Civil servants and Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) supporters gathered to eat Khmer noodles throughout the country on Sunday in a show of “Solidarity with Peaceful Samdech [Hun Sen]”, while activists of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) also joined in, hoping to restore the political situation to normal.
The show of national unity came at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen last Monday.
“I hope that through the noodle movement for national solidarity and national unity, we will eliminate smearing and promote a movement for consuming Khmer goods,” the prime minister said.
Oeur Siphon, Prek Ta Sek commune chief in the capital’s Chroy Changvar district, told The Post on Sunday that he had sounded a trumpet and announced to people of all political tendencies in the commune to assemble to eat Khmer noodles that had been prepared at a pagoda and in two villages.
The noodles were provided by generous commune and district councillors and CPP working groups, Siphon said.
“We are following Samdech’s [Hun Sen’s] request. He asked us to prepare this simple dish and gather together for fun. CNRP supporters gathered to eat Khmer noodles as a political statement, but our grassroots CPP supporters are only doing this to have a good time,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the party’s supporters gathered at schools, pagodas, factories, businesses and other places across the country as a show of unity among Cambodian people and especially to show solidarity with the CPP.
“The CPP members comprise as many as 70 per cent of eligible voters. So even though this is within the CPP’s circle, it embodies the unity of the whole nation,” Eysan said.
On Sunday, Hun Sen posted pictures on his Facebook page of people eating Khmer noodles at pagodas, mosques and the CPP headquarters, noting the food’s health benefits.
He called on people to promote other Khmer dishes in order to minimise the importing of unhealthy alternatives.
“Buddhist brothers and sisters and Muslim brothers and sisters, as well as those of other religions . . . we eat Khmer noodles together to tighten our friendship, solidarity, love and fellowship."
“Eating Khmer noodles shows we love one another and are friends in a great Cambodian family, irrespective of religious beliefs and political affiliation,” he wrote.
The supporters of the former opposition party also joined to eat Khmer noodles, as called on by CNRP “acting President” Sam Rainsy.
The CNRP’s Mao Phally, Phnom Srok district’s former Ponlei commune chief in Banteay Meanchey province, told The Post that some 100 party activists in his commune had gathered to eat Khmer noodles and invited monks to lunch.
Phally said CPP activists had failed to call them to join at their gatherings, despite Hun Sen’s instructions.
However, he hoped that the gatherings were a sign that the political situation would soon return to normal and that former CNRP president Kem Sokha would be released and the party reinstated.
“Eating Khmer noodles is a good sign and I hope both parties can come together in a similar way. Eating Khmer noodles together is a sign of national unity,” Phally said.
Political analyst Em Sovannara said Sunday’s gatherings were a positive move that would lessen the hatred between the two parties.
But he said that if the ruling party continued to copy events organised by the CNRP – such as the CNRP eating dumplings on July 7 – then the ruling party would help the CNRP to resurrect itself.
“Even though it is not a formal thing, it seems like the ruling party is trying to compete with the CNRP’s activities,” Sovannara said.
He stressed that the current political situation would not be eased by these latest events, because Hun Sen had initiated further legal proceedings against Rainsy in a French court.