As a Nation Mourns: Funeral Ceremony of Former King Norodom Sihanouk
From February 1 until February 4 hundreds of thousands of people from all over Cambodia flocked to the capital Phnom Penh to join the four day funeral ceremonies for the king-father Norodom Sihanouk. Sihanouk, who died on October 15, was one of the most influential and controversial men in Cambodia’s recent history. To many Cambodians he was the ‘father of Cambodia’, a title he deserved in the 1950s and 1960s when he lead Cambodia to independence from the French colonial rulers and later on, as head of the state, brought wealth to the Southeast-Asian nation. Sihanouk was also known as a survivor and a chameleon. In 1941, at the age of 19, he became the king of Cambodia, but in 1955 he resigned to become Cambodia’s first prime-minister since independence. His power grew in the 1960s when he became head of state. After a by the US supported coup he fled the country in 1970, to return when the Khmer Rouge, the murderous regime of Pol Pot, took control over Cambodia. From 1975 until 1976 he served as a puppet head of state for the Khmer Rouge. After the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in the late 1970s, Sihanouk fled his country again. More than one decade later, in 1991, he returned to Cambodia. In 1993 he was restored as a king. Due to health problems he passed the crown on to one of his sons, Norodom Sihamoni, in 2004. After his resignation as a king, Sihanouk was given the honoring title of ‘king-father’. Even though he mostly lived in Beijing during his final years, many Cambodians loved and respected him until he died, on October 15 at the age of 89. A few days after his death the king-father returned to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh where, according to Cambodian traditions, his body was embalmed and kept for three months. Following the traditions, his body was cremated on February 4.