Although I have been to Cambodia several times, this time was definitely the most impressive. On October 15, I was woken by an early morning phone call from one of my Cambodian friends. He told me that former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk had just died in Beijing. My colleagues and I immediately headed to Phnom Penh.
The whole of Cambodia has fallen into deep sorrow. In front of the Royal Palace, hundreds of thousands of people, dressed in black and white, came to mourn the former king.
On October 17, more than 100,000 Cambodians lined the route from the airport to the Royal Palace, for the return of Sihanouk's body. It reminded me of a similar scene in January 1976, when China's then premier Zhou Enlai died in Beijing.
The public is worried whether the good Sino-Cambodian relationship built by Sihanouk will be shifted by his death. In my opinion, the relationship between the two countries is at a high point, and will get better in future.
Sihanouk abdicated in 2004. As he spent most of his old age in China, his influence on Cambodian politics was limited. However, the good relationship built by Sihanouk has deeply influenced the Cambodian public.
Ethnic Chinese in Cambodia only account for 5 percent of the total population, but they control 80 percent of the country's economy. In the current Cambodian government, more than half the cabinet ministers are ethnic Chinese. These people are believed to play a positive role in maintaining the friendship with China.
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