Prime Minister Hun Sen clarified on Thursday that the creation of his rival Khmer noodle movement is not an attempt by the government to find a political solution with the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), as had been suggested by analysts.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony of medical students from the University of Puthisastra, Hun Sen said his recent encouragement for all people to eat Khmer noodles on Sunday was simply an attempt to unite citizens as Khmer noodles had been used to foster tension in recent weeks.
“Please don’t take what I said to be analysed outside the intention of eating Khmer noodles, as some people think that it is a step towards negotiations [with the CNRP]."
“Don’t be confused. I’m talking purely about Khmer noodles and solidarity; about national unity through the eating of Khmer noodles on June 9,” he said.
The Khmer noodle movement began when 35 members and supporters of the former CNRP in Battambang province were summoned by the local court for questioning for allegedly showing support for the party “acting president” Sam Rainsy while gathering to eat Khmer noodles.
They were accused of violating the Supreme Court ruling which saw the party dissolved in late 2017.
Other supporters and members have since gathered to eat Khmer noodles in a signal of defiance, calling them “patriotic Khmer noodles”.
Hun Sen also appealed to educational institutions, pagodas, churches, mosques and factories throughout the country to join in Sunday’s eating of Khmer noodles and told Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) members to be open to CNRP supporters if they call them to eat the popular dish.
Hun Sen also called for people to eat Khmer noodles frequently from now on, asking state institutions to prepare them for guests when they celebrate national or international events in order to promote Khmer food and culture.
“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.
The director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia Kin Phea said the creation of the Khmer noodle movement is not to show national solidarity and national unity but was a test of the number of supporters held by the CPP and the CNRP.
“I don’t think this [Hun Sen calling for people to eat Khmer noodles on Sunday] is quite necessary. Actually, there is no need for the CPP to test their political force with the former opposition as they have completely taken power through the July 2018 election."
“Citizens support the CPP in 100 per cent of the National Assembly seats,” he said.