Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, the eldest daughter of King Father Norodom Sihanouk, passed away on Monday afternoon in a hospital in Thailand. She was 76.
Princess Buppha Devi was born on January 8, 1943, in Phnom Penh. The title of Her Royal Highness Samdech Reach Botrei Preah Ream was bestowed upon her.
She was the daughter of King Sihanouk and the elder sister of Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Princess Buppha Devi was a half-sister of King Norodom Sihamoni.
She served as director of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia most recently and was Minister of Culture and Fine Arts from 1998 to 2004.
Prince Sisowath Tesso, King Sihamoni’s cousin, confirmed Princess Buppha Devi, passed away at 12.30pm at a hospital in Bangkok where she received treatment for an illness about two weeks ago.
“She was so tired, her health was weak and she was sick, but she never told us that she was unwell,” Prince Tesso said. “She went for a treatment at a hospital in Bangkok, but it was too late to save her.”
“I was really shocked and I cried when I received the information that she died. I love her so much. She is a good person to me and all Cambodian people,” he added. “Her body will be brought into the Kingdom soon.”
Prince Tesso said Princess Buppha Devi especially loved artists and she was still able to work with them at her home despite her age.
“I remember that she said she was so tired, that she did not have enough time to relax and sleep, but she wanted to share her knowledge with the next generation,” he said. “She never denied sharing or teaching dancing to anyone. She never flaunted her status as a princess, she performed as a simple person.”
The General Secretariat of the Constitutional Council expressed condolences through a statement, saying she was once a counsellor for King Sihamoni and member of the Constitutional Council.
“The Constitutional Council is very sad for losing Princess Norodom Buppha Devi,” it said. “Her body will be kept for a Buddhist’s funeral in Botumvatey Pagoda.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany also expressed condolences.
The couple is expected to pay their last respects to the body of Princess Buppha Devi tomorrow afternoon.
“I want to inform all institutes, provinces and authorities in the country to mourn Princess Norodom Buppha Devi on Wednesday, November 20,” Mr Hun Sen said. “All national flags are to be lowered at half-mast on that day.”
He said Princess Buppha Devi was a multi-disciplined character in the field of Khmer culture, who had a strong and powerful spirit.
Mr Hun Sen said the world will remember her as an Apsara dancer for the Royal Ballet.
Prince Sisowath Ravivaddhana Monipong, her cousin, yesterday said she brought the Apsara dance onto the world stage.
“This is the loss of an exceptional Lady who personified decades of the graceful Khmer Apsara all over the world,” Prince Ravivaddhana Monipong said. “She was very strong-hearted and it is not by chance that it is when she was Minister of Culture that the Royal Ballet of Cambodia was recognised as an Immaterial Patrimony of Humanity by Unesco. She is very popular, not only among artists.”
“She gave [the dance] international fame, thanks to her father [King Sihanouk],” he added. “He brought her everywhere in the world, performing the famous White Apsara dance and her charm was magic. She seduced with a smile and gracious gestures all the heads of state of the 1960s.”
“She was a very caring person toward others,” he said. “She was always observing you with much care and guessed exactly what your feelings were in one word. She was the archetype of femininity at its highest level.”