Phnom Penh calls for calm on journo's misstep
- Published: 18/10/2012 at 07:52 PM
- Online news:
The Cambodian government has called for restraint from its people in the wake of an incident in which a Channel 3 reporter appeared to stand on photos of Norodom Sihanouk, the deceased former king of Cambodia.
The Cambodian Prime Minister's Office said in a statement released on Thursday that all Cambodian people should avoid ill-intentioned attempts by some political groups to use the case to stir instability in the country and rifts with neighbouring countries.
A picture of Thapanee Eadsrichai appearing to stand over photos of the late royal drew criticism from both Cambodians and Thais. The Cambodian government warned that some groups are circulating the photo to mobilise public support to damage relations between the Thai and Cambodian people.
The journalist and Channel 3, the station which runs the news programmes, quickly apologised for the incident. Ms Thapanee said she had no intention of showing disrespect to the late king.
Meanwhile, Chinese experts are helping with the process, which is expected to be similar to the one used to preserve the body of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in the 1970s, according to King Sihanouk's assistant Prince Sisowath Thomico.
"Now the doctors, the scientists are just preparing the body of the king to preserve it," Prince Thomico said.
Hundreds of thousands of mourners packed the streets of Phnom Penh on Wednesday to witness King Sihanouk's final journey home from Beijing where he died on Monday of a heart attack aged 89.
Throughout the months that King Sihanouk's body will be on view at the palace before it is cremated, groups of relatives will take turns to sit with him, ensuring that the late royal is never alone, according to his aide.
"According to our tradition, members of the royal family will guard the body for 24 hours a day," Prince Thomico said, adding that the same custom was followed in 1960 when King Sihanouk's father King Norodom Suramarit passed away.
A Cambodian nun cries as she prays for the late former King Norodom Sihanouk in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. (Photo by AFP)
Grieving Cambodians have been flocking to a park outside the royal residence since Monday to pay tribute to the popular former monarch with flowers, candles and incense sticks.
Street vendors were doing brisk business selling freshly printed photos of King Sihanouk's homecoming procession and t-shirts emblazoned with his portrait.
King Sihanouk, who abdicated in 2004 citing old age and ill health, is fondly remembered for leading the country to independence from France and through a rare period of political stability in the 1950s and 1960s.
But he was also a shrewd political survivor who repeatedly backed different regimes, including the murderous Khmer Rouge whose 1975-1979 reign left up to two million people dead, including five of King Sihanouk's 14 children.
After ascending the throne for a second time in 1993 - he first abdicated in 1955 to play a larger role in politics - his influence waned as Prime Minister Hun Sen extended his grip on power.
The strongman premier, who has been in office since 1985, vowed to safeguard the royal institution when he paid his respects to King Sihanouk's body when it was on view at Beijing Hospital on Wednesday before being transported to Phnom Penh.
"I will protect the throne, protect the monarchy, protect the queen-mother and the king," the premier said in images later shown on state television.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy meanwhile has written to Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni to ask for a special "intervention" allowing him to return to "see the face of the hero-king for the last time", according to copies of the letters that were released by his aides.
The politician lives in France to avoid 11 years of jail time for a string of convictions that critics contend are politically motivated.
About the author
Writer: Bangkok Post and AFP