Cambodians Mourn Revered ex-King Sihanouk

Posted October 16th, 2012 at 2:45 am (UTC-5)
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Cambodians entered a second day of mourning Tuesday for their revered former king Norodom Sihanouk, as preparations were made to return his body from China.

Tearful mourners placed a small wreath outside the royal palace in the Cambodian capital and offered prayers for the man they called “King-Father,” who died of a heart attack in Beijing Monday.

His son, King Norodom Sihamoni, and Prime Minister Hun Sen have gone to Beijing to collect the body in a gold coffin. It will lie in state at the royal palace for three months before being cremated at a traditional Buddhist ceremony.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was among those who paid respects to Sihanouk Tuesday, calling him an “old friend of the Chinese people.”

Other condolence messages continued to pour in from around the world. The United States, which helped topple Sihanouk in a Washington-backed 1970 coup, offered condolences in a brief State Department memo.

North Korea, whose founder Kim Il Sung was close with Sihanouk, on Tuesday praised the former leader's “unprecedented” friendship with Pyongyang.

Sihanouk died early Monday in Beijing following a long battle with cancer. He was 89.

Sihanouk came to the throne in 1941 and went on to rule Cambodia off and on for more than 60 years.

He was heralded for bringing his ancient kingdom through independence from France, war and genocide to form a fragile democracy. But Sihanouk's name is also still soiled from his association with the Khmer Rouge movement, blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million Cambodians.

Sihanouk abdicated the throne to his son, Norodom Sihamoni, in 2004 citing old age and health concerns.