With garlands and trumpets, some 200 government officials paid their respects to the late King Norodom Sihanouk, who died three years ago in Beijing.
The number of participants marking the anniversary of the king’s death was fewer than in years past, with the royal family holding private ceremony inside the palace walls. Thousands took part in the ceremony outside the Royal Palace last year.
“Perhaps they have some financial problems,” said Por Vanna, a 78-year-old Phnom Penh resident who attended last year’s ceremonies. “If they do it outside, there would be more participation from people expressing their gratitude and remembrance of the love of their king.”
Meanwhile, a solemn military parade was held and as government officials paid their respects to a statue of the late king.
Minister of Culture Phoeung Sakana told reporters this was a good chance for her and her employees to express their deep thanks to the king for “building peace and national reconciliation, following decades of civil war.”
“Peace remains in Cambodia because of his achievements, and the descendants, the government, will maintain it,” she said.
However, she said, the late king will only be remembered if his achievements are good. These are not often broadcast for the people anymore, she said.
Norodom Sihanouk remains revered by many Cambodians as the monarch who moved the country through independence from France and development in the 1960s. He was ousted in a US-backed coup in 1970, after which he rallied his supporters to the Khmer Rouge, which took over in 1975, put him under house arrest, and began its brutal, brief reign. The king returned to Cambodia in 1991, following the Paris Peace Accords, marking the end of the country’s most violent years.
Prince Norodom Rannariddh, the king’s son and leader of the royalist Funcinpec party, said in an interview with VOA Khmer that Cambodia’s independence is owed to the late monarch.
“If you ask about influence, even though the king father has passed away, his influence still impacts all of us as Cambodians,” the prince said.
Norodom Ranariddh said he has sought to continue his father’s ideals in politics, but he has been unable to convince leaders of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to meet with him.
“If we can’t solve the national issues with two political parties, try to do with three parties, which may produce more results for the nation,” he said. “But don’t worry. I’m used to waiting, and I’m going to wait for it, until Cambodians unify, then we can solve these national issues. I’ll still wait.”