Prince Norodom Ranariddh was absent at the cremation ceremony of his wife, Ouk Phalla, on Wednesday, but a gathering of the royal family, party leaders, senate members, National Assembly lawmakers, government officials and others bid her farewell.
Norodom Chakrapong, representing Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, lit the fire for the cremation.
Pan Sothy, deputy secretary-general of Funcinpec, said the death of Phalla is the devastating loss of a wife, mother, sister, relative, friend, and member of the party.
“The death of Ouk Phalla is the loss of a great Cambodian woman who spent most of her time studying national fine arts and tirelessly contributing to the country and the people. We are deeply saddened,” Sothy said.
“Though her body has gone, her heroic spirit and sacrifice in serving the nation, religion, the King, the prince and her two sons will never be forgotten.”
Funcinpec spokesman Nheb Bun Chin said through tears after the ceremony that Ranariddh has not been informed of Phalla’s cremation because of concerns over his fragile health following the road accident in Preah Sihanouk province.
Phalla died at Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hospital at 12pm on Sunday, three hours after the collision, while Ranariddh and six others were badly injured.
“Because he is at this age, we worry deeply. Therefore, we do not want him to know about the cremation. We have informed all Cambodians and those observing this event that we have not told the prince about the his wife’s death because we think he should take care of his own health,” Bun Chin said.
However, he said everyone is concerned about how he will feel after he discovers Phalla was killed in the accident. In the hospital, Ranariddh has constantly asked about his wife, and when he had his phone in his hand, those in the hospital with him took it away so he could not find out.
“We are thinking about when we should let him know and how. This is what we are worried about . . . Now, in his house, there is no one, only one small son and a babysitter. It is very painful,” Bun Chin said.
He added that Ranariddh wants to call his wife, “but we have told him that his wife is alright because we want him to take care of his health first”.
Bun Chin also urged the authorities to fully investigate the accident.
“Ministry of Interior officials and local authorities have an obligation to investigate thoroughly so that the victims and the people understand what happened.”
Chhai Chav, 41, a Funcinpec member from Siem Reap province’s Varin district, said: “The traffic accident might have something to do with politics because the political situation has changed and there are many problems in our country.
“About the hesitation to tell the prince the truth, because he is sick and that can affect his recovery, we are very sorry as she is an honest and gentle woman who has served the nation,” he said.
Ouk Kham, 68, another Funcinpec member, said those connected to the party have been deeply saddened and shocked by the loss of Phalla as she was an outstanding person who always encouraged Ranariddh to help people.
“We are all very sorry for the loss because she was an amazing person. We are terribly shocked,” Kham said.