Cambodia mourns as 'King-Father' Sihanouk cremated
PHNOM PENH (AP) - Hundreds of thousands of mourners gathered in Cambodia's capital on Monday for the cremation of former King Norodom Sihanouk, the revered "King-Father", who survived wars and the murderous Khmer Rouge regime to hold center stage in the South-east Asian nation for more than half a century.
Cambodians from across the country flocked to Phnom Penh to pay their last respects as King Sihanouk was given elaborate funeral rites - mingling Hindu, Buddhist and animist traditions - last seen 53 years ago with the death of his father, King Norodom Suramarit. And they may never be seen again in a rapidly modernising country where the monarchy has lost much of its power and glamor.
After sunset, King Sihanouk's son, King Norodom Sihamoni, and widow, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, both weeping, ignited the funeral pyre inside a temple-like, 15-storey-high crematorium. Howitzers fired salvos as fireworks lit up the sky.
"I would exchange my life for his if he could live because he was a great leader who brought peace, prosperity for the whole nation," said Mr Pal Hor, an ailing, 64-year-old man who had come from the distant province of Battambang. He said he shaved his head out of reverence for the deceased monarch.