King Norodom Sihamoni (seated, L) and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath take part in yesterday's ceremony, Thursday, Feb. 07, 2013. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
Seven days of mourning for King Father Norodom Sihanouk ended yesterday with the last of his remains being transported aboard a float to the Royal Palace, where his family will decide on a precise final resting place.
After scores of monks performed one final ceremony in the morning, King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath boarded a golden float – in the shape of a giant bird – holding the last of Sihanouk’s ashes in three urns, two gold and one crystal.
In the presence of other members of the royal family and government officials, the float made its way from the Veal Preah Meru crematorium to the Royal Palace at about 7:30am.
“It was more than rituals for us,” Prince Sisowath Thomico, a former aide to the King Father, said of the funeral ceremonies that began last Friday with a procession through Phnom Penh. “It was the last goodbye.”
Some of Sihanouk’s ashes were spread at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Tonle Bassac rivers on Tuesday, the morning after his cremation.
For now, the King Father’s final remains will stay in the Throne Hall until a decision is made about whether to build a stupa for him, Thomico said.
“The King Father wrote a few years ago that he wanted his remains placed in the stupa of his daughter,” he said, referring to Kantha Bopha, who died in 1952, aged 3, and who is honoured at the Silver Pagoda.
“Because the priority was given to security, the crowds of people were not allowed to come close to pay their respects – that is my one regret.”
Roads around the Royal Palace reopened at about 9:45am yesterday, allowing remaining mourners who had been shut out in previous days to get close to the palace and crematorium.
Phnom Penh Muncipal Health Department president Sok Sokhun said five mourners had fainted and were sent to hospital during the past week.
“But there were no serious problems,” he said.
The government has confirmed it will build a statue of the King Father close to the Independence Monument.
After yesterday’s ceremony, Prince Norodom Ranariddh offered gifts of 5,000 riel each to 130 cyclo drivers on Sothearos Boulevard.
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With assistance from Khouth Sophak Chakrya