King Norodom Sihanouk's body returns to Cambodia

Cambodian people pray as the convoy transporting the coffin of late former king Norodom Sihanouk passes by in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on October 17, 2012. Tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets of the Cambodian capital on October 17 to pay their last respects to revered former king Norodom Sihanouk on his final journey home from China.
Credit: Nicolas Asfouri

King Norodom Sihanouk's body made its final journey home to Cambodia Wednesday, where the late leader will be mourned for a week and lie in state at his palace for three months.

King Sihanouk, 89, died in China on Monday of a heart attack. His body was flown back to Phnom Penh accompanied by his widow Queen Monique and their son King Norodom Sihamoni, and landed at 3:30 p.m. local time to begin the official week of mourning, BBC News reported

The monarch's body was greeted at Phnom Penh International Airport by 90 Buddhist monks who were chanting prayers in a traditional ceremony, before being transported to the palace on a swan-shaped vehicle, Xinhua reported

Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians, dressed in white shirts with black ribbons, lined the streets to welcome back the monarch, who was known and revered for his activist role in Cambodia's often troubled post-independence politics. 

More from GlobalPost: Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk dead at 89 (PHOTOS)

"I hope to see the royal body, I want to see his face one last time," Mean Pichavisa, 16, as he sat outside the palace cutting up black ribbons for his school friends to pin to their white shirts in the Cambodian symbol of mourning, Agence France Presse reported. "I will remember this day until I die." 

“He had such charisma,” Prince Sisowath Thomico, King Sihanouk’s longtime private secretary and nephew, told the New York Times at the Royal Palace. “And now there will be a kind of hiatus. The people of Cambodia will have to wait for the next person who will have that same moral authority.”

The King will eventually be cremated after a lavish funeral, according to BBC. 

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