Mourners who have spent days waiting outside the Royal Palace to big farewell to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk could be granted entry to see his body as soon as tomorrow, an official said yesterday.
As it emerged that 233 people were hospitalised after fainting outside the palace in a week of official mourning that ended on Tuesday, Nhek Bun Chhay, deputy leader of the royal committee co-ordinating Sihanouk’s funeral, said members of the public were free to apply for entry to the palace.
“We’re not allowing people who want to mourn the King Father to just enter as they wish, because this will bring about disorder in the Royal Palace,” Bun Chhay said. “It will be much easier for the committee if people submit a written application.”
Due to the number of officials and representatives wanting to pay their respects to Sihanouk today, civilians would face a wait of two to three days, Bun Chhay said.
Because applications had opened yesterday, however, the first public mourners could enter the palace tomorrow.
“People have to write a mourning letter stating their address and whether they intend to enter by themselves or with others, and we will schedule a time for them,” he said.
Prack Run, 65, a resident of Phnom Penh, said she would find it difficult to meet the requirements.
“I want to go to pay respects to the King Father, but I can’t get in now. I don’t know how I am supposed to send a letter. Where can I get information about how to do this?” she said.
Hundreds of thousands of mourners, including more than 10,000 monks, have poured into the capital to visit the Royal Palace since Sihanouk’s death in China on October 15.
The King Father’s funeral will be held in about three months, officials have said.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Health Department announced yesterday that as well as 233 mourners being taken to hospital after passing out in stifling hot conditions outside the palace, more than 3,800 people were treated by medical staff at the site for dizziness, headaches and colds during the seven days of official mourning.
“Most of those people were fine after some minor treatment,” health department boss Sok Sokun said.
Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled leader of the newly formed Cambodian National Rescue Party, meanwhile, has made a second round of requests to return to Cambodia to pay his respects to the King Father.
Rainsy faces 14 years in prison if he returns to the Kingdom, following being convicted in 2009 of charges including falsifying public documents, destroying public property, racial incitement and defamation. His supporters say these charges were baseless and politically motivated.
Rainsy sent three separate letters, dated Tuesday, to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the National Assembly and the Senate seeking a pardon, but is yet to receive a response.
“On behalf of Cambodian citizens, I have to reinforce a sense of national reconciliation and harmony and try to help work out the issues of our compatriots, which is consistent with the wisdom [and] vigorous stance of the King Father when he was still alive,” one of the letters, obtained by the Post yesterday, said.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, adviser to the royal cabinet and former secretariat of the King Father, said last week that the Royal Palace had not responded to Rainsy’s initial request to be allowed to return home.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org