Rasmei Kampuchea Daily
Publication Date : 18-10-2012
The body of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk arrived at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh early yesterday evening after a 90-minute procession from the airport.
Tens of thousands of Cambodians lined the route for the procession as it made its way slowly to the palace led by a giant portrait of the former king.
Thousands more gathered at the Royal Palace to get a glimpse of the procession after its 10-kilometre journey.
Television footage showed a ceremonial barge-shaped vehicle decorated as a sacred goose containing what appeared to be a golden coffin supported by six soldiers.
The people began gathering around noon for the procession, transforming the capital into a sea of black and white, punctuated by the distinctive orange of monk robes. Many had come from the provinces.
"I was shocked and very sad when I was told that the King Father died in Beijing. He is the father of independence and national reconcilliation," wept Deth Oeun, a policeman from Sihanoukville.
"I came to see him for the last time as I love and revere the King Father very much," he said.
Te Tacha, from Siem Reap, was also unable to hold back his tears. "We lost our hero who brought peace to Cambodia and unite our nation," he said.
Despite the huge crowds, no major incidents were reported although witnesses said a 10-year-old boy fainted at the Independence Monument as he waited for the procession.
King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen returned from Beijing earlier Wednesday with Queen Mother Monineath and the body of the late King Father.
The plane carrying the Royal Family and top government officials touched down at 14:45pm as Cambodia began seven days of mourning for the former king, who died in Beijing Monday. He was 89.
Dozens of Cambodian and foreign dignitaries were on hand to greet the Air China aircraft carrying the king father's body as it arrived from the Chinese capital.
Television footage showed soldiers lifting the coffin from the plane's cargo hold and placing it on the ceremonial vehicle which was adorned with a golden parasol. Soldiers then placed the royal coat of arms over the coffin.
The Queen Mother and King Sihamoni emerged from the plane holding hands. They were followed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top government officials.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said earlier Wednesday that Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo was accompanying the Cambodian delegation back to Phnom Penh.
Although the official mourning period ends next Tuesday, Hun Sen has ordered the body to go on display at the palace for "at least three months" before the cremation.
Under the order issued in Beijing Monday, the government has also outlawed entertainment activities during the mourning period. The order covers television and radio programmes as well as entertainment establishments.
A separate order issued in Beijing Tuesday night cancelled the annual three-day Water Festival which was to have been held on November 27, 28 and 29.
The cancellation marks the second year in row that the festival has been called off. Last year's cancellation came after hundreds of people died in devastating floods.