Vietnam ‘does not support’ anti-Hun Sen comments on TikTok: ministry

A Vietnamese spokesperson reiterated a call for Cambodia to share information on canal project.
By RFA Staff
2024.05.24
Vietnam ‘does not support’ anti-Hun Sen comments on TikTok: ministry Cambodia's then-Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) is greeted by Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong at the Party's headquarters in Hanoi, Vietnam December 20, 2016.
Reuters/Kham

Vietnam "does not support" offensive comments about veteran Cambodian leader Hun Sen posted on one of his social media pages, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said in a response to a Cambodian request for help to track down those responsible.

Hun Sen, who now heads Cambodia’s Senate, said he suspected the disparaging comments on his TikTok page were in response to his support for a Chinese-developed canal project in southern Cambodia. Hun Sen is spearheading development of the Funan Techo canal but Vietnam regards it with suspicion, fearing disruption to vital flows of water down the Mekong river.

“We do not support the opinions and comments that provoke division between friendly people of Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as personally target leaders of both countries,” a spokeswoman for the Vietnamese ministry, Pham Thu Hang, told a press briefing on Thursday.

“Those supposed Vietnamese accounts only express their personal opinions and do not represent Vietnam’s government or the people,” she added, though stopping short of condemning the unidentified people who posted the comments.

Disagreement over the canal has strained relations between the neighbors, who have been staunch allies for decades.

Hun Sen said last Sunday that a large number of disrespectful comments in Vietnamese were posted on his TikTok and he called for authorities to trace those responsible.

Some of the comments read: “Vietnam sacrificed its blood for peace in Cambodia,” and “Don’t forget tens of thousands of Vietnamese volunteers who were killed in Cambodia.”

The former prime minister, who retains much power in Cambodia, was also called “ungrateful,” “China’s puppet,” and a “traitor” in the posts

Critics say the proposed canal that connects Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, with the Gulf of Thailand would severely affect Vietnam’s Mekong river delta, a vital rice-growing region and home to millions of people.

Some Vietnamese experts say the canal could “reduce the flow of the river by up to 50%” by the time it reaches Vietnam.

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A farmer works in a paddy field in Can Tho city of southern Vietnam's Mekong Delta on February 28, 2023. (Nhac Nguyer/AFP)

Cambodia has denied that the 180-km (112 miles) canal would cause such an impact and Hun Sen has ruled out more talks with Vietnam on it.

The Vietnamese spokeswoman again called on Cambodia to provide full details of the canal. She said Vietnam hoped for “continuing close cooperation with Cambodia in sharing information” about the canal, as well as its cross-border impact.

Last month, Cambodia’s Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister in charge of ASEAN affairs, So Naro, told the media that Cambodia was not legally required to submit any documents to Vietnam regarding the studies and construction of the Funan Techo canal.

Cambodia had submitted “all documents of the studies on the canal related to the impacts on the environment and the water resources” to the MRC, So Naro said, referring to the Mekong River Commission, an intergovernmental organization in charge of the sustainable management of the Mekong basin.

“The Vietnamese authorities can request access to those files,” So Naro was quoted as saying.

Analysts say that the canal project has created a rift between the two governments, which enjoyed close fraternal ties in the past but have drifted apart in recent years as Cambodia comes under increased economic and political influence from China.

Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

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