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Obituary: Samdech Chakrey Nhiek Tioulong 1908-96

Obituary: Samdech Chakrey Nhiek Tioulong 1908-96

A STUDENT, governor, politician, minister, career diplomat, King's adviser and much,

much more: these are the qualities possessed by Samdech Chakrey Nhiek Tioulong who

passed away last week at the age of 87.

General Tioulong, father of Saumura Tioulong and father-in-law of Khmer Nation Party

(KNP) president Sam Rainsy, died from a heart attack on Sunday, June 9 in a Hong

Kong hospital. He was just shy of 88.

Relatives said that his body would be cremated in Hong Kong and his ashes flown back

to Cambodia on June 13.

King Norodom Sihanouk plans to honor General Tioulong, who had been his most loyal

and closest adviser during the last 50 years, with a great Buddhist ceremony.

The King said that the ceremony, with 88 venerable monks at the Royal Pagoda Preah

Keo Morkat, would be held on June 22.

Expressing his profound sadness, King Sihanouk said General Tioulong was "a

great and pure patriot who gave to our Cambodia and its people the most eminent and

effective services".

"He had been one of the principal pillars of the Royal Crusade for Independence

of our native land," the King wrote in condolences to Tioulong's widow on June

10.

"I will never forget all of his kind deeds dispensed to our nation," the

King wrote.

Born in 1908, Tioulong was a secondary school student at Lyceé Chasseloup-Laubat

in Saigon. He became deputy secretary general of the Council of Ministers in 1932

and governor of Prey Veng, Pursat and Kompong Cham provinces until 1945.

Between 1946-62, he held several ministerial positions such as education, finance,

national defense, foreign affairs, interior, justice and planning.

During King Sihanouk's drive for independence from France, he led Cambodian military

delegates to the Geneva conference in 1954. He succeeded in signing a cease-fire

accord with North Vietnam.

He served as ambassador to Japan and was among the Cambodian delegation to the 11th

General Assembly of the United Nations in 1957, when the Kingdom was admitted to

the world body. Two years later he was ambassador to Moscow, with equal accreditation

to Warsaw and Prague.

He became vice president of the Council of Throne in 1963, a position he held for

three years.

By the end of 1966 he became the chief of the Royal Army, replacing then-Prime Minister

Lon Nol. He also acted in movies directed by King Sihanouk, such as Apasara.

In 1968, when the Vietnam war spilt over to Cambodian soil, General Tioulong headed

talks with Chester Bowles, US Ambassador to New Delhi.

According to David Chandler, the author of "The Tragedy of Cambodian History",

Tioulong reportedly told Bowles that the Vietnamese had no sanctuaries in Cambodia

- a statement which contradicted the existence of the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Ly Thuch, chief of Prince Norodom Ranariddh's cabinet, said that besides being a

fellow-traveler of King Sihanouk, General Tioulong played an important role in the

birth of the Royalist Funcinpec party during anti-Vietnamese resistance.

Tioulong helped draft the statute that formed Funcinpec in the early 1980s, according

to Thuch.

Tioulong became a co-president of Funcinpec in 1989, which he held till 1992. One

year later, he received the title of senior advisor to the King and was named one

of the three Royal representatives to the Constitutional Council.

But the delay in launching the Council prompted Tioulong to criticize the functioning

of the National Assembly, saying that its debates and the laws it had passed had

been unconstitutional.

Tioulong garnered many medals and remained a four-star ranking general in the Royal

Cambodian Armed Forces.

"Samdech Nhiek Tioulong was a leader always faithful to the King. He had a lot

of qualifications for the nation. His death is our deep sadness, like we have lost

a whole library," said Thuch.

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