Hundreds of mourners yesterday continued making their way to the Royal Palace throughout the day to pay their respects to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.
As Cambodians gathered outside to deliver wreaths, light candles and burn incense, inside the palace gates, the final preparations were being made to preserve the body of the King Father – which will be laid in state for three months.
Though the body was not yet on display, those who appeared at the palace yesterday were far from disappointed.
Sao Lina, 65, travelled from Siem Reap povince earlier this week to attend Wednesday’s procession and was hoping for one last glimpse before she went home. Still, she said, she was planning to return to Phnom Penh to attend the cremation ceremony to see him “for a final time”.
“I always put on the picture of the King in my house and always pray in front of it when my family faces misfortune,” she said. “I’m extremely sympathetic to him.”
A team of doctors and scientists from China and Cambodia spent yesterday morning prepping the King Father’s body for its lengthy public viewing, while the palace made arrangements for visiting delegations.
“We won’t be able to pay our respects to the King before they finish their work in a good condition,” explained Prince Sisowath Thomico, an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni and longtime assistant to the late King Father, adding that the body will be displayed to the members of local and foreign governments beginning today.
High-ranking delegations from Vietnam, Laos and Singapore are expected to arrive in the coming days, along with representatives from local government institutions.
Just one day into the weeklong mourning period that began Wednesday, the bustling capital was noticeably subdued.
The sole exception to the calm, however, were snarls of traffic appearing on the roads ringing the Royal Palace, many of whose outlets have been shut down for security reasons.
“We needed to close some parts of the road, but we also are considering how to circulate the traffic and not make traffic jams,” said National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith.
Among the streets shut down is a section of Sisowath Quay running parallel to the palace for nearly a kilometre. Chantharith said it was too early to say when the street would reopen but urged understanding.
“We have to be flexible. If security is at risk, we have to shut it sometimes. If not, we don’t need to block the road,” he said, adding that at least 100 traffic police had been deployed to manage the attendant gridlock.
In addition to the traffic, said Chantharith, police were gearing up to implement a government directive banning loud music at restaurants and entertainment venues during the mourning period. Should owners be caught flouting the directive, he said, they will be educated but not punished.
“It does not mean we ban them from doing their business, all businesses can continue as normal, but just no public music playing,” explained municipal spokesman Long Dimanche. “Business owners should tell their customers to be understanding of the mourning days.”