Tong Siv Eng

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Tong Siv Eng (31 October 1919 [1] – 12 June 2001) [2] was a Cambodian politician. She was the first female member of parliament, and the first female cabinet minister, in Cambodia.

She was the daughter of a school principal who encouraged her to study. As there were no secondary education for females in Cambodia, she was given a scholarship to study in Saigon. When she returned to Cambodia, she married the courtier Pung Peng Cheng in 1939. She was a tutor of the royal children, and she and her spouse came to be personal advisers of king Sihanouk.

In 1958, women suffrage was introduced in Cambodia, and in the following elections the same year, Tong Siv Eng became the first and only woman elected to parliament. She served as state secretary in 1958–59, minister of Social Action in 1959–61, and minister of Health in 1963–68. Women were legally subservient to men in the Cambodian civil code of 1958, and there were only three other examples of women in higher positions in Cambodia during the 1960s: Tip Man (1962), the minister of education Diep Dinar (1966), and the under state secretary Nou Neou (1966). She also served as editor of the Samlanh Neary ("Woman's Voice").

She left Cambodia after the coup of 1970. Tong Siv Eng played an important part in the peace negotiations, as she arranged the meetings between Sihanouk and Hun Sen in 1987 and 1988. She died of a heart attack on 12 June 2001, aged 81. [3]

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