Kingdom mourns Princess Buppha Devi

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Princess Norodom Buppha Devi’s coffin is carried off the plane at Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday. FRESH NEWS

The government has marked Wednesday as the day of mourning for the late Princess Norodom Buppha Devi after her body was repatriated to the Kingdom on Tuesday night.

Princess Buppha Devi, a highly revered icon behind the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, passed away on Monday from an unspecified illness at a Thai hospital in Bangkok. She was 77.

In a circular issued on Monday, the government instructed all state institutions, schools, hospitals, pagodas, civil servants and the military to fly the national flag at half-mast as a tribute to the princess.

The circular also directed all state and private TV and radio stations to postpone all entertainment programmes. All entertainment venues such as nightclubs and karaoke parlours are to cease operations on Wednesday.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said: “This is to show our respect for the royal family and to express our condolences to the Queen Mother and the King.

“Also, this is to recall the achievements of the King’s elder sister in promoting and strengthening our Cambodian traditional arts since the 1960s,” he said.

Bun Veasna, a senior official at the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals, told The Post on Tuesday that the princess’ body would be brought to Wat Botum for a ceremony following Buddhist traditions on Wednesday.

The body will be kept at the pagoda for seven days, after which it will be cremated.

He said King Norodom Sihamoni will pay his respects to the late princess on Wednesday morning.

Prime Minister Hun Sen would do so in the afternoon,followed by officials from government institutions across the capital.

Veasna said while the public would not be permitted to enter the facility – as the ceremony is reserved for royal family members – they will be allowed to participate in the cremation.

Symbol of Royal Ballet

Born on January 8, 1943, in Phnom Penh, Princess Buppha Devi was the oldest daughter of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Neak Moneang Phat Kanhol, herself a Royal Ballet dancer. She is a half-sibling of King Sihamoni and Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

A symbol of the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, Princess Buppha Devi was bestowed the title “Number One Dancer” and “Living Human Heritage of Cambodia” in 2013, said Royal du Cambodge.

According to the biography of Princess Buppha Devi, she learned ballet directly from her grandmother Kossamak Nearirath Serey Vathana since she was young. The princess also became an actress during the 1960s.

From 1965 to 1970, she was a lecturer of traditional dance and culture. From 1991 to 1993, she was the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts. She later served as the ministry’s adviser from 1993-1998, during which time she was also as vice-president of the Cambodian National Red Cross.

The princess served as the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts again from 1999 to 2004. Since then, she held a position as supreme personal adviser to the King and was a member of the Constitutional Council.

Watch video: