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Former Cambodian King's Body Arrives in Phnom Penh

The casket containing the body of Cambodia's late King Norodom Sihanouk is carried by a flotilla of legendary phoenix in the procession on the street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 17, 2012.
The body of former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk arrived Wednesday in Phnom Penh, where thousands of people have lined the streets to pay their respects.

King Sihanouk's body arrived in the Cambodian capital by plane from Beijing, where he died Monday of a heart attack at the age of 89 following a long battle with cancer.

Crowds of tearful mourners have gathered at the royal palace to welcome the ex-king's final homecoming and get a glimpse of his coffin. His body will lie in state at the palace for three months before a funeral and traditional Buddhist cremation are held.

The highly revered King Sihanouk, known as "King-Father" to many Cambodians, came to the throne in 1941 and ruled Cambodia off and on for more than 60 years.

The Cambodia government has announced a week-long mourning period for the king beginning on Wednesday. The Cambodian national flag will fly at half-mast and all entertainment has been prohibited.

Monk Try Piseth, 32, told VOA Khmer the former king's death is a major blow.

“What he did was purely for the nation and religion, and I am so deeply sorry to lose him. I am so speechless and cannot do much but to wish him rest in peace," the monk said.

Sihanouk was heralded for bringing his ancient kingdom through independence from France, war and genocide to form a fragile democracy. But Sihanouk's name is also still soiled from his association with the Khmer Rouge movement, blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million Cambodians.

Sihanouk abdicated the throne to his son, Norodom Sihamoni, in 2004 citing old age and health concerns.