Pung Peng Cheng, a longtime Cambodian statesman, died in his sleep Saturday at his Phnom Penh home, relatives and friends said. He was 85 years old.
Pung Peng Cheng served as Secretary of State for the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Information, and was Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of the Throne from 1958 through 1970 under the government of then-prince Norodom Sihanouk.
After Sihanouk was deposed by the Lon Nol regime, Pung Peng Cheng served as director of Sihanouk’s cabinet from 1972 to 1975, and from 1979 to 1993. From 1993 to 1998, Pung Peng Cheng served as a member of the constitutional council. He remained an influential High Adviser to the king until his death.
“He was the one who took part in the founding of the Council. I am very sorry we lost him,” Constitutional Council President Bin Chhin said.
Pung Peng Cheng had been bedridden for the past two weeks, suffering from cancer, according to a statement released by his family. He received treatment in Paris in January, but returned to Phnom Penh in May after doctors were unable to cure him, his daughter-in-law Kek Galabru said.
Kek Galabru, founder of the human rights group Licadho, hailed Pung Peng Cheng’s “great achievements in revamping the constitution, abolishing the death penalty and forced exile.”
When Pung Peng Cheng learned Sihanouk and Prime Minister Hun Sen wanted to meet to reconcile civil conflicts, Pung Peng Cheng encouraged Kek Galabru to broker a meeting in Paris in 1987, Kek Galabru said. He also encouraged his wife, Tong Siv Eng, to run for seat in parliament, which she won.
Government officials and friends gathered on Sunday at his residence to pay homage to Pung Peng Cheng. The King sent Minister of the Royal Palace Kong Sam Ol to the residence with an enormous wreath and $5,000 to help fund the funeral.
The procession traveled from his Phnom Penh home to Kandal province, where he and his wife first began their political careers.