Late Cambodian King's Ashes Paraded Through Capital

PHNOM PENH (DPA) – A golden float carrying the ashes of late Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk was paraded through the streets of Phnom Penh on Friday, destined for the Silver Pagoda at the Royal Palace, where they were to be interred.

Phnom Penh (dpa) – A golden float carrying the ashes of late Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk was paraded through the streets of Phnom Penh on Friday, destined for the Silver Pagoda at the Royal Palace, where they were to be interred.

While most Khmer kings' ashes are placed at a temple on Odong mountain outside the capital, Sihanouk requested that his be placed in the Silver Pagoda next to those of his daughter Kantha Bopha, who  died in 1952, aged 4, of cancer.

King Norodom Sihanouk died in October 2012 at age 89, sparking an outpouring of national grief. His body was cremated in February 2013.

The colourful procession included dozens of Buddhist monks and three ornate floats. The one carrying Sihanouk's ashes featured the head of an elephant and the body of a lion, a mythological Hindu character known as a Gajasingha.

Another float was shaped like a mythical Cambodian bird, and another like a three-headed golden snake.

Hundreds of people wearing official white mourning garb, holding lotus flowers, watched from the sidewalk as the procession made its way through central Phnom Penh and back to the Palace, where King Norodom Sihamoni and the Queen Mother waited.

Pao Phanith, a 15-year-old student, said he came to witness the procession because he wanted to celebrate the life and reign of Sihanouk, who features prominently in national history classes.

"He's my hero," the student said shyly.

While much-loved, King Norodom was also a controversial figure. In 1953, he won independence for Cambodia from France, but later he entered into an alignment with the Khmer Rouge, the brutal regime responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s.

Friday was declared a public holiday. On Saturday, the ashes were to be formally interred in the presence of the royal family, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials.