Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who was an influential figure throughout decades of violence, has died of a heart attack at the age of 89. He had been in poor health for several years.
Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Siahouk died in a Beijng hospital where he had been receiving medical treatment since earlier this year, The Guardian reports.
Sihanouk took power in 1941, and led Cambodia to become independent from France, BBC News reports.
Under his leadership, he also helped Cambodia survive the " murderous regime" of Pol Pot, Bloomberg reports.
Shianouk also broke off Cambodia's relation with the United States during the Vietnam war.
In 1970, he was ousted in a US backed coup by Prime Minister Lol Non, Bloomberg reports. As a result, Sihanouk sided with the Khmer Rouge, a group of communist resistance fighters, Bloomberg reports.
"His death was great loss to Cambodia," Prince Sisowath Thomico, Sihanouk's relative and assistant said, BBC News reports. "King Sihanouk did bot belong to his family, he belonged to Cambodia and to history."
David Chandler, a US diplomat who worked in Cambodia in the 1950s, described Sihanouk has a "mixed legacy," Bloomberg reports. Chandler now lectures at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. "His principles were self preservation and terrific patriotism," Chandler said. "He made people feel that they were worthwhile and their country was worthwhile.
Due to his poor health, after, six decades, Sihanouk abdicated in 2004 and was succeeded by his son, Norodom Sihamoni, The Guardian reports.
Sihanouk's body will be transported back to Cambodia for a funeral at the royal palace, BBC News reports. His son, King Sihamoni is flying to Beijing to take his father's body back home.
Back in January, Sihanouk requested to be cremated, which is common in Cambodian and Buddhist tradition, The Guardian reports. He asked that his ashes be put in a gold urn and placed in a stupa at the royal palace.
In addition to politics, Sihanouk was also a very talented musician and produced about 20 films, which were all about Cambodia, Bloomberg reports.
"I never thought of filmmaking as a simple amusement or artistic activity," Sihanouk wrote in 1995. "I wanted and still want to show my country its past and contemporary history, its culture, its people, and express my feelings regarding certain facets of our nation's life. The star of my films is never an actor. It is always Cambodia."