February 02, 2013 00:00 By Agencies, Phnom Penh 5,307 Viewed
Thousands of mourners accompanied a gilded chariot carrying the body of former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk - the dominant figure of the country's modern history - in a funeral procession yesterday to a cremation ground next to the palace where he was
His body had been lying in state at the royal palace after being flown from Beijing, where he died on October 15 of a heart attack at the age of 89. The cremation, the climax of seven days of mourning, will take place on Monday.
Sihanouk’s casket was taken from the royal palace to a golden float, which transported the king’s remains through the city to an ornate cremation site.
The sound of artillery shots rang out over Phnom Penh’s riverfront as the colourful parade set off, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and thousands of other participants.
Sihanouk’s widow Norodom Monineath Sihanouk and son King Norodom Sihamoni walked slowly behind the casket, shaded by black parasols, as it was moved from the palace.
Some parade members played music while others clutched photographs of Sihanouk as the procession made slow progress through the streets. King Sihamoni later toured the funeral site with his mother, who dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief during the morning’s events.
Buddhist monks were to hold a vigil by Sihanouk’s body until Monday’s cremation, and prayers would be said each evening.
On Monday, Monineath and Sihamoni were scheduled to light the funeral pyre in the early evening. A fireworks display and gun salute were also to take place.
Foreign dignitaries were expected to attend, including Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.