C AMBODIA has lost a precious daughter. Princess Lyda Sisowath passed away on Oct 9 at the age of fifty, mourned by her husband, children, brothers, sisters and the vast number of Cambodians and foreigners who came into contact with her, especially in the last fifteen years. Women of Cambodia would like to pay tribute to a sister who has contributed enormously to rebuilding and finding peace for Cambodia.
Meeting Lyda after 1979, one could not help asking how she could have survived the Khmer Rouge period. One would have thought that her gregarious and outspoken character would have given away her background and therefore targeted her for persecution. Lyda were among the very few members of the Royal Family who stayed in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge period and survived. Like all Cambodians she lost family members, including her husband, a brother and sister.
Without wasting any time, she joined the new government that came to power after the Khmer Rouge was ousted in 1979. As Deputy General Secretary of the National Front for the Salvation and Defense of Kampuchea, she spoke tirelessly about the suffering of her people during the Khmer Rouge period and the problems they were facing in rebuilding their new lives in the 1980s.
In 1981 she became a member of parliament representing a district in Takeo province - the post that she retained until 1993. Then she was also Vice-President of Cambodia-Cuba Association.
Humanitarianism was her main concern. At home and abroad she never failed to request assistance for her people. Women, especially widows, were the group she paid most attention to in the early years of national reconstruction.
She made a conscious decision to side with the government in Phnom Penh, which, perhaps, was not an easy thing to do, given the fact that the rest of the Royal Family were out on the other side of the barricade.
She passionately brushed away any accusation that she was siding with the Vietnamese and, therefore, a communist. She made it clear that she was a patriot and needed to be inside the country to be in command of her motherland and to be with her people.
A proponent for peace, she campaigned, sometimes openly, sometimes behind closed doors, to get the different Cambodian political factions and members of the Royal Family together to work out a peaceful solution. There was no report, however, that she contacted the Khmer Rouge.
She was recently recognized and given the royal title, Sisowath Sovethvong Monipong.
She was given a royal funeral, which was attended by some high ranking officials. Samdech Chea Sim, who was her boss for many years, lit the fire to cremate her.
It is with great sorrow that she died before her dream of a peaceful Cambodia was realized. Cambodians and her friends will always remember her as a person of vitality with a genuine concern for humanity and peace.