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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ex-king Sihanouk returns to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's ailing former king Norodom Sihanouk returned home on Thursday from Beijing where he spent nearly three months receiving medical treatment.

Sihanouk and his wife, accompanied by their son King Norodom Sihamoni, were given a red-carpet welcome by family members, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials upon arrival at Phnom Penh airport.

A smiling Sihanouk, who will turn 89 on October 31, pressed his hands together in a traditional greeting to well-wishers before getting into a car that whisked him off to the royal palace.

"The health of his majesty has been good," Sihanouk's personal secretary Prince Sisowath Thomico told AFP, adding that the former monarch may stay in Cambodia for "many months" this time.

Sihanouk has suffered from a number of ailments in recent years, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

One of Asia's longest-serving monarchs, the revered king abruptly quit the throne in October 2004 in favour of his son, citing old age and health problems.

Despite abdicating, Sihanouk remains hugely popular and tens of thousands of Cambodians are expected to flock to the palace on Sunday to mark the 20th anniversary of his return to the country from exile after years of civil war.

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