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Updated: October 15, 2012 08:50 IST

Former Cambodian king Sihanouk passes away

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Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk. File photo
AP
Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk. File photo

Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk died Monday in Beijing, the government said. He was 89.

Cambodia’s current monarch, Sihanouk’s son Norodom Sihamoni, was to travel to Beijing to collect the body, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said, citing old age as Sihanouk’s cause of death.

A funeral would be held in Cambodia, the minister said.

Sihanouk had received medical treatment for years in Beijing for cancer and other ailments.

The former king, who dominated politics in Cambodia for nearly 60 years, was born during French colonial rule and campaigned for his country’s 1953 independence, only to see it descend into war and rule by the 1975—79 Khmer Rouge regime, which killed an estimated 1.7 million to 2.2 million people.

He abdicated his throne in 2004 because of poor health.

Japan’s Kyodo News agency quoted Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay, who is also secretary general of royalist FUNCINPEC party, as saying that the cause of death was a heart attack.

China’s official Xinhua news agency cited the deputy prime minister as saying Sihanouk died of natural causes. “Because his heart is weak, his majesty continued to stay in Beijing for treatment since January this year,” Prince Sisowath Thomico, Sihanouk’s personal assistant, told Kyodo News.

The former monarch died as Cambodia marked its annual festival of the dead when families come together to remember their ancestors.

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