Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, who was famous for her skills and key roles behind the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, passed away on Monday from unspecified illness at a hospital in the Thai capital Bangkok, according to the official Facebook page of King Norodom Sihamoni.
“May the soul of elder sister Norodom Buppha Devi rest in peace. Norodom Buppha Devi passed away aged 77 at 12:30 on November 18 in a Thai hospital,” said the page, under the name Royal du Cambodge.
Born on January 8, 1943 in Phnom Penh, Princess Buppha Devi is the eldest daughter of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Neak Moneang Phat Kanhol, herself a Royal Ballet dancer. She is the elder sister of King Sihamoni and Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
A symbol of the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet, Princess Buppha Devi was bestowed the title “Number One Dancer” and “Living Human Heritage of Cambodia” in 2013, said Royal du Cambodge.
Minister of the Royal Palace Kong Sam Ol could not be reached for comment on Monday.
But the Constitutional Council, which counted the princess as a member, said on Monday that her funeral will be held following Buddhist traditions at Wat Botum in Phnom Penh.
Meanwhile, in expressing his condolences, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a statement on Monday: “The loss of Norodom Buppha Devi is the greatest loss of a multi-skilled player behind national culture and civilisation, especially during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era.
“Princess Norodom Buppha Devi was a great and beautiful Apsara dancer who promoted national culture and Cambodia’s image on the international stage.”
Prince Sisowath Thomico, a cousin of King Sihamoni, told The Post on Monday that Princess Buppha Devi suffered from various illnesses before her death, with her condition deteriorating of late.
“I don’t know what she died from,but as far as I know, she had a lot of illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
“I was shocked upon receiving the news of her death on Sunday because I attended a ceremony with her at the Royal Palace just a few weeks ago. At that time she was weak,” he said.
Prince Thomico credited her for restoring the Royal Ballet, which was inherited from her grandmother Kossamak Nearirath Serey Vathana.
“She succeeded in having the Kingdom’s Royal Ballet inscribed in Unesco’s World Heritage list, and this is her most important achievement,” he said.
The Royal Ballet was registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity with Unesco on November 7, 2003.
According to the biography of Norodom Buppha Devi, she learned Royal Ballet directly from her grandmother Kossamak Nearirath Serey Vathana since she was young. The princess also became an actress during the 1960s.
From 1965 to 1970, she was a lecturer of traditional dance and culture. From 1991 to 1993, she was the minister of culture and fine arts and served as the ministry adviser from 1993-1998, during which she also served as vice-president of the Cambodian National Red Cross.
The princess served as the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts again from 1999 to 2004. Since then, she held a position as supreme personal adviser to the King and a member of the Constitutional Council.
Princess Norodom Buppha Devi last expressed her concerns on the fate of the Royal Ballet in an interview with The Post in 2017.
“It is difficult to predict the fate of the Royal Ballet. Indeed, there must be someone as a successor. I cannot live for 100 years,” she had said.