hours later.

A party member confirmed the wife's death but said Prince Ranariddh was expected to recover. Details of his injuries were not immediately available.

The accident happened yesterday morning when the taxi with several passengers crashed into the convoy carrying the couple and their supporters. A report on the national police website showed badly damaged cars and victims on the roadside.

Seven people were initially reported injured.

Prince Ranariddh was travelling from the riverside town of Kampot to Preah Sihanouk as part of campaigning for controversial national elections set for July 29.

The son of the influential late monarch Norodom Sihanouk and half-brother of the current King Norodom Sihamoni, Prince Ranariddh has had a turbulent political career.

He returned to politics in 2015 to lead the Funcinpec party that ditched him years ago. In 1997, he was overthrown as co-prime minister in a bloody coup and, since his return to politics, had vowed to work with former rival and long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia's Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) last year, leaving the way clear for Mr Hun Sen to extend more than three decades of rule in an election on July 29.

Prince Ranariddh's Funcinpec was allocated most of the CNRP's parliamentary seats after its dissolution, and its leader Kem Sokha was arrested over accusations of plotting to take power with the help of the United States.

The CNRP and Washington have both denied the charges.

Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death in Cambodia, where road rules are weakly enforced.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2018, with the headline 'Cambodian prince injured, wife killed in road crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe