The late Dr Beat Richner’s ashes have arrived in Cambodia to be placed in a stupa in front of Jayavarman VII hospital, a branch of the Kantha Bopha Children’s hospitals, in Siem Reap province.
Dr Richner’s elder sister Annaregula Lutz brought the ashes from Zurich yesterday.
The ashes arrived at Siem Reap international Airport, where Royal Palace Minister Kong Som Ol and government officers received them before marching in a procession to the Jayavarman VII hospital where the stupa was built to pay tribute to Dr Richner.
Hundreds of people, including students, lined the streets to watch the procession.
Ms Annaregula expressed satisfaction that her brother’s ashes would be placed in the stupa, thus fulfilling his dying wish.
She added that it is fitting for his ashes to be in Siem Reap so that all Cambodians who came to love and respect him could pay tribute.
Ms Annaregula said she considers Cambodia to be Dr Richner’s home, where he was well known and liked, and that is why she decided to bring his ashes to the Kingdom.
“I always felt that he belonged here, where so many people knew him and remember him well,” she said.
Hospital head Yay Chantha yesterday said that before Dr Richner died he had said that he wanted all Cambodian children to continue to have equal access to free treatment at Kantha Bopha hospitals.
“The last words of Dr Beat Richner were that Cambodian children should not be charged any fee and they should have equal access to quality treatment,” he said.
Dr Denis Laurent, Kantha Bopha Foundation’s chief operating officer, said that even though Dr Richner was gone, the Kantha Bopha hospital will carry on his legacy.
He added that it was Dr Richner’s dream to set up the hospitals, and his dream become a reality with the establishment of five Kantha Bopha hospitals with more than 2,000 staff working to help Cambodian children.
Dr Richner, the founder of the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, died in September in Switzerland at the age of 71.
Dr Richner set up the first hospital in 1992 and oversaw it and subsequent ones until 2017, when he stepped down due to a serious medical condition.
Hundreds of monks yesterday prayed when the ashes arrived at the hospital. Around 700 monks had been invited to hold Buddhist prayers in the afternoon.
The ashes will be placed into the stupa early this morning, after which King Norodom Sihamoni will also pay tribute to Dr Richner.
Ting Srey Oun, from Battambang province, expressed her sadness over Dr Richner’s death and lauded the decision to place his ashes in the stupa. She said she had brought her nephew to get treatment at the hospital.
“Now my nephew is getting surgery,” she said. “I heard that Dr Richner raised funds from abroad to help our children.”
Keo Nimol, a Jayavarman VII Hospital nurse, expressed her sorrow over Dr Richner’s passing and cried when his ashes arrived at the hospital.
“As staff, when we lost him it was like we lost a father,” she said, adding that Dr Richner sacrificed so much to save many mothers and children. “Even though he is not here any more, we will continue to provide the same care and services as he did.”