Monday, November 26, 2012

Cambodian ex-king to be cremated on February 4

26 November 2012
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's beloved former monarch Norodom Sihanouk, who died aged 89 last month, will be cremated on February 4 following an elaborate ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday.

The cremation will be preceded by a procession on February 1 that will see Sihanouk's coffin carried from the royal palace in Phnom Penh to a funeral pyre in a nearby park, the premier said in a speech on national radio.

"It will be a big ceremony," Hun Sen said.

More than a million mourners are expected to line the streets for the lavish procession, which will be broadcast live on television, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP.

"After the procession, the body will stay at the (cremation) site for three days to give people a chance to pay their respects," he said.

A tall cremation pyre is already under construction near the royal residence.

Sihanouk, who abdicated in 2004 after steering Cambodia through six decades marked by independence from France, civil war, the murderous Khmer Rouge regime and finally peace, died of a heart attack in Beijing on October 15.

The death of the popular royal, who is currently lying in state at the palace, plunged his nation into deep mourning. Hundreds of thousands filled the capital's boulevards when his body returned home from China last month.

Out of respect for the late monarch, the government has cancelled this week's Water Festival celebrations, an annual event that usually draws millions of visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat racing, fireworks and concerts.

"It's not appropriate when the royal body lies inside the royal palace for us to laugh happily outside the palace," Hun Sen said.

- AFP/de

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