Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who was never far from the centre of his country's politics through a half-century of war, genocide and upheaval, has died. He was 89.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Sihanouk died of natural causes early Monday in Beijing, where he had travelled for medical treatment.

Sihanouk saw Cambodia reel from colony to kingdom, U.S.-backed regime to Khmer Rouge killing field and foreign-occupied land to guerrilla war zone — and finally to a fragile experiment with democracy.

Sihanouk was a feudal-style monarch beloved by his people. But he was seldom able to deliver the stability they craved through decades of violence.

He abdicated the throne in favor of his son Norodom Sihamoni in 2004.