After billboards proclaiming the end of the world came down Tuesday evening in Phnom Penh after being up for more than two and a half months, government officials admitted that when it comes to regulating controversial displays around town, there is simply not enough oversight.
The municipal director of commercial advertising, Chin Por, said the Ministry of Information is chiefly responsible for the content of billboards, but that it sometimes requires help from other government bodies to make sure they fall in line with official guidelines.
“We are only in charge of the location of the billboard, where the picture, content and spelling belongs to the Ministry of Information. However, we join in to help check and in-form of any error,” he said. “Sometimes, I cannot check them all due to their being too many, but the Ministry of Cults and Religions, Ministry of Tourism and other authorities also join to check about that too.”
Buth Bovuth, director general of the general department of information at the Ministry of Information, said the deficient regulation stems from a lack of personnel monitoring for controversial material.
“We are taking measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and we will meet with all ministries to join in on the effort,” he said.
Mr Bovuth said his department is currently taking a census on the amount of displays around town and that he was unable to estimate at this time.
After the US-based evangelical group Family Radio failed to acquire licensing from the government to display billboards that read “Judgment Day, May 21, 2011. The Bible Guarantees It,” municipal authorities ordered they be taken down, and on Tuesday evening, they were.
“Normally, we send the meaning of ads to the Ministry of Information to check it, but this time, we thought the Ministry of Cults and Religions already approved it. That is our mistake,” said Cambo Advertising Co general manager Pol Sopheap, the hired agency who built the billboards. “We will not let it happen again.”