Sihanouk's body returned to Phnom Penh

Oct. 17, 2012 at 12:35 PM

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The body of former King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, who died Monday in Beijing at age 90, was returned to Phnom Penh Wednesday, officials said.

After the Air China plane was met at the airport by 90 Buddhist monks, the body was taken in a swan-shaped funeral vehicle to the Royal Palace along a 6.2 mile route flanked by more than 100,000 mourners wearing black ribbons, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. The procession began an official week of mourning.

"I feel very regretful today," said university student Mam Oudom, 20, during the motorcade of a dozen vehicles along Phnom Penh's Russian Boulevard. "This was our king of Cambodia. I had to join the parade of people."

People along the route dropped to their knees as the king's body passed, The Phnom Penh Post reported.

"It is a great loss for Cambodia. One of the former king's unforgettable achievements for the nation is the independence he gained from France in 1953," said Him Chhem, minister of culture and fine arts.

Flags throughout the country are flying at half-staff, and all of Cambodia's television and radio stations canceled regular broadcasting to present documentaries on Sihanouk's life.

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