Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the King-Father of Cambodia.
By KHAN Sophirom
Cambodia Press Agency
PHNOM PENH (Oct. 15, 2012) — Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the King-Father of Cambodia, who from 1941 to 1955 and again from 1993 until his voluntary abdication on Oct. 7, 2004, passed away in the early morning of Oct. 15 in Beijing, China at 1:20 a.m. (Phnom Penh time), according to a press release from the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers.
King Sihanouk, 90, had suffered from a number of ailments in recent years and was often in China for medical treatment following his abdication. His body will be kept at the Royal Palace for at least three months before being cremated. During this period, civil servants, citizens and foreign friends can pay their last respects.
Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk was born on Oct. 31, 1922. He was the only son of HRH Prince Norodom Suramarit and HRH Princess Sisowath Kossomak Nearirath Serey Vatthana. He became the King of the Kingdom of Cambodia in April 1941, and led the country into full independence from France in 1953.
In 1955, King Sihanouk abdicated to his father and founded the Sangkum Reastr Niyum, a country development movement that won several legislative seats in the national election. At that time, Sihanouk became the prime minister of Cambodia, and head of state of Cambodia in 1960 after the death of his father.
On Mar. 18, 1970 during the official visit to the USSR, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk was ousted from the power by a Coup d’Etat. Then he became the President of the Cambodian resistance. In April 1975, he became head of state of Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge regime), but he resigned in 1976.
After the fall of the Democratic Kampuchea in Jan. 7, 1979 to 1990, Sihanouk stayed out of the country and returned back in 1991 to again reign as King of Cambodia from 1993 to 2004 when he passed the throne on to his son, King Norodom Sihamoni.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday offered condolences to the people of Cambodia, the Government and its royal family on the death of the country’s former monarch.
“The Secretary-General acknowledges King Sihanouk’s long dedication to his country and his legacy as a unifying national leader who is revered by Cambodians and respected internationally,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson added in a statement. “The Secretary-General also hopes that the legacy of the former King will allow Cambodia to advance the national healing process, including through continued commitment to justice.”
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland on Monday said the United States expresses its sympathy on the passing of His Majesty King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia. “We extend our condolences to His Majesty King Sihamoni, Her Majesty Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, the entire Royal Family, and those in Cambodia who are mourning this loss,” Nuland said.
A National Organizing Committee for King-Father’s funeral was established by royal decree. The 49-member committee is chaired by Senate President Samdech Akka Moha Thamma Pothisal Chea Sim, with National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin as Vice Chairperson, Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen as Standing Vice Chairperson, and Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Kong Sam Ol as Permanent Vice Chairperson, as well as Deputy Prime Ministers H.E. Sar Kheng, H.E. Sok An, H.E. Tea Banh, H.E. Hor Namhong, H.E. Ms. Men Sam An, H.E. Bin Chhin, H.E. Nhiek Bunchhay, H.E. Keat Chhon, H.E. Yim Chhay Ly, H.E. Ke Kim Yan as Vice Chairpersons.
Senior ministers, ministers of different ministries and the provincial and municipal governors as well as heads of other government agencies were appointed as members of the national organizing committee.
The Royal Government of Cambodia announced on Monday that the official mourning period for King-Father will take place from Oct. 17 to 23. National flags must be flying at one-third below the top of the mast across the country during the mourning period, and any forms of entertainment are prohibited.
King-Father’s body will be kept at the Royal Palace for at least three months before being cremated. During this period, civil servants, citizens and foreign friends can pay their last respects to King-Father.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has announced to cancel this year’s celebration of the Water Festival scheduled to be held from Nov. 27-29 in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.
The Water Festival, which includes boat races and moon festival, will be cancelled as the country is mourning for King-Father Norodom Sihanouk who passed away on Oct. 15 in Beijing, China, according to a directive issued on Tuesday evening.
But, this annual festival can be celebrated as usual in other places besides Phnom Penh Capital, underlined the directive signed by Premier Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, adding that civil servants, employees and workers still have three days off as usual.
Last year, the Water Festival was also canceled due to devastating floods.
(Edited for additional content)