In scenes reminiscent of the days following the death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk in October 2012, hundreds of monks sat reverently in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Thursday as the three-day ceremony to inter the monarch’s ashes began in earnest.
About 3,600 monks were invited from around the country to receive alms and offer blessings in the morning, as palace officials made preparations to parade the ashes around the city today.
In the evening, about 1,000 monks and nuns gathered in front of the palace again to pray and light candles.
CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha and other opposition party officials joined the ceremony midway.
Speaking by telephone earlier in the day, Mr. Sokha said he and his colleagues had received official invitations to the proceedings from the National Committee for Organizing National and International Festivals and went to pay their respects at the statue of the late king.
“This morning, our 25 officials, who represent the 25 municipalities and provinces, went to respect the late king’s statue,” he said.
“We are going to participate in the ceremonies as members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, but not as lawmakers because we were not sworn in to the National Assembly,” he said, referring to his party’s ongoing boycott of parliament in protest over the official results of last year’s national election.
Unlike the days following King Father Sihanouk’s death and those a few months later in the lead-up to and during his elaborate funeral, attendance by members of the public was sparse Thursday.
Kong Van, a 79-year-old woman from Phnom Penh, said she wanted to make an offering of food and drink to the clergymen and women.
“I am happy and excited that I can join this ceremony, because I loved the King Father,” she said. “We were very sad when the king died. There is nothing we can compare it to.”
Mam Neang, an adviser to the Ministry of Cults and Religions, said the ashes will today be marched from the palace, along Street 184 to Norodom Boulevard, and along Preah Sihanouk and Sothearos boulevards, before returning to the palace.