Thursday, February 7, 2013

Funeral of Sihanouk: Day 7, the end

This morning urns containing the ashes of the late King Father Sihanouk were returned from the Veal Preah Man crematorium to the Royal Palace via an elaborate procession, the King and Queen Mother in attendance, the ashes borne by a the same Hang Bird hearse that carried the King Father's coffin when he was returned from China 3 months ago. Though there have been reports that the ashes are to be placed in the 'Kantha Bopha Stupa' at the Silver Pagoda per the late King Father's wishes, this has not yet been confirmed. The procession of the ashes to the Palace was the final public act of the funeral, effectively bringing to a close the week long funeral and mourning period.

By midday, most of the streets in the Palace area that had been shut for several days were reopened or at least partially opened with most of the orange and white barricades removed. (Sothearos Blvd in front of the Palace remained closed, but has been for almost a year now, somewhat inexplicably and unrelated to the death of the King Father.) Motor traffic flowed freely on Sisowath Quay, Street 240, Street 214 and Street 19 and though the roads around Veal Preah Man were still mostly blocked to motor traffic, pedestrians were able to move unimpeded through the area.

All of the offering tables in front of the Royal Palace are now gone, only a line of incense bowls filled with spent joss sticks remain. By late afternoon workers were collecting the piles of dead offering flowers from the front of the Palace into hand carts and hauling them away, leaving a trail of rotting brown lotus buds and stems along Sothearos. The Palace guards were out of their dress whites and back in  khaki. Black ribbons, funerary pendents and Sihanouk posters will still on sale from street vendors, but the number of vendors was less than half of the day before. A few mourners linger in the area, but the crowds are gone, back to ordinary life, many presumably returning to the countryside from whence they came. At 5PM a couple of dozen mourners still stood at front (east) gate of Veal Preah Man, and perhaps a dozen more at the north gate. When I passed around sunset, the Palace park, which has been the center of mourning activity for the last 3+ months, was all but empty of mourners, only two old ladies quietly paying their final respects.

The funeral complete, table talk is now turning quickly to Chinese New Year, Cambodia's most popular unofficial holiday, coming up on the 10th.

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