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Fireworks Kill 1 at Celebration for Cambodian King

  • Heng Reaksmey

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni (C) greets people from the Royal Palace during a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of his coronation, in Phnom Penh October 29, 2014.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni (C) greets people from the Royal Palace during a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of his coronation, in Phnom Penh October 29, 2014.

A fireworks accident in Cambodia has killed one person and injured at least seven others at a celebration marking the 10th anniversary of King Norodom Sihamoni's coronation.

The accident happened late Wednesday when firework canisters exploded, scattering metal pieces through a crowd. The incident is being investigated, but officials have said a technical problem is suspected.

Around 1,000 people, including government officials, students and civil servants, gathered in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Wednesday for the celebration.

The current king took the throne after his father, Norodom Sihanouk, abdicated in 2004. Members of the crowd held balloons, Cambodian flags or bouquets of flowers, as Sihamoni gave a speech that appealed for unity, peace and political stability.

Some analysts say the king has made some important decisions since his crowning, although he has fallen short of the historical fame, or infamy, of his father, who died in 2012.

“The king stays far away from politics, in accordance with the constitution,” said Sok Touch, dean of Khemarak University. “But the king plays a role for compromise in politics. The king is a shadow of the politicians, and he stays neutral.”

Using an expression common to many Cambodians, Kem Sokha, vice president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said the king continues to provide protection to his people, like “cool shade.”

King Sihamoni differs from the king of Thailand, however, in that he does not have business enterprises and exerts less power in politics, Sok Touch said.

Still, his supporters say he has been an important part of Cambodia’s national reconciliation.

Nhek Bun Chhay, secretary general of the royalist Funcipec party, says the king has maintained relations with world leaders and continues to care for the poor.

“And another important thing is to have maintained the existing peace and stability and other things over the past 10 years.”

Sok Khemara reported from Washington. This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.

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