Jun 21 2014
Following the impressive pomp of last year’s cremation, the remains of former King Norodom Sihanouk will be interred during a three-day ceremony at Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace from July 10 to 12, 2014. For visitors to Cambodia, this is a final opportunity to be part of the beloved King Father’s memorial and witness a special element of Khmer culture.
King Norodom Sihanouk was one of Cambodia’s most charismatic leaders, whose heyday coincided with the country’s “Golden Age” of the 1950s and 60s. Most remembered for bringing independence from France, his legacy is a chequered one, as his reign covered the Khmer Rouge era when he was detained at the palace for several years. He abdicated in 2004 in favour of his son, King Norodom Sihamoni.
Given the packed streets to witness the return of Sihanouk’s body from China in 2012 and the elaborate funeral procession in 2013, it’s reasonable to expect crowds, particularly around the Royal Palace and at the King Father’s memorial statue near Independence Monument. Most people will be wearing the funeral outfit of black trousers and white shirts, and it’s a last chance for vendors of commemorative T-shirts, badges and posters to make some sales.
The three days of rites begin with Buddhist blessings on Thursday July 10. The public part of the ceremony is on Friday July 11, when a procession from the northern gate of the Royal Palace will travel down a section of Norodom Boulevard before returning to the Silver Pagoda. On the third day, a stupa will be erected at the Silver Pagoda and the King Father’s ashes will be interred. A public holiday has been announced for July 11 to allow Cambodians to take part in the procession, accompanying their beloved former king on his final journey. As with the previous memorials, respectfully dressed and well behaved visitors shouldn’t feel shy about taking part.
How will it affect travellers?
Businesses and public buildings around the area are expected to close, including those on Norodom Boulevard, Sothearos Boulevard (opposite Wat Botom) and Sihanouk Boulevard (named after the late king). Radio stations, TV channels and nightclubs have been ordered to suspend joyful broadcasts, spectacles and concerts during the ceremony, with particular emphasis on July 11, so it may be a quieter night than usual. Getting around town is likely to be a challenge on that day — some patience and creative map reading will be in order.
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