Analysts have said that while recent calls by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy to their supporters to eat Khmer noodles together may ease the situation at the local level, relations between the long-standing political rivals were still tense.
Hun Sen on Monday told members of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to go into the community on Sunday and eat Khmer noodles with supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
On Tuesday, CNRP “acting president” Sam Rainsy appealed to his supporters on Facebook to eat noodles with “neighbours” happily and without fear.
“Please brothers, sisters, nephews, invite our neighbours to eat Khmer noodles together. If they invite us to eat with them, just go ahead happily in brotherhood because we all are Cambodian, one large family,” Rainsy wrote.
Hun Sen’s calls for his supporters to eat Khmer noodles drew public attention to the 35 CNRP members and supporters summoned for questioning by the Battambang provincial court for allegedly showing support for Rainsy while gathering for the popular dish.
Political analyst Em Sovannara said that Hun Sen and Rainsy’s recent words would ease the situation at the local level.
“It is good at the community level that both rival leaders have paved the way for their followers not to become extreme. It could make them open up their hearts to communicate with each other and work together. This is a good concept that will make local supporters not be at odds with each other,” he said.
Vengefulness, vindictiveness and hatred among rival supporters would be reduced, he added.
However, Hun Sen and Rainsy were still fierce rivals whose attacks had moved beyond the political into the personal, Sovannara said.
Rainsy was keeping up his offensive against Hun Sen by raising controversial topics.
On Sunday, he claimed without any substance that Hun Sen’s son-in-law Dy Vichea, with the support of Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, was looking for a chance to take revenge on the prime minister over the death of his father Hok Lundy in a 2008 helicopter crash.
The prime minister in response called Rainsy a “dog” and “the son of a national traitor”.
“We don’t see any improvement to the situation with the two leaders that could lead to talks between them. But their recent statements could make local-level supporters friendlier with each other."
“I think this is a positive development at the local level, but it is still tense with the top leadership,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said while one could only hope for the best, it would be wiser to stick to the old adage “seeing is believing” when it came to Cambodian politics. “Anything can happen out of the blue,” he said.
The spokesperson for the ruling CPP, Sok Eysan, said on Tuesday that eating noodles and showing support for the CNRP and Rainsy was illegal.
He said eating Khmer noodles in solidarity for the sake of peace and security was a common practice among Cambodian people.
“The rebel group hopes to eat noodles with the CPP, but there is no way out for the leader of the illegal rebel group. Don’t try sneaking in with the chance offered by the CPP. The CPP gives the green light only to former [CNRP] members and not leaders,” Eysan said.
Sin Rozeth, the former CNRP O’Char commune chief in Battambang province, said she had seen fewer customers at her Khmer noodle shop since receiving a court summons because people feared being accused of violating the Supreme Court verdict as she had.
“As a normal citizen, I am happy when I hear such words from the leader of the government. It also makes local CNRP members happy because in the past we have faced a lot of problems. Like at my noodle shop, staff and customers have received court summonses."
“If Hun Sen said this, we the summoned people feel better now, even if my business is worse off,” she said.