LOWELL – On Saturday morning, the City of Lowell will join with out brothers and sisters in Cambodia in mourning former King Norodom Sihanouk, who died early Monday morning at the age of 89.
At the request of City Councilor Vesna Nuon, the Cambodian flag will be raised to half-staff following a 9:30 a.m. ceremony in front of City Hall. All are encouraged to attend.
Sihanouk was named King by the French rulers of Cambodia in 1941. He was chosen over other members of the royal family who were in line before him to succeed his grandfather as king, because the French thought they could control the 18-year-old prince.
They were wrong.
He spearheaded the movement for Cambodian independence, which was achieved in 1953.
The King abdicated the throne in 1955 to enter politics, serving as the nation’s prime minister and foreign minister.
An eccentric man of many interests, Sihanouk married six times and had 14 children; he was a saxophone player who led his own jazz band, started a palace soccer team, sang love songs at state dinners, brought his French poodle to peace talks, and wrote a blog in recent years.
He founded the Non-Aligned Movement, but was unsuccessful in his attempts to keep his country out of Cold War hostilities.
He was both a beloved and controversial figure in Cambodia, having forged an alliance with the brutal Khmer Rouge in the 1970s in an effort to prevent the Communist Vietnamese from taking over the nation.
He was later taken captive by the Khmer Rouge and placed under house arrest. He lost five of his children and 15 grandchildren to the Pol Pot-led genocide that killed an estimated 2 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979.
In 1993, he was again coronated as King, a position he abdicated due to failing health in 2004. His son, Norodom Sihamoni, took his place.He died on Monday of a heart attack in Beijing, where he had been undergoing treatment for several ailments since January.
His body is expected to be returned to Cambodia on Wednesday and a week of national mourning will commence. In accordance with Buddhist tradition, a cremation ceremony will be held in three months.