Rasmi Sobbhana Norodom

Portrait of Rasmi Sobbhana   Norodom

H.R.H. Princess Norodom Rasmi Sobbhana (សម្តេចព្រះរាជកនិដ្ឋា នរោត្តម រស្មីសោភ័ណ្, Samdech Preah Reach Kanitha Norodom Reaksmey Sophoan in Khmer) (Nov. 1898, Phnom Penh ‑1971, Phnom Penh), daughter of Prince Norodom Sutharot and Princess Norodom Phangangam, was the sister of King Norodom Suramarit, sister-in-law of Queen Kossamak of Cambodia and aunt of King Norodom Sihanouk.

Unmarried, she dedicated her life to social action, in particular the education and empowerment of young women in the Kingdom of Cambodia, as a teacher at Phnom Penh Sutharot School and as the author of two published books: Motifs décoratifs Khmers à l’usage de la broderie (1954) and L’Art de la cuisine cambodgienne (1960). She has been credited of being the first to create the modern Apsara dance’ form in 1958.

In 1995, H.R.H. Princess Norodom Ranaridh Marie created the Samdech Rasmi Sobbhana Women’s Foundation, named after S.A.R. Princess Rasmi Sobhana. Initially a shelter for war orphans and refugee children on the Thai-Cambodian border, the Sobbhana Foundation opened three training centers helping young Cambodians to master traditional craft skills such as silk weaving, embroidery or wood carving. In 2022, after the expanded republication of the Princess’ book, a Samdech Rasmi Sobbhana Scholarship Program was launched with the proceeds from this non-commercial publication, with the active support of Templation Angkor Resort and Angkor Database.

Courtesy of JFK Library

In the 1950s and 1960s, Samdech Kanitha was actively helping King Norodom Sihanouk in his effort to promote his non-aligned diplomacy, as seen for instance in the first photo, in the White Office Oval Office, with President John F. Kennedy in 1960. Below, photos (retrieved by @Neath Coffee, 9/7/2023) show Princess Rasmi Sobbhana at the arrival of King Norodom Sihanouk’s royal visit in Luang Prabang, Kingdom of Laos, in 1961. The Cambodian princess is seen between King Srey Svang Vathana, the last sovereign of the Kingdom of Laos, and his spouse [unfortunate watermarks added by the French Defense Ministy Information Service hide part of her face]. 

The Princess’ portrait in the book Apsara Dance, dedicated to Queen Kossamak and to her.