Cambodian princess who revived traditional dance, dies

Norodom Bopha Devi served as minister of culture and fine arts from 1998 to 2004. (Tourism Cambodia pic)

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s Princess Norodom Bopha Devi, a former minister of culture who helped revive traditional Apsara dance after the brutal 1970s Khmer Rouge regime nearly wiped it out, has died at age 76, the royal palace said on Monday.

The princess died of natural causes in a hospital in neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia’s Royal Palace said in a Facebook post.

The daughter of the late king Norodom Sihanouk and half sister of current King Norodom Sihamoni, Bopha Devi at young age became a dancer of Cambodian ballet, a form of stylised dance created in the royal courts for entertainment and ceremonies.

After the fall of the Khmer Rouge and a peace process that ended a decade of civil war, she served as the minister of culture and fine arts from 1998 to 2004.

Bopha Devi’s cousin Prince Sisowath Thomico said her legacy was to rebuild the royal ballet troupe when she returned to Cambodia in early 1990s.

“Cambodia will remember that thanks to the Royal Highness Norodom Bopha Devi, the Cambodian Royal Ballet has been enlisted as a part of the world heritage,” he said.