The Straits Times
Published on Feb 06, 2013

Cambodia's king is dead, long live the Prime Minister


PHNOM PENH (AFP) - He towered over his kingdom through tumultuous decades. Yet when Cambodia's "king father" Norodom Sihanouk finally ceded power, experts say, it was not to his heir but to strongman premier Hun Sen.

Since his death in October in Beijing, Cambodia has paid homage to the man who was king, prime minister, head of state, then king once more, before stepping down in favour of his son Sihamoni in 2004.

An elaborate week-long funeral, which ends on Thursday, has drawn throngs of mourners to Phnom Penh's streets to bid farewell to the beloved royal, whose embalmed body had been lying in state for three months.

The shrewd political operator remained a dominant figure for more than half a century marked by independence from France, civil war, the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, his own exile and finally peace.