The father of Cambodian independence, former monarch Norodom Sihanouk, was cremated Monday in Phnom Penh in the presence of international heads of state and government, while tens of thousands of his countrymen turned out to bid him farewell.

His widow, Queen Monique, and reigning King Norodom Sihamoni presided at the formal events beside his funeral pyre in a temple-like, 15-story high crematorium in a nationally televised ceremony.

Sihanouk died last Oct. 15 at age 89 of a heart attack in a hospital in Beijing, where he had spent long periods receiving medical treatment, and his embalmed body has lain in state for more than three months in the Royal Palace.

Sihanouk was a key figure during one of the most convulsive periods in Cambodian history.

He was crowned king for the first time in 1941 at the age of 18 and from the throne he led Cambodia to independence from France in 1953.

Two years later, he abdicated to devote himself to politics, becoming prime minister and later head of state with the title of prince rather than king.

In 1970, he was deposed in a U.S.-backed coup and allied himself with the Khmer Rouge, although he was placed under house arrest when Pol Pot's revolutionaries came to power in 1975.

After the Vietnamese invasion and the expulsion of the Khmer Rouge four years later, Sihanouk lived in exile in North Korea and in China until he was once again proclaimed king in 1993.

In 2004, he abdicated in favor of his son Norodom Sihamoni and made his official residence in the northwestern city of Siem Reap. EFE