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Second Mourning Period for ‘King Father’ To Begin in February

Cambodian Buddhist monks chant, offering prayers in front of the Royal Palace for the late King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. The body of Cambodia's late King Sihanouk returned to his homeland Wednesday, welcomed by hundreds of thousands of mourners who packed tree-lined roads in the Southeast Asian nation's capital ahead of the royal funeral. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
PHNOM PENH - Mourning for the former king, Norodom Sihanouk, who died in Beijing in October, will take place between Feb. 1 and Feb. 7, as Cambodians prepare for the cremation of a man they called “King Father.”

The mourning period includes the closing of government ministries and public institutions, two days off for civil servants and requests from broadcast media not to show comedies or other light-hearted fare.

Sihanouk, who abdicated the throne in 2004, after ruling over some of Cambodia’s most tumultuous years, died of a heart attack in Beijing on Oct. 15, two weeks shy of his 90th birthday. His cremation will take place on Feb. 4.

More than 20 members of the royal family have shaved their heads in his honor.

“I have shaved my hair to show my respect for the King Father,” Prince Sisowath Thomico said.

Sihanouk was revered by many Cambodians, despite criticism of his policies in academic circles and a mixed legacy of his rule, from prince to prime minister to king. He brought Cambodia through independence from France, was ousted in a US-backed coup in 1970, and helped bolster the ranks of the Khmer Rouge by calling on people to join them to reinstate him on the throne.

He was put under house arrest once the Khmer Rouge came to power, was reinstated after their ouster, and was a major political figure during decades of civil strife that ended in 1991.

He was succeeded in 2004 by his son, King Norodom Sihamoni, who has eschewed the political role his father reveled in.