Cambodia’s new prime minister lights up billboard in Times Square

Large images of Hun Manet loomed over the New York landmark as he spoke at the United Nations.
By RFA Khmer
Cambodia’s new prime minister lights up billboard in Times Square Images of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Manet were shown on a digital billboard in New York’s Times Square this past weekend as the new leader spoke at the U.N. General Assembly.
Credit: Facebook/Hun Manet

Subsequent to the publication of our original story (below), Radio Free Asia has discovered that the videos seen in these ads were faked.  Please see the new information here.

Images of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Manet lit up a large digital billboard display in New York’s Times Square over the weekend as the newly appointed leader spoke at the U.N. General Assembly. 

“Congratulations!” said the flashing billboard ad at the busy, iconic intersection in the center of Manhattan.

Also included in the ad was an image showing Hun Manet in a business suit, with his hands folded together in the traditional Khmer sampeah greeting. Another image showed him in uniform from his days as a cadet at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy.

The ad was paid for by a Cambodian-American businessman named David Soth, Hun Manet said on his Telegram channel. Other billboards with similar images and messages were also displayed around New York over the weekend, he said.

“Thanks to little brother David Soth for coordinating with the advertising company to post welcome pictures of me on a billboard in some of New York City’s major areas, especially in Time Square for free and without asking anyone,” Hun Manet wrote. “This is your kind heart for me, as well as the Royal Government of Cambodia.”

It was unclear where Soth resided in the United States. The billboard included the text: “CPP Chapter of San Francisco, CA.”

CPP stands for the Cambodian People’s Party – the political party that has ruled the country since the 1980s when Hun Manet’s father, Hun Sen, first became prime minister.

Hun Sen handed power to his son last month after the ruling party claimed victory in an election that did not include the main opposition Candlelight Party. The CPP won 120 of the 125 available seats in the July 23 parliamentary election.

Speech at the United Nations

Hun Manet spoke to the U.N. General Assembly in English on Friday as Cambodian-Americans and former opposition party leaders protested his appearance from outside the U.N. building.

The prime minister’s office issued a statement on Monday confirming that the billboards weren’t paid out of the national budget. 

Um Sam An, a senior official from the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, said he believes that money spent placing the ads promoting Hun Manet will eventually come at the expense of “the blood and sweat of the people.”

“Why is a Cambodian leader so special that a company would do this for free?” he asked Radio Free Asia. “It’s never like that. The money could come from an individual, or from the government budget.”

RFA could not immediately reach government spokesman Pen Bona for comment on Monday. 

But Jean-Francois Tan, a delegate minister to the prime minister, told reporters after arriving in Cambodia from the United States that the billboards were not intended to gain recognition from any world leader. 

“If the accusation intends to say that Cambodia needs to use this image to convince the international community or other foreign delegations present at the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Samdech Hun Manet, it is not true,” he said, using an honorific.

Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


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