Gathering to eat Khmer noodles to discuss politics and democracy is good, but doing so to prepare for the return of a certain leader to incite a colour revolution is “illegal”, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Tuesday.
While presiding over the 12th Road Safety Week in Tbong Khmum province’s Ponhea Kraek district on Tuesday, Sar Kheng said some groups had gathered and discussed topics which could affect peace and stability in the Kingdom.
He referred to Sunday’s show of “national unity and solidarity” in which civil servants and Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) supporters gathered to eat Khmer noodles throughout the country, as had been encouraged by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week.
“Some people took advantage of the gathering to have meetings. There were two kinds of meetings – the first one is to prepare for the upcoming 2022 and 2023 elections. Such meetings are fine because it would strengthen democracy."
“The other kind, however, is eating Khmer noodles to discuss a colour revolution to topple the government . . . that is illegal! Let’s be clear on these two kinds of meetings,” Sar Kheng stressed.
He noted that the authorities would not arrest those who discuss “illegal” topics, but instead would “educate them”.
Sar Kheng stressed that any gathering with the intention to cause turmoil or a colour revolution was destructive to peace and stability in the Kingdom.
The Khmer noodle movement began when 35 members and supporters of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Battambang province were summoned by the local court for questioning.
They were alleged to have shown support for the party “acting president” Sam Rainsy while gathering to eat Khmer noodles and were accused of violating the Supreme Court ruling which saw the party dissolved in late 2017.
Other supporters and former members have since gathered to eat Khmer noodles in a signal of defiance, calling them “patriotic Khmer noodles”.
General Chhay Kim Khoeun, the spokesperson for the National Police, said on Tuesday that Sar Kheng’s statements made sense.
“Firstly, it is related to the CNRP. Secondly, Sam Rainsy claimed to return. You know his status now? He is a convict who is ready to be arrested by us."
“So, if they [opposition supporters] gathered and prepared to welcome him, this meant that they are against the court’s warrant that orders Rainsy’s arrest. This is illegal."
“If they prepared such a plan, it means they were planning to cause chaos in society,” Kim Khoeun said.
He said if it’s proven that the supporters had planned for Rainsy’s return, police would educate them by explaining the court ruling which saw the dissolution of the CNRP. “But if they are defiant, police would send the case to the court,” he said.
Kim Khoeun confirmed that there were some groups who assembled to make preparations to welcome Rainsy, but he declined to reveal their identities to the public as yet.
Political analyst Em Sovannara said Hun Sen’s encouragement to all people to eat Khmer noodles indicated progress in freedom of speech and political rights.
He argued that the association of such gathering with “colour revolution” would trigger fears of a “revolution wave” in society.
“What’s acceptable is that our constitution guarantees the rights and freedom of everyone to express their opinions and exercise their political rights unless that political activity is illegal. But the politicians should not use their power to put pressure on citizens,” he said.