Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mourners, Monks and Nuns

Today was Day 17 since the death of King Father Sihanouk. It would have been his 91st birthday (as Cambodians count birthdays,) his 90th as westerners count. In the late afternoon thousand of monks, nuns and mourners arrived for a mass ceremony in front of the Palace...




VOA: Authorities Consider Public Palace Viewing of ‘King Father’

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Death of Sihanouk: Day 16

Brief update, notes.

Mourning continues at the front of the Royal Palace. There are never less than dozens of mourners present, usually hundreds, particularly in the evenings. Last weekend there were thousands all day. More people seem to be arriving in large groups now, often trucked or bussed in from the countryside. As before, people sit in groups in the road opposite the King Father's portrait to mourn and pray, they make flower offerings at the front of the Palace and incense offerings at the urns on the park sidewalk, some sign the visitor books and take photos of themselves in front of the Palace. A large LED screen showing scenes of the funerary proceedings and a placard with an image of the King Father's coffin have recently been affixed to the face of the Place Pavilion.

There are fewer journalists this week and more tourists and beggars about. Security and crowd control is a little tighter and more organized. Away from the mourners the atmosphere feels a bit more mercenary now. Street kids are working the candle tables. There has been a noticeable increase in vendors, most selling lotus flowers, incense, portrait pins, Sihanouk photos and snacks. At least a dozen child vendors are hawking portrait pins in front of the Palace, some in the same pestering manner they work the tourist districts, for example, putting their wares in front of your camera when you are trying to take a photo (see above.)

Several streets around the Palace were closed again today, snarling traffic once again.

Tomorrow, October 31, would be the King Father's 91st (90th) Birthday.

Phnom Penh Post: A cremation fit for a King
Phnom Penh Post: A cremation fit for a King
Phnom Penh Post: Statue of Sihanouk set for Dragon Park

'Norodom Sihanouk - A Rock Star King' by Kevin Barrington
(An inspired response to the Gourevitch piece in The New Yorker - 'The Fantasy of King Sihanouk')

'Bill Moyers, Prince Sihanouk (and Me)' by Michael Winship

Cambodian Reflections: Local Specifics and Global Concerns by Brian Stoddart

Royal Palace Pavilion, 3:30PM, October 30, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sihanouk Photos

Photo vendor at the Royal Palace

To date, photos of Sihanouk have been one of the few available mementos of King Father Sihanouk's passing. (Portrait pins and commemorative t-shirts are also available.) I noticed the first vendors selling Sihanouk photos in front of the Palace on the evening of Day 3, the day of Sihanouk's return, offering a selection of just 3 or 4 different photos. Both the number of vendors and variety of photos have increased steadily since. As of this afternoon there were at least a couple of dozen photo vendors in front of the Palace and as many different photos. After the portrait shots, the family photos seem the most popular. I was quoted prices of 1000-2000 riel (US$0.25 - US$0.50) per photo, though 1000 riel seems to be the 'right price.' The follow is a selection of the memento photos that I bought from vendors at the Palace over the last few days.    

One of the most popular selling photos. Monineath, Sihamoni, Sihanouk (c.1970?)

Also a popular selling photo. Prince Ranariddh, Queen Mother Monineath, King Father Sihanouk, King Sihamoni, Princess Bopha Devi

Monineath, Sihanouk

King Sihanouk

King Norodom Sihanouk, Queen Norodom Monineath. Royal Ploughing Day, 1969.

King Father Sihanouk, King Sihamoni, Queen Mother Monineath. Coronation of Sihamoni, 2004.

King Norodom Sihanouk

King Norodom Sihanouk

Prime Minister Norodom Sihanouk

Queen Monineath, King Sihanouk

King Sihanouk

King Sihanouk

King Sihanouk

Sihanouk in Moon, October 21, 2012

Sihanouk in Moon over Palace, October 21, 2012

Sihanouk in Moon, October 21, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Death of Sihanouk: Day 11, Waiting

