Cambodia begins funeral for King Sihanouk

The BBC's Stewart Macintosh says many mourners on the streets wept

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Crowds of mourners have turned out in Phnom Penh for the start of funeral proceedings for King Norodom Sihanouk, who died in October.

A coffin carrying the embalmed body of the late monarch was paraded through the streets of the capital.

It was taken to a crematorium, where his funeral pyre will be lit by his wife and son, King Norodom Sihamoni, on Monday.

King Sihanouk died of a heart attack in Beijing at the age of 89.

His embalmed body has been lying in state at the royal palace for the last three months to allow people to pay their respects.

Norodom Sihanouk

  • First crowned king in 1941 at the age of 19
  • Led Cambodia to independence from France
  • Aligned with Khmer Rouge in its early years, but held under house arrest while regime was in power
  • Spent long periods in exile in China
  • Worked in 1990s to bring stability and peace to Cambodia
  • Abdicated in 2004 in favour of his son, citing ill-health

Crowds began lining the streets of Phnom Penh at dawn ahead of the parade.

King Sihanouk's gold casket was carried on a golden float, surrounded by officials wearing white, the colour of mourning.

After cremation, his ashes will be placed in an urn at the royal palace.

King Sihanouk remained an influential figure until death, despite abdicating in favour of his son in 2004.

He became king in 1941 while still a teenager, and led Cambodia to independence from France in 1953.

He was a presence through decades of political and social turmoil in Cambodia, despite long periods of exile overseas.

In later life he emerged as a peacemaker who helped bring stability back to his country, after an ill-fated choice to back the Khmer Rouge in its early years.

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