Remains of late Cambodian king head for home
BEIJING – A convoy bearing the body of late Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk departed on Wednesday from the Beijing hospital where he passed away this week en route back to his homeland.
The convoy of about 20 vehicles pulled out of Beijing Hospital, in a central district of the capital, including a bus decorated with yellow ribbons and flowers in which a coffin could clearly be seen, an AFP reporter witnessed.
Chinese state television subsequently followed the procession in live footage showing the convoy heading to Beijing's airport on highways cleared to allow for its passage.
Sihanouk, who steered his country through turbulent decades of war, genocide and finally peace, died of a heart attack in Beijing on Monday. He was 89.
His corpse is set to be brought back to his homeland on Wednesday and will lie in state at the royal palace in Phnom Penh for three months before an elaborate funeral, according to the government. Sihanouk, who was close to Chinese revolutionary leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, fled to China amid the chaos that frequently gripped his country and spent increasing amounts of time in the country as his health failed.
The former king, who had battled illnesses including cancer, diabetes and heart problems in his later years, remained a staunch supporter of China. He saw it as a "second home" and spent much of his time in the country, accompanied by his devoted sixth wife Monique.
His son and current king Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen had both arrived in Beijing earlier to collect the body.
Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo, who is considered China's top official on foreign relations will escort the remains back home, state-run Xinhua news agency said.
Chinese state media published photos showing flags at Tiananmen Square had been lowered to half-mast in honour of Sihanouk.AFP