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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Nation mourns female political pioneer

Nation mourns female political pioneer

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Queen Monineath leads the funeral procession for Tong Siv Eng from Wat Botum

on June 17.

Tong Siv Eng, one of the greatest role models for Cambodian women has died at the

age of 82.

Siv Eng, the first female member of the National Assembly and one of Cambodia's most

prominent female politicians, died June 12 in a Bangkok hospital.

The cremation ceremony, held outside Phnom Penh's Wat Botum on June 17, was led by

King Norodom Sihanouk.

Siv Eng ran successfully for the National Assembly when women were given the right

to vote in 1958, and she played a major role in Cambodian politics for the next four

decades.

She served as the first female Minister of Health and Minister of Social Action in

the 1950s and 60s, as well as being the acting president of the National Assembly.

More recently, she was a member of the State Council.

Siv Eng was trained as a primary school teacher in Phnom Penh and Saigon, and was

principal of an elementary school prior to her foray into politics.

An outspoken advocate of women's rights, Siv Eng sought to increase educational and

work opportunities for girls, to change property rights and inheritance laws that

gave men an advantage, and to encourage more women to enter politics.

A pioneer in breaking down barriers for women in politics, she documented her experiences

in a 1960s article called "The Cambodian Woman in Politics".

"It is not easy for a woman in the National Assembly to work on an equal footing

and in perfect harmony with the men," Siv Eng wrote. "There are two currents

quite distinctly running against women's emancipation. With a few exceptions, conservative

members find great difficulty in admitting that a woman - a notably inferior being

- should have access to their chamber. Others see in the woman, often justifiably,

a formidable competitor who has to be ruthlessly eliminated."

In her spare time, Siv Eng helped organize an international women's club in Phnom

Penh and wrote a women's column in a local newspaper for about a year.

Despite her triple role as a politician, wife and mother, Siv Eng found time to star

in a movie, "Cast the Same Shadow", filmed at Angkor Wat and distibuted

internationally in 1963.

Siv Eng is survived by her husband, Pung Peng Cheng, 84, whom she married in 1939.

He serves as a member of the Supreme Council of the King, and was formerly a member

of the Constitutional Council.

They have two daughters, Kek Galabru, founder and president of the human rights group

Licadho, and Pung Chhiv Heang.

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