Cambodia's outlawed opposition seeks support via noodle gatherings

PHNOM PENH (DPA) - Cambodia's outlawed opposition party is aiming to reinvigorate grassroots support by having local party members continue to meet over noodles nationwide this week as a means of "passive resistance" to the government, an exiled party leader said.

Some 1,500 members of the banned Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) plan to gather in groups across the country over "num banh chok", or Khmer noodle soup, until June 9 in an effort to rally support and prepare for the return of exiled former leader Sam Rainsy later this year, Ms Mu Sochua, a CNRP vice-president, said late on Sunday (June 2).

Prime Minister Hun Sen "wants us in total silence", said Ms Sochua, who lives abroad. "Silence is digging our own grave."

The CNRP was dissolved by the nation's Supreme Court in 2017 at the behest of the government after party president Kem Sokha was arrested and jailed on widely decried treason charges.

Sokha was accused of colluding with the United States to overthrow Mr Hun Sen's government, allegations Sokha and the US have denied. Sokha was jailed for more than a year without trial and remains under de facto house arrest.

The ruling party of Mr Hun Sen, who has led Cambodia for more than 30 years, swept 2018 elections in which its main challenger, the CNRP, was prohibited from participating.

The authorities have issued "at least 147 arbitrary court and police summonses" against CNRP members or supporters this year, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

In May, the rights group urged the government to end its "political harassment campaign" against the CNRP.