A sombre nation mourns its King

A sombre nation mourns its King

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Crowds gather at the gates of the Royal Palace to pay respects. Photograph: Alexander Crook/Phnom Penh Post

In the still-mild hours of Friday morning, a sea of mourners, dressed in crisp white and black, satin loops pinned to their shirts, will swell out into the streets of Phnom Penh.

The King Father’s historic funeral procession will follow a minutely planned route, starting with the early morning moving of the coffin from the Royal Palace.

As the massive procession moves along its 6km journey, royal soothsayers will sound traditional trumpets and thousands of saffron-robed monks will mark the way, along with three thousand dignitaries and officials, to four points around the city, including Wat Phnom and Wat Lanka.

Before the expected crowd of 1.5 million swarm around the gleaming, gilded crematorium speedily erected for the occasion, shot mortar will resound in the air. The King, Queen and royal families will pay their respects to the body before a mass of lights will be lit in and around the cremation area.

Ouen Sam Art, who serves as the personnel assistant to Cambodia’s Grand Supreme Patriarch, said attendees to the funeral procession or cremation should wear a white shirt, long pants and a black ribbon on the breast pocket.

With Sisowath, Soramarith, Norodom and Sothearos bolouvards closed for four days and a week of official mourning, bars and restaurants will likely be subdued affairs, with some multi-storey windows shielded from onlookers.

Attendees must not watch the ceremonies from balconies or rooftops out of respect for the monks, Art said, and are instead encouraged to observe from the roadside, where monks from different temples will be stationed periodically to offer blessings alongside lay people.

For those not wanting to get swept up in the crowds, the event is expected to be broadcast on 14 screens across the city including: the Olympic Stadium parking lot, Koh Pich (Diamond Island), Freedom Park, Chenla Cultural Center, Phsar Chas garden, the Choam Choa parking lot, Chamkar Pring, the former Preak Leab parking lot, the Veal Sbov parking lot, Takmao garden, the Sokimex parking lot on National Road 5, Pochenton Park, the Kbal Thanol parking lot and in front of the Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

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