Prime Minister Hun Manet has extended his gratitude to David Soth, a Cambodian resident in the US, for coordinating with an advertising company to display welcoming images on billboards in the US’ New York City, during his attendance at the 78th UN General Assembly.

“I thanked [our] brother for coordinating with the business to display greeting pictures in some key areas in New York, especially in Times Square, for free,” Manet posted after returning home on September 25, adding: “This was a gesture of kindness towards me and the Cambodian government alike.”

The expressions of thanks follow claims by opposition groups abroad, alleging that the government purchased the billboard space to display images of Manet during the UN General Assembly. The prime minister’s cabinet has expressed regret over allegations from anti-government groups, labelling the billboards a waste of the government’s budget.

“We have expressed our deep regrets to unfounded assertations and unclear statements that are completely contrary to the facts. The accusations aimed to mislead the public about the pictures for political gain,” the administration stated.

It went on to explain that the government neither prepared the installation of the billboards nor spent money on them. Instead, the preparations were initiated by the love and support of members of the Cambodian diaspora residing in the US and Canada for Manet.

“It’s acceptable for the cabinet to issue clarifications about false accusations to the public,” Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post. However, he added that the government should prioritise promoting economic diplomacy, trade, and tourism to mobilise investors, rather than responding to opposition groups.

Jean-Francois Tain, a geopolitical expert and attache to the prime minister, also refuted the allegations.