On the 15th of October 2012, King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia died. According to Buddhist tradition the three months following a death, offerings and prayers are made weekly until the day of cremation, which is a massive and luxurious ceremony. During the day, the emotions of the people is palpable. Cambodians come from all over the
country, dressed in black and white to attend the official parades on the big boulevards of Phnom Penh. Mourners dressed in costumes, with traditional music playing, and apsarah (traditional
dancers) dancing, animates the processions.
In the evening, in front of the Palace, the Khmers come to light incense while monks recite their prayers.
Most expatriates take off for a few days before the final ceremony, as bars were mostly closed, and music wasn’t allowed and expressions of festivity are inopportune.
The day of the cremation, the perimeter of the Royal Palace was completely closed to the mourners, in spite of the influx of Cambodians that have come from all over the country to pay their respect for their beloved King.
The international press mass together and some people living in the district – that are allowed to stay – try to catch a shot, to see King Norodom in vain. Only the King’s family assisted with the cremation.
It was one of the most moving moments I’ve experienced. The unity of the people with the loss of their King for whom they have an infinite recognition was breathtaking.
I will never forget when a young monk jumped the barriers surrounding the Palace, to lean on the shoulder of a policeman. More monks followed and then the whole crowd. No more resistance, all walking peacefully in the direction of the Palace.
Inès Prévot is a photographer based in Paris, France.