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Phnom Penh -
Cambodia on Thursday wrapped up a week-long funeral for its revered former King Norodom Sihanouk with a procession to return the cremated remains of the colourful ex-monarch to the royal palace.
After chanting by 90 Buddhist monks, two diamond-studded gold urns and one marble urn containing the remains were transported atop a golden float shaped like a mythological bird from the crematorium to the palace.
“This is to honour his majesty who is the greatest hero of Cambodia,” Sihanouk's long-time personal assistant Prince Sisowath Thomico told AFP.
The rest of the remains had been lowered into the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Tonle Bassac rivers in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.
Sihanouk's widow Monique and his son King Norodom Sihamoni travelled on the float with the urns during a televised procession attended by senior government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The urns will be kept in a stupa inside the palace, where before his death Sihanouk had asked to be placed with his favourite daughter, Kantha Bopha, who died aged three.
Sihanouk died of a heart attack in Beijing in October, aged 89.
After lying in state for three months, his embalmed body was cremated on Monday after several days of lavish ceremonies including an elaborate procession through the streets of Phnom Penh that drew crowds of mourners.
A father of 14 children over six marriages, Sihanouk abdicated in 2004 after steering Cambodia through six decades marked by independence from France, civil war, the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, his own exile 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. - Sapa-AFP