Cambodia Mourns King Who Freed the Country Twice
Thousands of mourners filled the streets in the Camboadian capital Phnom Penh on Friday for the funeral procession of former King Norodom Sihanouk.
The former King’s body was carried through streets filled with mourning Cambodians, from the Royal Palace where it had been lying in state since his death in Beijing on October 15th last year to a cremation ground next to the palace where was crowed over 70 years ago. The cremation itself, which will provide the climax to a full week of mourning, will take place on Monday.
Phnom Penh city spokesman Long Dimanche estimated that more than half a million people watched the procession on its one kilometer journey from Palace to crematorium. Many knelt on the ground and held their hands in prayer as the king passed by, whilst other wept.
The King’s casket was carried on a funeral chariot designed to look like a Buddhist temple, and accompanied by Brahmins and women dressed as Asparas – celestial dancers from Cambodian mythology.
King Norodom Sihanouk, who handed over the crown to his son, King Norodom Sihamoni, in 2004, was a truly giant figure in Cambodian politics and public life. During the course of his life he was involved in the successful struggle for independence from the French colonial regime, was imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge after a coup in 1970, and then led the insurgency against the Vietnamese-installed government in Cambodia following the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. He was a hugely popular figure, and will be greatly missed by ordinary Cambodians.