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Prince Ranariddh Skeptical of Opposition Dialogue With Ruling Party

Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh, foreground, of royalist Funcinpec party walks after his party's congress in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.

Longtime politician Prince Norodom Ranariddh has begun attacking the opposition’s negotiations with the ruling party, in what analysts say may be an attempt to return to political relevance.

The prince, son of former King Norodom Sihanouk, was Cambodia’s post-war choice for prime minister, though he lost his position to a 1997 coup by today’s prime minister, Hun Sen, and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Norodom Ranariddh eventually fell into political obscurity, but he is once again leading his old party of royalist supporters, Funcinpec.

He told reporters on Sunday that Sam Rainsy, the head of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, is not to be trusted and that his political dialogue with the CPP should be watched carefully.

“He was formally a follower of mine,” Norodom Ranariddh said. “One day he’s white, but another day he’ll be yellow, black or green.”

Sam Rainsy has faced some criticism for his negotiations with the CPP, including from within his own party. Those talks have broken a political log jam between the two sides and led to some electoral reforms—though critics say not enough.

Yem Ponhearith, a spokesman for the Rescue Party, declined to respond to the prince’s comments. “People understand him well, and what his leadership is, from the seats he has [in the National Assembly], which is none.” Besides, he said, political dialogue can “settle national and social issues.”

Ou Virak, head of the think tank Future Forum, said the prince’s comments were an attempt to gain the public’s attention, but would do little. “The prince has failed in his politics for over 22 years,” he said.