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
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.