Cambodia’s ‘King Father’ Sihanouk cremated | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 04.02.2013
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Cambodia’s ‘King Father’ Sihanouk cremated

Cambodia’s former King Norodom Sihanouk has been cremated in the capital Phnom Penh after a week of elaborate funeral ceremonies. The revered former monarch played a large role in Cambodian politics.

The late King Norodom Sihanouk, who died of a heart attack in October in Beijing, aged 89, was cremated during an elaborate Buddhist ceremony in Phnom Penh Monday evening.

King Norodom Sihamoni and Sihanouk's widow Monique (pictured above) wore traditional white mourning clothes as they knelt to pray before the gilded casket of Sihanouk.

Live coverage on state television did not show the moment when the pyre was actually lit in order to preserve royal decorum.

Smoke was seen rising from the crematory, an elaborate $1.2 million (880,000 euro) pagoda built for the funeral. It will be dismantled later in keeping with Cambodian tradition. A 101-gun salute also honored the late king.

Last respects

Hundreds of thousands of mourners had gathered over the course of the weekend to pay their last respects to the deeply loved former monarch. His body had been lying in state at the Royal Palace for three months.

King Sihanouk played a leading role in Cambodian politics in various functions for almost six decades, after being placed on the throne by French colonial authorities in 1941, when he was just 18 years old.

He subsequently pushed for independence for Cambodia, which it achieved in 1953. The king later abdicated in order to enter politics and wound up serving as the country's prime minister a number of times.

Sihanouk, who was elected head of state in 1960, was deposed 10 years later in a US-backed coup.

After initially allying himself with communist rebels, who later became the Khmer Rouge, Sihanouk and his family ended up being placed under house arrest by the regime. The Khmer Rouge is believed to have killed at least 1.7 million people between 1975 and 1979.

He returned to the throne in 1993 but abdicated for a second time in 2004 due to failing health.

hc/ipj (AFP, AP)