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Sihanouk's body arrives at royal cremation ground
Publication Date : 01-02-2013
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 ground in front of the National Assembly includes an elaborate funeral pyre for the cremation on Monday.
Two thousand people including lawmakers, soldiers and children holding white flowers joined the procession from the Royal Palace.
Mourners wore black ribbons and armbands and included ethnic minority Muslims as well as Vietnamese.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Prime Minister 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.
King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Monineath 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 a 101-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 turning 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 is the first in Phnom Penh since 1960 when Sihanouk's father King Suramarit died.