29/10/2004 14:52 - (SA)
King Norodom Sihamoni accepts religious gifts at his official coronation ceremony in Phnom Penh. (Andy Eames, AP)
Phnom Penh - Former ballet dancer Norodom Sihamoni was formally crowned as Cambodia's new king on Friday in a lavish ceremony at the Royal Palace.
"I swear to abide by the constitution and laws of the kingdom and am committed to serve the interests of the state and the people," Sihamoni said as he stood before the throne.
He repeated the oath three times, and bowed after finishing the sentence each time.
Sihamoni, whose formal ascension to the throne came two weeks after he was selected by a panel of political and religious leaders, was brought to the palace on an ornate golden litter carried by eight bearers.
He was accompanied by royal guards and musicians playing ceremonial music, while other royal officials carried a golden crown, robe and sword that were used in the ceremony.
The ceremony formally enthroned the new monarch, who replaces his father Norodom Sihanouk, who abdicated three weeks ago.
Sihamoni, a former professional dancer, cultural ambassador and political novice, is the country's first new monarch in half a century.
The procession entirely within the palace grounds went from the golden-hued Khemarin Palace, where the king resides, to the throne hall, where the monarch conducts official affairs.
More than 200 dignitaries attended the functions, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Sihamoni's half brother.
Some 52 Buddhist monks one for each year of the king's life according to the traditional Cambodian zodiac chanted blessings. By the Western calendar, he is 51 years old.
Temples across the country were expected to fill with people offering prayers for the new king.
Sihanouk led his country through wars, revolution and the building of a shaky democracy since he was first put on the throne by the French in 1941, and attained godlike status for many Cambodians.
Sihamoni pays respect to past kings
Earlier on Friday, Sihamoni paid respect to past kings and divine spirits guarding the throne to ask for their blessings.
In a ritual bathing ceremony, monks and Sihamoni's parents, Sihanouk and former Queen Monineath, poured water culled from the Kulen Mountains on the new king to wash away his impurities, and increase his prestige and power.
Stones from the Kulen Mountains, just north of Siem Reap, were used to build the ancient temples of Angkor, Cambodia's best-known landmark. The area's water is considered especially pure.
During the ceremony, Monineath gently patted the back of her son's head and gave him a kiss. His half brother, Ranariddh, held his hand as he walked him to the royal bath.
Sihanouk wished his son who wore loosely fitting light golden-coloured ceremonial garments, "great success and prestige" in his role as monarch.
"May also peace, happiness and prosperity prevail for the Cambodian nation and people under King Norodom Sihamoni," he said.
Edited by Andiswa Mesatywa