The Vietnamese government distanced itself on Wednesday from angry posts its citizens made on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page, saying the platform should not be used to inflame tensions between “good neighbors.”
The statement from the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stopped short, however, of meeting demands by its Cambodian counterparts to “punish” Vietnamese Facebook users who made scathing comments in response to Cambodia’s South China Sea stance.
The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to the media on Wednesday some translated excerpts from a response it said it had received from Vietnam.
“We do not agree with using the right of freedom of expression to insult someone or to break up traditionally good sentiment between people of both countries,” the statement said.
“Vietnam has a very important relationship and cooperates as a good neighbor with Cambodia,” it said. “In past years, Vietnam has worked with Cambodia to maintain peaceful and good relations for the joint interest of people of both counties.”
The response followed a statement on Sunday by the Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry urging Vietnamese authorities to identify those “who have committed the immoral acts insulting the leader of Cambodia.”
That statement, signed by ministry spokesman Chum Sounry, urged Hanoi “to punish those people in order to maintain the honor and dignity of the leader of Cambodia.”
Mr. Sounry declined to comment on Wednesday on whether Vietnam had adequately addressed the ministry’s concerns.
A small but vocal group of Vietnamese users have taken to Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page in recent weeks and accused him of kowtowing to generous benefactors in Beijing in the ongoing South China Sea territorial dispute, which has pitted Vietnam and other Asean members against China.
“Vietnam has sacrificed both our blood and money to save the Cambodian people from genocide. Now Hun Sen is turning his back on Vietnam,” said one comment last week.