Two million people are expected to line the streets of Phnom Penh as part of a spectacular cremation ceremony and procession for the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk in the first week of February, the Kingdom’s national festival organising committee said yesterday.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, a member of the organising committee, could not confirm a date for the former monarch’s cremation, but said the ceremony would be preceded by a six-kilometre procession of Sihanouk’s coffin from the Royal Palace.
“We will discuss with committee officials about how to coordinate this,” Kanharith said, adding that he was not yet sure how much it would cost.
Kanharith said the committee had big plans for the ceremony, which will be held before Chinese New Year, and was discussing the inclusion of elephants, horses and monkeys in the procession, which will be televised and broadcast on radio.
The committee would make a submission to the government once it had estimated how much the ceremony for Sihanouk, who passed away in Beijing on October 15, aged 89, was likely to cost, he added.
Kim Kunawath, director-general of TVK, televising the event, said people would come from across the country to pay their final respects.
“We expect between 1.5 million and 2 million people will attend the ceremony of the late King Father,” he said.
“That is a huge amount of people. We have three months to organise this to avoid disorder. The distance will be about five or six kilometres, so we’re not exactly sure how it will all happen yet.”
The procession will move along Sisowath Boulevard to the Onalom pagoda, before continuing to Wat Phnom and along Norodom Boulevard to the Independence Monument.
From there it will travel along Sihanouk Boulevard to Sothearos Boulevard, where the King Father’s body will be cremated at Veal Preah Man park, near the palace.
Teams of 90 monks will bless the former king’s body at various stops along the way.
Kim Kunawath said locals who attend would dress in white, while foreigners should wear clothes acceptable for a funeral in their home country.
According to the government, about one million people lined the streets on October 17 when Sihanouk’s body returned from China.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at [email protected]