Fireworks as Cambodia's Sihanouk is cremated
Royal family will take some of the late king's ashes to be scattered in the Mekong River. -ANN
Fireworks lit up the night sky of the Cambodian capital Monday as the late king Father Norodom Sihanouk was cremated at the end of an elaborate four-day funeral.
Soldiers fired a 101-gun artillery salute after King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Monineath lit the funeral pyre at the Royal Cremation Ground in front of the National Museum shortly after sunset.
Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived at the cremation ground around 4pm followed by foreign dignitaries and finally the King and Queen Mother.
The prime ministers of France, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam took part in the ceremony along with political, royal and military leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region.
Officials said earlier that 16 countries were represented at the cremation, namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
"Today is the last day for Cambodia, its people, government and royal family to bid farewell to our revered King Father," said Prince Sisowath Thomico, a personal assistant to the former king. "It's the saddest day for us."
Prince Thomico said the King, Queen Mother and other members of royal family would take some of Sihanouk's ashes to be scattered in the Mekong River. The rest will be brought to the Royal Palace on Thursday, the last day of the seven-day mourning ceremony.
According to Prince Thomico, the former king said before dying that the "Cambodian people shall be united and reconciled as a strong nation but not a big power for the sake of national development."
Among those who came for the Royal Cremation Monday were Soy Roeun, a disabled person from Sihanoukville. "I came here to see the cremation as I respect the King Father because he made Cambodia a prosperous country," he said. "He is our hero."
Among foreign dignitaries attending the cremation were Prince Akishino of Japan, Jia Qingling, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
As part of the ceremony, 405 prisoners including 30 foreigners, were given royal pardons.
Sources said the government spent US$1.2 million (S$1.5 million) to build the funeral pyre on the royal cremation ground.
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