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Vietnam's former tourism ambassador speaks up about Cannes billboard scandal

By Tuong Nhien   May 23, 2017 | 11:30 am GMT+7

'I've kept my word and bought three billboards to promote Vietnamese tourism,' Ly Nha Ky addresses fame-seeking allegations.

Ly Nha Ky, the only Vietnamese benefactor at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival, said she felt offended by accusations that she capitalized on a self-funded campaign to promote Vietnam and put her own image on one of the billboards.

Social media users had made such claims after Ky, an actress and former tourism ambassador for Vietnam, posted photos of the billboards in Cannes.

On one of them is a big portrait of Ky herself, a private sponsor of Cannes' La Cinéfondation, with a tagline "Ly Nha Ky – The New Voice." The other three billboards are for Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City.

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The billboards with a big photo of Ly Nha Ky. File photo.

“I've kept my word and bought three billboards to promote Vietnamese tourism. My own picture on the fourth billboard is not related to this campaign,” she told VnExpress.

The billboard with her portrait was paid for by ADR Prod, an event organizer at Cannes, she said. This has been confirmed by the company.

Explaining the controversial tagline, which was originally "Ly Nha Ky – The New Voice of Vietnam," her rep said The Hollywood Reporter had profiled her among new voices from around the world that are doing good work for cinema.

At a meeting with local media earlier this month, Ky said she would spend one million euros ($1.09 million) to promote Vietnamese tourism at Cannes, including the cost for the three billboards.

The tourism and culture ministry has defended Ky, saying the public debate has gone too far.

Ky has done a good job when promoting the images of Vietnam and should be praised, Deputy Minister Le Khanh Hai said.

Ky is attending the film festival as a sponsor and is not part of the offical delegation of the Cinema Department.

Following the massive success of “Kong: Skull Island” and relentless attempts to remind the world that most of the Hollywood production was filmed in Vietnam, Vietnam has officially declared itself “The New Destination of Blockbusters” at the 70th annual event.

Ly Nha Ky, 35, was Vietnam's tourism ambassador for one year from September 2011. The position is currenlty held by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the "Kong: Skull Island" director.