Mourners at the Victory Gate
Things seemed to be winding down in front of the Royal Palace today (25/10/12), at least when I visited the area mid-afternoon. Instead of usual thousands or hundreds of mourners crowding the street, there were only dozens. The kneeling rugs on the sidewalk opposite the Pavilion had been removed, the offering tables devoid of flowers and photos, the incense urns that had been so stuffed this week that they regularly burst into flames now contained only the red spines of spent joss sticks. Though some remained, many of the vendors selling Sihanouk photos, incense and candles and black ribbons had disappeared. Most of the streets around the Palace have been reopened and the tuk-tuks and motos had taken up their usual roadside spots. Pockets of mourners lingered - a small group sitting on the street in front of the Pavilion, a few at the remaining offering tables burning incense and signing the guestbooks, small family groups sitting in the park and under shade trees, and a constant cluster of mourners at the Victory Gate, loitering and talking, peering through the ironwork for any glimpse, some mourners seemingly waiting. Limited as it is, that gate offers the best view into the Palace area, facing the Throne Hall and across the gardens toward the Khemarin Palace. People want to get closer, to see the King Father to pay their last respects.

The King Father's body will reportedly lie in state for three months, and be available for public viewing part of that time, beginning perhaps as early as tomorrow according to the Phnom Penh Post

The park opposite the Royal Palace Pavilion
Sothearos Blvd in front of the Royal Palace.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Death of Sihanouk: Day 9, Prayer

Day 9 (23/10/12) since the death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia. And Day 7 - the final day - of the official week of mourning that began on October 17 when the late King Father was returned to Cambodia. Prayers in front of the Royal Palace this evening at about 6:00PM, led by thousands of monks (estimated number of monks vary at this point.) Though there have been hundreds, sometimes thousands of mourners in front of the Royal Palace ever since the death of the King Father, this is the largest turnout since the King Father's return to Cambodia on Day 3. Tens of thousands were in attendance.

Sorry for the shaky camera work and poor resolution. I was in the middle of a crowd holding an iPad above my head. I'm working on it and hope to have a sharper, steadier version up by tomorrow.

Cambodians gather by the thousands to honor fallen King on last day of official mourning period
Night Mourners in Cambodia – The Moon Effect

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sihanouk in the Moon

Moon on the night of October 21, 2012
Mourners gaze at the moon, front of Royal Palace, afternoon of October 22.
Last night (October 21) at around 8:00PM I received the first of several SMS's from friend saying that people were seeing "Sihanouk's face in the moon," and to "look up now." I was at home so I walked out to the street to get a better view and found several other people already out gazing at the moon. My neighbors stood in front of their house and a couple of passing motorcycles had stopped in the street. Everybody was staring skyward, pointing and talking. I looked up. The moon was clearly visible. It was almost at First Quarter (perhaps still a 49% waxing crescent.) Though high clouds obscured the view at times, the moon could be seen clearly for several minutes at a time. I looked at it for a good long while but couldn't see the face in the moon, at least not specifically Sihanouk's face. My neighbors, on the other hand, appeared quite convinced and stared in wonder. The guard across the street seemed far less persuaded, but didn't press his skepticism. Social media came absolutely alive with moon talk for hours after and again today. Many, many people saw it. Dozens of different photos of the moon were posted on Twitter, Facebook and internet forums, some obviously photoshopped to show Sihanouk's face. On internet, where people are less inhibited in expressing opinion, debates flashed, skeptics calling it mass hysteria and superstition, and some believers citing a lack of respect or even moral fault in those unable to see it.

Last night's moon is still a major topic of conversation today (October 22) amongst the mourners at the Palace. And as the moon was visible during the daytime today, people on the street were still craning their heads toward the moon in the hope of getting a glimpse of the King Father.

Today several of the photo vendors at the Royal Palace are selling photos of last night's moon alongside their regular selection of Sihanouk photos. All of the following photos were purchased from photo vendor in front of the Royal Palace.

 Photo sold by vendors in front of the Palace. Moon on the night on October 21, 2012.

Photo sold by vendors in front of the Palace. Moon on the night on October 21 with a superimposed image of Sihanouk.

Photo sold by vendors in front of the Palace. Moon on the night on October 21 with a superimposed image of Sihanouk.

Photo sold by vendors in front of the Palace, purportedly of the moon on the night on October 21, but the phase does not seem correct. The moon on the 21st was at First Quarter. The moon in this photo looks like a waxing gibbous. 

Photo sold by vendors in front of the Palace, purportedly of the moon over the Palace on the night on October 21, but the scale does not seem correct.