|King Norodom Sihanouk |
(Image source Wikimedia Commons)
The international community also paid their final respect to one of the world’s most iconic leaders. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Prince Akishino of Japan attended the cremation, while Buddhist monks offered prayers for the late king before the artillery gave their gun salute before fireworks display.
Dowager Queen Monique and King Norodom Sihamoni, who assumed the throne about Sihanouk abdicated in 2004, lit the memorial bonfire which was placed at the 15-storey-high purpose-built crematorium.
“Some of the former king's ashes will be scattered at the confluence of three rivers and the remainder stored in an urn in the royal palace,” reports BBC Correspondent Jonathan Head.
A report by the Associated Press describes the huge crowd that swarmed the capital:
"The huge crowds who had been filing past the cremation site all day were kept away as the pyre was lit, and TV cameras were covered so the moment was private."
Assessing his acts when he was still king, Head writes:
"Sihanouk proved to be a masterful tactician as he confounded their expectations and drove a successful campaign for Cambodian independence in 1955."
Abdicating his post in favor of his father, he served as Cambodia’s prime minister before assuming the post as Chief of State. Although he did his best to modernized a society that reeled behind tradition and antiquity, Head however saw him as a rather "impractical" leader, who never "properly implemented" his plans.
"He tolerated no opposition and harshly repressed anti-government movements, until being ousted by a coup in 1970. He always believed he was indispensible, and some believe this led to his fateful decision to ally himself with the Khmer Rouge, in the early 1970s and in the 1980s."
The kin’s character was so hard to understand and it was so full of ambiguities. Thus, Philip Short was apt when he summed up the King’s legacy:
"An improbable mixture of rage and self-pity, acid and honey, brutality and sarcasm, passion and wit."
King Sihanouk died at the age of 89 in Beijing. Read a short but comprehensive detail about the life, reign and death of King Norodoum Sihanouk, which I wrote last year.