King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath have donated a unused royal residence in Koh Kong province to the Kantha Bopha children’s hospitals, which are facing “major financial difficulties,” according to a letter dated Saturday and signed by the King and Queen Mother.
“In the name of His Majesty King father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, we donate the royal residence situated in the province of Koh Kong, dating from the era of Sangkum Reastr Niyum in the 1960s, to the Kantha Bopha hospitals,” said the letter, which is addressed to the Kantha Bopha Foundation’s Swiss director and founder, Beat Richner.
“We hope that our donation will help you overcome these financial difficulties and serve the interests of needy children,” it said.
The letter did not say how the king and queen mother hoped the villa would serve the financial needs of the Kantha Bopha hospitals, and officials at the Royal Palace were not available for comment.
Mr. Richner could not be reached Monday, but Denis Laurent, head pathologist at the Kantha Bopha Foundation, confirmed the donation, but declined to answer further questions.
Koh Kong Provincial governor Bun Leut said he did not know about the donation but said the residence in question was located in Khemara Phoumint City’s Smach Meanchey commune.
“It is on about 1 hectare of land and no one has stayed in it since 1979,” Mr. Leut said, adding that the villa is locked and guarded around the clock.
In an interview Monday, art historian Darryl Collins said he did not know anything specifically about the Koh Kong residence, but that about 10 homes belonging to the family had survived “the destruction of the 70s and 80s—and neglect.”
“[Late King] Norodom Sihanouk tended to build a residence in every province, so that he had a place to stay when he visited,” Mr. Collins said.
Dr. Richner arrived in Cambodia from Switzerland in 1974 to work at the original Kantha Bopha hospital in Phnom Penh, which was named after the daughter of King Sihanouk, who died in 1952 at the age of five, according to his personal website.
He returned in 1991 and lobbied to restore the original hospital and the following year created the Kantha Bopha Foundation, which now operates five facilities in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap City.