Twelve hours after his cremation, King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s family gathered with government and palace officials early yesterday at the Veal Preah Meru cremation site to collect the former monarch’s ashes.
The structure that had held 3,000 people the night before — when fireworks and gunfire helped farewell the mercurial Sihanouk in style — was quiet, the atmosphere conducive to solemn reflection.
With main streets still closed around the crematorium and the palace, those in attendance, including members of parliament, waited for King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath.
After their arrival at 7am, a coterie of royal-family members and government officials, led by Prince Norodom Yuvaneath — chosen by the King and Queen Mother to represent them — were escorted by a procession of musicians and flag-bearers to the boat platform in front of the palace, where a waiting dragon barge carried them onto the Tonle Sap.
At 10:20, after a final ceremony involving 12 monks, Yuvaneath, Sihanouk’s 59-year-old son, spread some of his father’s ashes into the water.
“It is believed that scattering the remains into the river can provide Cambodians with prosperity and happiness. Furthermore, it can also help to increase the agricultural yield, because 80 per cent of Cambodians are farmers,” a Royal Palace document released to coincide with Day Five of the seven-day mourning period says.
Fishing and tourist boats had been instructed to stay away from the Chaktomuk River, where the Tonle Sap, Basaac and Mekong rivers meet, out of respect for the mourners saying goodbye to Sihanouk, who passed away in China on October 15, aged 89.
The last of Sihanouk’s remains will be placed in a diamond urn, which the King and Queen mother will parade through the cremation site before storing it at the Royal Palace.
Most of the roads around the Royal Palace remained closed yesterday as police and military police manned barricades, preventing mourners from leaving incense and flowers near the palace and crematorium.
Mourners, who have been locked out for the better part of five days remained disappointed.
Uy Than, 59, from Banteay Meanchey’s Thmar Puok district, was sad at again being denied access to the area around the palace.
“I will not return home until I have a proper chance to worship the King Father,” she said while sitting on the corner of Sothearos Boulevard and Street 240. “If, however, I have the chance to properly pay respects to the King tonight, I will return home happy.”
Municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said he could not give details on the number of people who had made a pilgrimage to Phnom Penh to pay their respects to the King Father during the four-day funeral period.
Dimanche added that the decision to place barricades on the streets had not been made by his office.
Chuon Sovann, Phnom Penh police chief, could not be reached to comment on what security and safety issues had occurred over the four days.
Hang Bros, a military police officer patrolling in front of the Supreme Court building, said he was not aware of any problems resulting from those not being able to get close to the palace and crematorium to mourn.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]