Agricultural engineering was Loy Sim Chheang’s first calling, and after the popular Funcinpec official was booted from the royalist party, it was back to farming he returned.
Best known for his 1993 to 1997 position as Funcinpec’s first vice president of the National Assembly, and later as the founder of the breakaway Sangkum Thmei (New Society) Party, Loy Sim Chheang died on Wednesday of a suspected heart attack. He was 61.
Among friends and family, he will be remembered as an honest and committed politician who believed in using peaceful means to resolve disputes. However, he will be remembered by many inside Funcinpec as their former colleague who did not flee the country during the factional fighting of July 1997.
But to the lasting wrath of many Funcinpec members, Loy Sim Chheang presided at the Assembly session later that year when Prince Norodom Ranariddh was deposed as first prime minister.
Labeled a traitor by Prince Ranariddh and pitched from the royalist ranks, Loy Sim Chheang later formed the Sangkum Thmei party. It failed to secure a single seat in the 1998 general election. Declaring himself “fed-up” with politics, Loy Sim Chheang retired in early 1999 to a 4-hectare farm in Dangkao district where he grew rice and vegetables.
It was a fitting location for Loy Sim Chheang to spend his final few years, growing food for the group of extended family and friends who lived with him, numbering some 60 people.
“This is the real way to help each other in society,” Loy Sim Chheang told a reporter in 1999.
Loy Sim Chheang, born in 1942 in Kompong Cham province, held several government jobs until the Khmer Rouge regime. Following the regime’s collapse regime, he emigrated to Japan, where he lived for 10 years and became involved in politics.
Returning to Cambodia, he was named Funcinpec party secretary-general and elected to parliament in 1993. Later he became Assembly first vice president.
Loy Sim Chheang will be buried on his farm next Monday, colleagues said.