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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Om Radsady: death of a democrat

Om Radsady: death of a democrat

Scenes from the procession: dignitaries prepare to leave Funcinpecís HQ

"DEMOCRAT", "gentleman", "simple", "humble",

"poor". These are the words that have cropped up most often in discussions

of Om Radsady since his murder on February 18. Radsady was well known as that rarest

of beings in Cambodian politics: an honest man.

Despite having the rank of minister, Radsady lived alone in a $70 a month apartment

near Psar Dumkor. He long ago gave away his car, handing it to a parliamentary staffer

whose need he deemed greater than his own.

Like most ordinary people he relied on motodups to get around, made frequent visits

to pray at the pagoda, and ate regularly at the simple, cheap restaurant where he

was eventually gunned down.

"I know this was not a robbery. If those men had wanted his phone, he would

have just given it to them," his sister-in-law Om Som Sun told the Post. "He

ate lunch at my house every day. He was a poor man. If he stayed at home he would

eat just bread and salad."

It was some distance from his beginnings as a child of the Khmer elite of the Sangkum

Reastr Niyum era. Born in June 1952, Radsady was the younger son of then-Prince Sihanouk's

Director of National Security.

It was during those years that he forged lifelong ties to the royal family.

"The Radsady family was very close to the royal family," Som Sun said.

"The children grew up playing together and studying together."

In 1970 he was taken by his mother to France where he continued his studies. Speaking

to the Post in 2001, Om Radsady said he had not known it at the time, but he would

not return to Cambodia for more than 20 years.

His father perished during the reign of the Khmer Rouge and his mother took the

family to London. Radsady studied chemical engineering and computer science and eventually

graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the University of Marseilles.

 

Om Radsady, 1952ó2003

That was followed by a seven-year stint as a professor in a university in the

Ivory Coast, then a period working in Paris as a chemist for pharmaceutical firm

Roche.

But it was as a politician and advisor that he made his greatest contribution to

Cambodia. Radsady returned in 1992 at the request of Prince Norodom Sirivudh to participate

in the UNTAC elections. He also became a founding member of the Cambodian Institute

of Cooperation and Peace.

He served in the first coalition government as a legislator in the National Assembly

and was chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Information Committee.

As a parliamentarian he is remembered for his thoughtful approach. He urged a cautious

but resolute approach to the country's entry into ASEAN, and advocated that the rights

of women be considered in legislation.

He was also a courageous man. Radsady had left for Europe on an official mission

two days before the factional fighting erupted in July 1997. While most of his party

stayed away, he was one of the few parliamentarians to return to his seat in Phnom

Penh.

After he came back in October 1997, he resisted the sweeping changes to the electoral

law that were being pushed through the National Assembly.

Shortly afterwards he resigned from the fractured Funcinpec party and joined Sangkum

Thmei, led by former Funcinpec Secretary-General Loy Sim Chheang. He told a friend

that he "owed Loy Sim Cheang a debt", but the move cost him friends, credibility

and standing within Funcinpec.

"He was like the adopted brother of Loy Sim Chheang," Som Sun said. "He

joined in the hope that he could persuade him to return to Funcinpec after the elections."

But his adoptive party fared badly in the 1998 ballot. Later Radsady spent time as

an election monitor in East Timor before returning to Funcinpec where he had to work

hard to win the trust of his colleagues. By all accounts he did, and was being considered

for a place on the party's Phnom Penh ticket for the July 27 general election.

Brother Om Sumita and sister-in-law Om Som Sun.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prince Norodom Sirivudh

In a speech on good governance delivered in 2001 he emphasized his humble political

philosophy.

"Officials and leaders need to be legally, politically, economically and morally

responsible to the society as a whole," he said. "Leaders must act and

behave like leaders; they are not rulers."

Om Radsady did not marry and had no children. Instead he tried to pass on his philosophy

to the many youth and student groups he was involved in. As one friend who knew him

for a decade recalled this week: "His life was between his many friends, his

family and his care for the nation."

ï Details of the "Om Radsady Memorial Scholarship for Cambodian Democracy"

will soon be available at: www.OmRadsadyScholarship.org

 

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