Photo Tribute Book Offers a Window Into Bun Rany’s World

The Cambodian Photographers Association (CPA) has produced a 192-page hardbound book tribute to Bun Rany, the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which details Ms. Rany’s personal biography and philosophy through a series of glossy photographs.

The book, titled “The First Lady of Cambodia,” and curated by CPA Secretary-General Keo Nuon, focuses on mostly images of Ms. Rany either touring the country with Mr. Hun Sen or providing aid to victims of natural disasters in her capacity as Cambodian Red Cross president.

The book, Mr. Nuon explains, “aims to display heroic example of a Cambodian woman who had devoted herself to the noble cause of social welfare, to the prosperity of the mother-land and the well-being of the whole humanity” and offers an insight into her outlook on life.

“Poverty occurring anywhere in the world, not only in Cambodia,” reads one quotation attributed to Ms. Rany, appearing below a photograph of the first lady dressed in peasant garb and holding a bale of freshly harvested rice.

Mr. Nuon, who produced a similar book on Mr. Hun Sen in 2011, said that both Ms. Rany and her Red Cross covered the costs of producing the large, coffee-table style book.

“The first publication run is 2,000 copies and it was distributed among the provincial Red Cross offices on International Women’s Day on Saturday,” he said, explaining that each book cost about $20 to produce.

“Most of the funds for printing were sponsored by Lok Chumteav Thom [Ms. Bun Rany].”

In a section notably absent of images, the book also offers a de­tailed recounting of how Mr. Hun Sen and Ms. Rany met in 1974.

Shortly after the 1970 overthrow of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the book explains, a teenage Ms. Rany fled to join the Khmer Rouge maquis after telling her parents she was going to pick eggplant in a field.

She received six months medical training in a rebel combat unit before being assigned to a hospital in Kompong Cham province. Ms. Rany was gradually promoted until she became head of the hospital.

“A young Hun Sen, who was at the time [on the] front-line, which was located 40 k.m. from Krouch Chmar hospital, had yet to meet young Bun Rany, even though many of his injured combatants had repeatedly obtained medical treatment from her,” the book explains.

Mr. Hun Sen invited his Khmer Rouge superior, Sok Savoeun, to accompany him to meet Ms. Rany for the first time at the Krouch Chhmar hospital in May 1974, less than a year before the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh and seized power.

At the meeting, Mr. Hun Sen was bowled over by Ms. Rany.

Men Neary Sopheak, secretary-general of the Cambodian Red Cross, said that the print costs for the book—which she said she could not disclose but which Mr. Nuon’s estimate would put at about $40,000—did not come out of the Red Cross’s humanitarian budget and had been donated.

“On Women’s Day, we like to publish a model for the young generation to have an understanding of the first lady and president of the Red Cross,” she said, adding that a public book launch was planned.

“Under the Pol Pot regime, many books were destroyed, so it’s good to have…new books.”

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