>Thai noodles: the first victim of the Preah Vihear spat

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23 July 2008
By Kang Kallyan
Cambodge Soir Hebdo

Translated from French by Luc Sâr
Courtesy of Ki-Media

The calls for the boycott of Thai products are increasing. The Men Sarun Co. which sells the Mama brand package noodle from Thailand, is stopping its production in Cambodia.

“We cannot allow Thailand to continue to look down on our people. It you are Khmer or of Khmer blood, forward this SMS to all your Khmer friends all over the world.” This message, along with a call to boycott Thai goods and cultural products “bearing signs in Thai” were sent to numerous Cambodian hand phones in the last few days. On Wednesday 23 July, the Raksmei Kampuchea and the Koh Santepheap newspaper published, among the news articles about Preah Vihear, an anonymous announce calling for an end to the “import, purchase and sale of goods and services from Thailand.” The announcement, accompanied by the national flag and a drawing of the Preah Vihear temple, ends with the following slogan: “When Khmer people are untied, Khmer people survive. When Khmer people are divided, Khmer people die.”

At the Olympic market, several merchants observe a sharp decrease in sale of products made in Thailand. Ny, a 37-year-old wholesale merchant, used to sell 200 cases of noodles per day up until last week. Since the crisis, she only sells 60 cases per day. “The sale of the Mama noodles drops in free fall,” she observes. “People absolutely want the Mee Yeung (Our Noodle) brand made in Cambodia instead. But, the stocks are not enough.”

Consumers’ determination is farfetched, very farfetched: “Some even want Vietnamese products!” Ny added. “But, they hesitate somewhat, they are persuaded that they (Vietnamese products) are bad quality.”

In fact, since last week, the Men Sarun Co. which produces the Mama noodle, stopped its production in Cambodia. “We may restart the production after the election,” said 36-year-old Khun, a company employee at its marketing department. When asked about the explosion of the demand for the Mee Yueng noodle brand produced by its competitor, Khun said: “It’s logical. People who buy noodles to send to the Cambodian soldiers and to the people in Preah Vihear, they want to prove their patriotism, and they prefer Cambodian-made noodle.”

Nevertheless, a long term boycott of Thai good remains dubious: “People who are used to eat Thai products will not start eating Chinese or Vietnamese foods right away,” said Hong, a 30-year-old merchant near the Olympic market. “Even if the government joins the boycott, consumers would always want to buy Thai products and the merchants would do all they can to get them to sell.”

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