|People attend the funeral procession of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Feb. 1, 2013. The body of late King Father Norodom Sihanouk was carried from the Palace in a procession to a custom-built crematorium at the Veal Preah Meru Square next to the Palace on Friday. The body will be kept for another three days and then will be cremated on Feb. 4. (Xinhua/Sovannara)
PHNOM PENH, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- An estimated 1 million mourners took part in a funeral procession on Friday to move the body of late Cambodian former King Norodom Sihanouk from the royal palace to an ornate, custom-built crematorium in a park in the capital's parks.
The body of the most revered monarch, who died of illness at the age of 90 in Beijing on October 15 last year, was transported in a Khmer architectural float from the palace, where it has been exhibited for more than 3 months, and paraded through the city to the cremation site.
As the body began to leave the palace at around 08:45 a.m. local time, the 101-gun artilleries salute was fired in honor of the late King Father and Buddhist monks chanted in religious language, while mourners, handed with lotus flowers, wreaths, or Sihanouk's portraits, silently walked in the procession.
Among the mourners are Sihanouk's wife Queen Mother Norodom Monineath and his son King Norodom Sihamoni, President of the Senate Chea Sim, President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The procession ceremony was live televised through all local television channels and most of the radio stations.
All marchers, worn white shirts with black ribbons pinned to them in a sign of mourning, walked in the parade in the distance of 6 kilometers, starting from the palace onto Sisowath Quay along the riverside towards historical site Wat Phnom, and then marching on Norodom boulevard to the Independence Monument before reaching the crematorium at the Veal Preah Meru Square next to the palace.
Screams of crying among some of the mourners were heard along the roads wherever the parade had reached.
The country commenced a week-long mourning for the late King from February 1-7. During the period, all radios, television stations and entertainment places are not allowed to broadcast joyful spectacles, performances, and concerts, while national flags are instructed to fly at half-mast.
The late monarch's body arrived at the crematorium at 12:00 p. m., and the artilleries salute was fired for the second time to mark the arrival. Sihanouk's body will be kept at the site for three days before it is cremated on February 4 in an elaborate Buddhist ceremony.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a recently public speech that the funeral is the largest of all in the country's king funeral history.
"We hold it in order to express our deepest gratitude to the King Father for his royal crusades to gain independence from France in 1953," he said. "The funeral gives us the chance to bid a final farewell to him."
One of the mourners said that the former King Father was the great King, who brought the country peace, national reconciliation and development.
"It is a great loss for Cambodia; the former King is the hero of Cambodia," Sok Sophoan, 63, said tearfully while attending the procession. "The King Father loved his people as if he loved his children. Even though he left us, we still remember him in our hearts forever."
Born on October 31, 1922, Sihanouk ruled Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his voluntary abdication on October 7, 2004 in favor of his son, the current King Norodom Sihamoni.
He had gone through decades of political and social turmoil in Cambodia, despite long periods of exile overseas.
During his life time, besides politics and social development, Sihanouk was a prolific amateur music and song composer. He had produced numerous works in Khmer, French and English.
The late monarch suffered from various forms of cancer, diabetes and hypertension and had been treated by Chinese doctors in Beijing for years before his death.
He wrote in a royal letter in January, 2012 that he requested his body to be cremated instead of being buried and his ashes to be put in an urn, preferably made of gold, and placed in a stupa at the Royal Palace.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, the spokesman for the Royal Cabinet and former aide to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, said Thursday that the urn was made of gold platinum.