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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Keng Vannsak dies, leaving profound intellectual legacy

Keng Vannsak dies, leaving profound intellectual legacy

Scholars praise deceased colleague whose contributions to education, they say, continue to shape young Cambodian minds

A RENOWNED professor of Cambodian literature credited with creating the first Khmer typewriter died of lung failure on Thursday at the Montmorency hospital in Paris. He was 84 years old.

The death of Keng Vannsak, who was formerly a professor at Phnom Penh's Lycee Sisowath, was mourned by many of his erstwhile colleagues, who said it was a great loss for the nation.  

"He was a true scholar, and he helped to establish modern Khmer literature, culture and civilization," reflected Miech Ponn, a scholar at the Buddhism Institute in Phnom Penh.

"We respect him because he was a real patriot, and he offered a basic education for the young generation," said Cambodian  historian 

Michel Tranet.

Keng Vannsak had an unparalleled depth and breadth of knowledge, and was a truly original thinker, said Ros Chantraboth, vice president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia.

He had written many books on Cambodian culture, theatre, poetry and was also a creative author - penning a series of short stories and establishing the first centre for higher education focused entirely on Khmer literature. He also created a writing system to guide the creation of Khmer words.

Keng Vannsak left Cambodia for France in 1974 when he was appointed the Cambodian ambassador to that country. After the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, he decided not to return. He has never been back to Cambodia.

"We're sorry  he never returned to Cambodia, [as he could have] instructed the young generation who still learn from his achievements," Ros Chantraboth said.



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