PHNOM PENH, (Xinhua) — Cambodia cremated the body of ex- ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) chief and senate president Chea Sim on Friday.
The cremation was held at the Wat Botum park, just south of the capital’s Royal Palace in an elaborate Buddhist ceremony.
Chea Sim’s body was moved from his home to the cremation site in a 3-km procession attended by more than 30,000 people, including Buddhist monks, senior officials, civil servants, armed forces, residents, and students.
The somber event was live televised on all local television channels. Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, newly-elected Senate President Say Chhum, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen were seen bidding their final farewell to the late leader at the cremation site.
After 108 Buddhist monks chanted in a religious language, and all participating leaders and foreign diplomats paid their last respects and laid flowers nearby the golden casket bearing Chea Sim’s body. King Norodom Sihamoni lit the funeral flame.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the event that the cremation was a farewell ceremony, organized in accordance with the Khmer tradition and custom.
“The passing of Samdech Chea Sim is a loss of the top leadership dignitary of the nation, people and the CPP,” he said. “Throughout his life, Samdech Chea Sim had been struggling for national independence and especially overcoming every obstacle for national salvation, building peace, national reconciliation, defending, rehabilitation and development of Cambodian motherland. ”
The country has set Friday as the official mourning day for the late leader, decreeing that flags be flown at one-third below the top of the mast and that television stations suspend broadcasting joyful spectacles.
On Tuesday, Hun Sen issued a directive, allowing all civil servants and members of the armed forces to take a day-off on Friday in order to pay tribute to Chea Sim.
Chea Sim died on June 8 at the age of 83 after he suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments for years.
He was the president of the National Assembly between 1981 and 1993, and became the president of CPP in 1991.
He also served as the president of the Senate from 1999 until his death.