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Cambodians honour Sihanouk in lavish funeral procession
Publication Date : 02-02-2013
Final mourning period will last seven days from Friday
The body of King Father Norodom Sihanouk arrived at its final resting place at the Royal Cremation Ground Friday after a lavish three-hour procession through the capital.
Carried in an ornate golden float decorated with dragon heads, the former king's coffin entered the Veal Preah Men shortly after midday as a helicopter hovered overhead.
The arrival of the golden coffin at the cremation ground was accompanied by a second 101-gun salute.
Led by Queen Mother Monineath and King Norodom Sihamoni, royal family members and a military guard of honor accompanied the coffin as it circled an elaborate funeral pyre three times ahead of the cremation on Monday.
The Queen Mother and the King bowed with their hands clasped together as the coffin was raised to the pyre with four traditional white death flags flying overhead.
Joined by other members of the Royal Family, the Queen Mother and the King then entered the ochre and maroon building housing the funeral pyre to pay their respects.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen, accompanied by their wives, were the next to pay their respects to the former king.
Live television images showed numerous monks chanting near the coffin, which was surrounded by four royal fans.
As the ceremony drew to a close towards 2pm, King Sihamoni and the Queen Mother bade farewell to the diplomatic corps followed by senior members of the government and parliament.
Earlier Friday, two thousand people including lawmakers, soldiers and children holding white flowers joined the procession from the Royal Palace which started shortly before 9am.
Mourners wore black ribbons and armbands. They included ethnic minority Muslims as well as Vietnamese.
Heng Samrin, Hun Sen, Royal Palace Minister Kong Samol and Senate Vice President Say Chhum followed behind the coffin, seated on a golden vehicle resembling a mythical bird.
They were followed by a similar bird vehicle with members of the royal family.
The King and Queen Mother did not join the procession until the final stages as the coffin neared the cremation ground.
As the procession got underway heading north along the Tonle Sap River to Wat Phnom, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces fired their first 101-gun salute outside the palace.
Security was extremely tight with machine gun-toting members of Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit lining the streets, transformed into an ocean of mourners in white and black, punctuated by the orange robes of Buddhist monks.
After circling Wat Phnom in the north of Phnom Penh, the procession headed south along Norodom Boulevard, turning east at the Independence Monument before travelling north again for the final stretch along Sothearos Boulevard.
Tens of thousands of Cambodians in mourning clothes gathered at the Royal Palace and along the streets of the capital to get a glimpse of the procession.
Some people from the provinces arrived Thursday and spent the night in front of the Royal Palace.
"He's the father of independence and nothing can compare with his good deeds to his people," said Lok Yem, a 64-year-old woman who traveled from Kampong Speu province.
The final mourning period for the King Father will last seven days from Friday.
Sihanouk died from a heart attack in Beijing on October 15 at the age of 89.
The royal funeral procession was the first in Phnom Penh since 1960 when Sihanouk's father King Suramarit died.