At least 2,000 monks from across Phnom Penh gathered in front of the Royal Palace on Saturday afternoon to pay their respects to the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk as foreign dignitaries from across Asia continued to arrive in the city to do the same.
“They came from nine districts in Phnom Penh to pray for the King Father’s seven-day ceremony,” said Khim Sorn, deputy chief monk of the Mohanikaya Buddhist sect in Phnom Penh.
He said that between 2,000 and 3,000 monks had gathered in front of the Royal Palace between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. for prayer and a 20-minute silence. Just before the prayer, about 1,000 of them conducted a procession around the nearby National Museum.
Prince Sisowath Thomico, the late King Father’s cabinet chief, said the seven-day ceremony, a Buddhist tradition observed one week after a person’s death, was a modest affair.
“A very simple Buddhist prayer and that’s it, and offerings to the monks; 21 monks. It was just among the family,” he said.
Prince Thomico said he did not know when the general public would be allowed into the grounds of the Royal Palace to view the late King Father, but added that groups of government officials were scheduled to view the body beginning today with a member of the Royal Family to greet each one.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Cambodians continued to gather yesterday outside the palace gates, where they lit candles in the shadow of a giant portrait of Norodom Sihanouk.
Foreign dignitaries made their way to the Royal Palace as well. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, vice chairman of North Korea’s Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Yang Hyong-sop and Burmese Vice President Sai Mauk Kham all paid their respects and later met with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Eang Sophalleth, an assistant to the prime minister, told reporters that Mr. Lee expressed his thanks for the King’s swift recognition of Singapore’s independence in 1965. Mr. Hyong-sop said North Korea—where Norodom Sihanouk lived in exile for many years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge as a personal guest of Kim Il Sung—would declare Tuesday a national day of condolence for the late King Father, Mr. Sophalleth added.
Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa is expected to arrive to pay tribute to the late King today.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers and Zsombor Peter)