Category Archives: Propaganda

Miscellaneous Cambodian Signs and Posters

Battambang Drugs and Violence Poster

In Vietnam, I posted some photos of the propaganda posters that can be seen on almost every street across the country. Cambodia doesn’t have the same kinds of government posters – it’s a democracy (albeit a deeply flawed one). But there are plenty of signs promoting the main political parties, and a few public information posters. Here is a selection:

Cambodian People's Party

There are three major political parties in Cambodia, as well as several smaller ones. Hun Sen (above, centre) is Cambodia’s strongman Prime Minister who has been in power either alone or in coalition since 1985.

One of the leading opposition parties is the Sam Rainsy Party. Sam Rainsy is currently in self-imposed exile in Australia after the government removed his parliamentary immunity and convicted him in absentia of defamation (he had accused the government of corruption and claimed that Hun Sen had been involved in the murder of a union leader).

Sam Rainsy Party Poster

He was pardoned by the king and returned to Cambodia but left again after being accused of inciting racial violence and destruction of property.

Off-topic: this is Hun Sen’s beachfront mansion in Sihanoukville. It’s in a very odd location right next to the main tourist beach. You’d think he’d have chosen somewhere a little more secluded.

Sihanoukville Hun Sen's Mansion

In Phnom Penh, two other Asian strongmen have had roads named after them. This one is named after Chairman Mao, an ally and enabler of Pol Pot:

Phnom Penh Chairman Mao Blvd

And directly opposite, a road named after the deranged enslaver of the North Korean people, Kim Il Sung:

Phnom Penh Kim Il Sung Blvd

Though it’s a North Korean leader who had the honour of having a road named after him, South Korea has far closer links with Cambodia these days. South Korean property developers have made inroads into the country and Korean goods have a strong presence in Phnom Penh’s luxury shopping malls. As in Vietnam, Korean pop stars appear to be very popular (particularly Rain and Wonder Girls). Many of the intercity buses have been sold / donated by South Korea:

Cambodia South Korean Bus 

It’s not a good picture, but you can see that the bus still has the Korean destination on the sign above the windows. This bus once travelled between Suwon Bus Terminal and Sadang Station.

This sign from Sihanoukville gives an indication of the problems caused by sexpats and Gary Glitter-types:

Sihanoukville ChildSafe_thumb[4]

This anti-littering poster in Battambang has a picture of the central market in the background.

Battambang Litter Poster

A similarly styled public information poster at the top of this post warns the public not to engage in drug abuse, gangland executions and domestic violence. I saw the same poster several times, always outside schools.

Finally, a sign that reminds of the fact that Cambodia still has a serious landmine problem:

Battambang Mine Warning

Vietnam’s Propaganda Posters

Vietnam Poster 1

Though it has gone down the path of Chinese-style market reform and is no longer communist in anything but name, Vietnam’s Communist Party hasn’t done much to update its image – as reflected in the cartoony, socialist-realist propaganda posters of soldiers, workers, and happy, smiling students seen across the country.

Vietnam Poster 2

Ho Chi Minh’s image is everywhere – far more so than Mao’s in China. His portrait hangs on the walls of police stations, he’s on every bank note, and on posters and billboards on almost every street. Ho Chi Minh portraits are even available to buy in supermarkets.

Ho Chi Minh Gateway

Interestingly, there are not many statues of him – certainly not as many as Mao in China, or Kim Il Sung in North Korea. I wonder if this is because of his body shape. Mao and Kim were both round-faced and rotund (even during famine). Ho Chi Minh was very lean with long, skinny arms and legs and had a wispy beard that must be hard to sculpt accurately.

There are also public information posters and billboards throughout the country promoting good health and discouraging various criminal activities.

This poster, seen in Tay Ninh, is my favourite. What does it mean? Communist ghosts will stop werewolves from groping your breasts?

Vietnam No Groping

Anti-drugs posters are common:

 Vietnam Health Poster

The man on the left has been indulging in heroin and ‘mai dam’ – prostitutes. This was the first word of Vietnamese I learnt thanks to an exhibition called ‘Pain and Hope: 20 Years of HIV/AIDS in Vietnam’ at the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi. I’d already noticed HIV/AIDS prevention posters on the journey to Hanoi and in the city itself – and I’ve continued to see them throughout the country.

Kim Son HIV Poster

The exhibition was surprisingly critical of the government’s past response to sufferers of the disease. AIDS awareness posters of the early 90s (like the two below) demonised those infected and, the exhibition said, led to increased isolation, ostracism and panic.

Vietnam Prostitute AIDS 

These posters also illustrate the decline of French influence – the older ones use the French acronym SIDA, while more recent ones use the English AIDS.

Vietnam AIDS Poster

Though the exhibition focused on several high-risk groups – sex workers and their customers, intravenous drug users – there was not a single mention of gay men. Homosexuality, I guess, is so taboo that it can’t be mentioned even in the least flattering of circumstances. Hopefully this is not reflected in public health policies and HIV/AIDS education.