Wed, October 17, 2012
World > Asia-Pacific

Norodom Sihanouk dies, part forever a Cambodian legend

2012-10-15 00:47:14 GMT2012-10-15 08:47:14(Beijing Time)  SINA English

Norodom Sihanouk (File photo)

File photo taken on Aug. 18, 2004 shows Norodom Sihanouk receiving an interview in Beijing, capital of China. Cambodian retired King Norodom Sihanouk died of natural cause at the age of 90 in China's capital city of Beijing, where he had his diseases treated by Chinese doctors, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Nhik Bun Chhay confirmed on Oct. 15, 2012. (Photo/Xinhua)

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (L) visits Cambodian Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk to express condolences and sympathies for the death of Cambodian King-Father Norodom Sihanouk in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 15, 2012. (Photo/Xinhua)

By Li Hongmei, Special to Sina English

VP Xi Jinping visits Cambodian Queen Mother over the passing away of Sihanouk

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Cambodian Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk in Beijing, Oct. 15, expressing condolence to her, and also mourning for the passing away of Cambodian King-Father Norodom Sihanouk.

Xi said King-Father Norodom Sihanouk was an old friend to the Chinese people, and he will remain immortal in the hearts of both Cambodian people and Chinese people. 

Queen Mother said King-Father Sihanouk was and is always a loyal and good friend to the Chinese people.

Chinese leaders express sympathy to Cambodian Queen Mother

Senior officials of the country have conveyed Chinese leaders' sympathy to Cambodian Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk over the passing away of Cambodian King-Father Norodom Sihanouk, who died early Monday at Beijing Hospital.

State Councilor Dai Bingguo, director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee Li Zhanshu and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited the King-Father as he was dying and conveyed the sympathy, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Cambodian King-Father Norodom Sihanouk, a great friend of the Chinese people, died due to illness at the age of 90 early Monday morning in Beijing, according to a statement from the ministry.

Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who remained an influential figure in his country's politics through a half-century of war, bloodshed and upheaval, has died. He was 89.

As a revered figure in his home country, the former King had suffered from a number of ailments in recent years.

Sihanhouk had been in China since January, and under the medical treatment of colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

"Norodom Sihanouk has died in Beijing," Chinese state news agency Xinhua said. The ex-monarch would have been 90 on October 31.

"Our former King died at 2:00 a.m. early Monday in Beijing due to natural cause," Cambodian deputy prime minister Nhek Bunchhay told Xinhua by phone.

"This is a great loss for Cambodia. We feel very sad. The former king was a great king that we all respect and love him."

"King Sihanouk did not belong to his family, he belonged to Cambodia and to history," he added.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen will fly to Beijing Monday morning to receive Sihanouk's body for a traditional funeral in Cambodia.

In January, Sihanouk requested that he be cremated in the Cambodian and Buddhist tradition, asking that his ashes be put in an urn, preferably made of gold, and placed in a stupa at the country's Royal Palace.

One of Asia's longest-serving monarchs, the former king abruptly quit the throne in October 2004 in favor of his son, citing old age and health problems.

Despite abdicating in favor of his son Sihamoni, the ex-monarch remained hugely popular in his country, with his portrait still adorning public buildings and many Cambodian homes, and he sometimes used his website to communicate with the outside world.

His death comes on the final day of Cambodia's annual festival for the dead, known as Pchum Ben, when most Cambodians leave the capital city Phnom Penh to spend time with their families in the countryside.

Cambodians believe their dead ancestors emerge to walk the earth during this time, and they honor and remember them with prayers and food offerings at Buddhist pagodas.

Prince Thomico believed Cambodians would find it "significant" Sihanouk had died on the ultimate day of the 15-day festival.

He was placed on the throne in 1941 at the age of 18 by French colonial authorities.

Twelve years later he gained Cambodia's independence and shortly after quit the throne for the first time in favor of his father Prince Norodom Suramarit to pursue a career in politics.

Sihanouk served as premier half a dozen times, repeatedly leaving the post with a characteristic flash of angry theatre over perceived slights, until finally becoming "head of state" following the death of his father in 1960.

He was toppled in a US-backed coup by one of his own generals, Lon Nol, in 1970.

Twice exiled and twice returned to the throne, Sihanouk lived a life almost as a legend as his country's history.

Sihanouk saw Cambodia reel from colony to kingdom, U.S.-backed regime to Khmer Rouge guerrilla war zone - and finally to a fragile experiment with democracy.

Sihanouk is a time-honored friend to China, and the great friendship he had with the Chinese leadership in Mao Zedong’s day established the basic formula for China-Cambodia relationship in the following decades. And the deeply-seated goodwill remains and will always flourish in the days to come.

Cambodian King, PM arrived in Beijing to retrieve King-Father's body

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived at Beijing International Airport at 2:44 pm, CCTV reported.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi greeted the king and Prime Minister at the airport. And then a fleet of about 20 cars left the airport for Cambodian King-Father Norodom Sihanouk’s residence.

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Cambodian former King dies in Beijing

Cambodia's top legislator satisfies with Cambodia-China ties

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