PHNOM PENH–Cambodiaâ€™s royalist FUNCINPEC party ousted Prince Norodom Ranariddh as its leader on Wednesday at an extraordinary meeting denounced by the former co-Prime Minister.
Ranariddh, who had devoted less and less attention to politics since a 1997 putsch by his co-Prime Minister and arch rival Hun Sen, was in Malaysia when the meeting took place. His spokesman told Reuters the event was â€œillegal.â€
A FUNCINPEC statement said the extraordinary congress had voted unanimously for Keo Puth Rasmey, Cambodiaâ€™s ambassador to Germany and a son-in-law of retired King Norodom Sihanouk, as its president to contest national elections due in 2008.
Ranariddh, a son of Sihanouk, won landmark United Nations-backed elections in 1993 that marked the beginning of the end of decades of war and unrest, including the Khmer Rouge â€œKilling Fieldâ€ years in the 1970s.
However, he was forced to become co-prime minister with Hun Sen, who was appointed Foreign Minister and then Prime Minister in the 1980s by the Vietnamese after they toppled Pol Pot and installed a government in Phnom Penh.
Since the 1993 elections, FUNCINPEC had played an increasingly second-fiddle role in coalition governments dominated by Hun Senâ€™s formerly communist Cambodian Peopleâ€™s Party.
With Ranariddh at the helm, analysts and diplomats had expected FUNCINPEC to struggle to maintain its position as the southeast Asian nationâ€™s second largest political faction, ahead of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.