King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath paid their respects to Beat Richner, the founder of the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, at his stupa in the grounds of the Kantha Bopha Hospital in Siem Reap town on Thursday morning.
Beat Richner's ashes arrived in Siem Reap province from Switzerland on Wednesday.
The cello-playing paediatrician passed away in his native Switzerland on September 9 after a battle with a serious illness. He was 71.
Dr Denis Laurent, the deputy director of Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, told The Post that Richner’s ashes were taken from the airport in a procession through Siem Reap town before arriving at the Kantha Bopha Hospital where his ashes are to be kept.
“The King and Queen Mother paid their respects to Dr Richner on Thursday,” he said.
Dr Laurent said he did not know whether Richner had wished for his ashes to be interred in Cambodia, but the decision came from his family, a choice he fully supported.
“It is a really good decision. Having worked with [Richner] for 24 years, I know that many people respected him, and they would have wanted it this way.”
The procession for Richner’s ashes was accompanied by the flashing lights and sirens of police cars, and also included Minister of the Royal Palace Kong Sam Ol and Siem Reap Governor Khim Bunsong, while the Pin Peat band played traditional Khmer music.
Standing along the streets, government officials, students and the general public expressed their sorrow at Richner’s passing and paid tribute to his achievements.
Richner’s family, community leaders and Kantha Bopha doctors also joined the procession to express their sorrow over the loss of a man considered a hero to Cambodia and the saviour of so many young lives.
In 1991, Richner was asked by the government to reopen and rebuild Kantha Bopha after the civil war.
On September 22, 1992, the Kantha Bopha I hospital was inaugurated in Phnom Penh, with it fully operational on November 2. Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals have been offering free services ever since, and the foundation now runs five hospitals.
More than 260,000 women have had babies delivered at Siem Reap’s Jayavarman VII hospital alone.
Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals have been operating for 26 years and have saved the lives of millions of Cambodian children.
A talented and keen cello player, Richner would regularly hold performances to raise funds to support the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals, which employ more than 2,500 personnel.