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Lavish procession to enshrine Cambodian ex-king

PHNOM PENH - Cambodians lined the streets of Phnom Penh Friday as the remains of former king Norodom Sihanouk were transported through the capital atop a golden float shaped like a mythological bird for his enshrinement.

Thousands of people in mourning dress turned out to bid a final farewell to the revered ex-monarch, who died of a heart attack in Beijing in October 2012 aged 89.

After chanting by 90 Buddhist monks and a 101-gun salute, two diamond-studded gold urns and one marble urn containing the remains were borne through the capital in an elaborate procession.

Members of the royal family, dressed in white, rode in a car shaped like a three-headed dragon.

In line with Sihanouk's wishes, the urns will be placed in a stupa in the Silver Pagoda inside the royal palace on Saturday alongside the remains of his favourite daughter Kantha Bopha who died aged three.

The charismatic former monarch steered his country through turbulent decades of war, the murderous Khmer Rouge regime and finally peace.

Many elderly Cambodians credit him with overseeing a rare period of political stability in the 1950s and 1960s, following independence, until the Khmer Rouge emerged in the 1970s.

"I pray for his soul and power to help look after us forever. He was a very good king for all of us," said Chab Sean, 63.

Sihanouk's embalmed body lay in state in Cambodia for three months before his cremation in February last year following a week of lavish ceremonies.

Some of his remains were lowered into the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Tonle Bassac rivers in the capital.

More than 20,000 people, including government officials, attended Friday's procession, according to Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche.

On Thursday, thousands of saffron-robed monks had offered prayers outside the palace to mark the start of the three days of ceremonies.

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Photographers take pictures as military personnel shoot gun salutes to pay tribute to the late former King Norodom Sihanouk, in front of Royal Palace during a three-day Buddhist ceremony, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 11.

(AP)

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