Cambodian leader flips the script on opponents' noodle ploy

FILE - In this Nov. 21, 2018, file photo, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen waves as he watches boat races during the water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The bitter decadeslong rivalry between Hun Sen, Cambodia's strongman leader, and Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled chief political rival and critic, has sometimes played out in deadly violence. But on Sunday, soup rather than blood was likely to be spilled. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The bitter rivalry between Hun Sen, Cambodia's strongman leader, and Sam Rainsy, his self-exiled political rival, has sometimes played out in deadly violence. But on Sunday, soup rather than blood is likely to be spilled.

The two men made similar calls to their followers to gather on Sunday with their neighbors and sit down for a meal of a popular Cambodian rice noodle soup.

For the opposition, the noodles were meant to be a form of protest against political oppression since the main opposition party has been dissolved by a court order. One of its members was seen as defying authorities by holding political meetings in her countryside noodle shop.

Hun Sen decided to play along by coopting the noodles initiative as a show of national solidarity.

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