Cambodians mourn death of ex-king Norodom Sihanouk

Cambodian mourners hold portraits of the late former King Norodom Sihanouk in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Oct 20, 2012, after the mercurial ex-monarch died on Oct 15 at the age of 89. -- PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK – Former monarch Norodom Sihanouk, a controversial but pivotal figure in Cambodian and regional politics, died of a heart attack early yesterday morning in Beijing. He was 89.

Flags flew at half-mast in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for a week-long mourning period as King Norodom Sihamoni, his eldest son, and Prime Minister Hun Sen flew to the Chinese capital to bring his body home.

As bad health and old age took their toll in recent years, he had stayed in Beijing for treatment.

In January, he had asked to be cremated in the Buddhist tradition in Cambodia and for his ashes to be placed in an urn at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.