Former king of Cambodia dies


Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who remained an influential figure in his country’s politics through half a century of war, genocide and upheaval, has died at the age of 89.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said  Sihanouk died early today of natural causes in Beijing, where he had travelled for medical treatment earlier this year.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, a royal family member who was also  Sihanouk’s assistant, said the former king suffered a heart attack at a Beijing hospital.

“His death was a great loss to Cambodia,” the prince said, adding  Sihanouk dedicated his life “for the sake of his entire nation, country and for the Cambodia people”.

Sihanouk was a key figure in Cambodian politics for six decades but abdicated in 2004, citing poor health, and was succeeded by a son, Norodom Sihamoni.

The former king had been in China since January, and suffered a variety of illnesses including colon cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

Mr Kanharith said arrangements were being made to repatriate the body for an official 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 at the country’s Royal Palace.

Sihanouk saw Cambodia reel from colony to kingdom, US-backed regime to Khmer Rouge killing field and foreign-occupied land to guerrilla war zone - and finally to a fragile experiment with democracy.

He was a feudal-style monarch beloved by his people, but he was seldom able to deliver the stability they craved through decades of violence.


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