|Smoke rises from the cremation site of late Cambodian King Father Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Feb. 4, 2013. Cambodia began to cremate the body of the country's most revered King Father Norodom Sihanouk on Monday evening after it had been lying in state for more than three months at the capital's royal palace. (Xinhua/Sovannara)
PHNOM PENH, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia began to cremate the body of the country's most revered King Father Norodom Sihanouk on Monday evening after it had been lying in state for more than three months at the capital's royal palace.
The cremation was made at the Veal Preah Meru Square next to the Royal Palace in an elaborate Buddhist ceremony.
The somber event was attended by Cambodian leaders, including President of the Senate Chea Sim, President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen as well as royal families and other senior officials.
Besides, foreign leaders and dignitaries from 16 countries attended the ceremony. Among them are Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, Vice President of the Philippines Jejomar C. Binay, and Japan's Prince Akishino.
After all participating foreign leaders and foreign diplomats paid their last respects and laid flowers nearby the golden casket bearing Sihanouk's body and 90 Buddhist monks chanted in a religious language, Sihanouk's wife Queen Mother Norodom Monineath and his son King Norodom Sihamoni lit the funeral flame at the newly constructed cremation site at 6:30 p.m.
Crowds of mourners clad in white shirts and pinning black ribbons, clasped hands together in prayers and looked sadly and tearfully while the funeral flame was burning.
Sihanouk reigned over Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his voluntary abdication on Oct.7, 2004 in favor of his son, the current King Norodom Sihamoni.
The late monarch died naturally and peacefully at the age of 90 in China's capital of Beijing on Oct. 15 last year.
He suffered from various forms of cancer, diabetes and hypertension and had been treated by Chinese doctors in Beijing for years before his death.