Former Cambodian premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh dies at 77

Cambodian former prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the current king's half-brother, who spent his later years in the political shadow of his one-time rival Prime Minister Hun Sen, has died in France. He was 77.

The prince, whose royalist political party won elections in 1993, was ousted in a 1997 coup by coalition partner Hun Sen, who remains Cambodia's authoritarian leader. Hun Sen said in a statement on Sunday that he and his wife were "heartbroken" at the news, calling Ranariddh "a dignitary, (a) member of the royal family who was patriotic to the nation, religion, the king".

Ranariddh was the most political member of Cambodia's royal family in recent decades, leading his Funcinpec party in elections for years after he was ousted. But in 2017, he dismayed Cambodia's weakened opposition by backing the dissolution of another party whose leader was jailed on treason charges.

Hun Sen has since effectively sidelined all opposition and now presides over a one-party parliament. Explaining his position, Ranariddh told Reuters that year: "... Hun Sen, you want or you don't want, you like him or you don't like him, he brings about this national unity."

His younger half-brother, King Norodom Sihamoni, has occupied the Cambodian throne since the abdication of their father, King Norodom Sihanouk, in 2004. Sihanouk died aged 89 in 2012 in Beijing.