A low-level government official in central Vietnam raised eyebrows after an image of him kissing the bare breast of a statue of a woman in the city of Da Lat surfaced online Tuesday.
Facing harsh criticism on social media, Phan Tuan Anh, a land office employee in Vu Quang district in central Ha Tinh province, was forced to admit to the bizarre act, which he pledged not to repeat.
In the photo, Anh is seen mounting the pedestal and kissing the legendary figure's breast with the help of another official, a colleague with whom Anh was vacationing.
A local official said Anh stole the one kiss — an act many netizens roundly condemned as “offensive,” “immoral” and “uneducated” — while drunk.
"A meeting has been held to find measures to deal with the fallout," said Anh's supervisor, Nguyen Thai Hoa.
Authorities have decided to reprimand Anh, a move welcomed by many who hope to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Netizen Cuong Mit went further, writing on VOA’s Vietnamese Facebook page that Anh's disrespect for a “cultural symbol” was an offense worthy of investigation by a national cultural heritage watchdog.
The male and female gathering of statues that Anh approached portray protagonists of a Vietnamese legend in which members of different ethnic minorities fall in love but cannot marry because of tribal differences.
They killed themselves to maintain their loyalty in defiance of oppressive customs.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Vietnamese service.