King Norodom Sihanouk died of a heart attack last week in Beijing at the age of 89. He left behind the memory of six decades of monarchy that blended a complicated history of independence, peace and war.
But Cambodians mostly remember Sihanouk’s rule as a peaceful time, said Morn Prom, who organized a traditional Buddhist memorial service for Lynn’s Cambodian community Saturday night at the Sanghikaram Wat Khmer Temple on Chestnut Street.
“He’s not the best king, but he’s a good king,” Prom said through a translator, as around him people bowed in front of candle-lit photos of the late king while monks clad in orange robes chanted blessings from microphones.
Cambodia’s king took the crown in 1941 after helping the former French colony gain independence. He served off and on as king up to a brutal genocide in the 1970s and had a brief return to the throne in the early ’90s as Cambodia transitioned from war to the constitutional monarchy it is today.
Really, Sihanouk has been the only positive leader Cambodia has known, said Hong Net, who is also a Lynn city councilor.
“Under his rule, Cambodia became the model for southeast Asia,” Net said. “There were a lot of good times.”
Although many of the 60-plus Lynn residents at the memorial service Saturday mourned Sihanouk’s passing, they also celebrated his move onto another life, a tenet of Buddhism that Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy pointed out in her visit to the memorial service.
Prom said many Cambodians are nervous to see their king leave this world because they don’t know what’s in store for their country.
But he’s hopeful Sihanouk will guide the next generation’s leaders from above.
“Hopefully the younger generation can do better,” he said.
Amber Parcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.