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Monday, September 24, 2007

Billy Bob 'sorry' for Angie

Los Angeles - Billy Bob Thornton feels sorry for his ex-wife Angelina Jolie.

The Monster's Ball star is grateful he doesn't have to endure the media frenzy which surrounds Jolie and her lover Brad Pitt.

He said: "I do feel sorry for Angie and Brad. The only time you hear about me is when I've got a movie coming out and I like it like that. They have to cope with it all the time."

Thornton and Jolie remain close despite divorcing five years ago citing "irreconcilable differences".

The 52-year-old actor also considers her new partner Pitt a good friend.

He said: "I'm still close to Angie but Brad's a friend too. We've known each other for years."

Jolie and Thornton adopted a son, Maddox, from Cambodia six months before their marriage broke up in 2002, but Pitt has since become the child's adoptive father.

Thornton is set to star in movie Peace Like a River, on which Pitt will be a producer.

Based on the novel of the same name by Leif Enger, the film will see Thornton play a janitor in 60s Minnesota, who is secretly capable of performing miracles and brings his still-born child Ruben back to life.

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Global Challenges | International Donors Scale Back HIV/AIDS Funding to Cambodia as Country Achieves Prevention Targets

The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, USAID and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development have decided to scale back HIV prevention funding in Cambodia, Xinhua/People's Daily reports. The Cambodian-language newspaper Koh Santepheap reported Thursday that the organizations made the decision because the country reportedly has achieved satisfactory progress in curbing its HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV prevalence has declined from about 3.3% in the 1990s to about 0.9% in 2005.

"The reduction in aid does not mean they have to end HIV/AIDS prevention activities," UNAIDS Representative Pasi Rajander said during a course on HIV/AIDS prevention and labor law held from Sept. 18 to Sept. 20 at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. "In fact, the ... government of Cambodia has enough capacity to carry out on their own the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS," Rajander added.

Mean Chhi Vun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD, said the health ministry plans to increase the number of voluntary confidential counseling and testing centers from 185 to 190 across the
country by the end of 2007, up from 150 centers in 2006.

More than 70,000 people have been tested at the centers this year, and 5% tested HIV-positive, Mean added. Those who are tested at the centers will receive prevention and treatment counseling, according to the local Kampuchea Thmey newspaper, Xinhua/People's Daily reports (Xinhua/People Daily, 9/20).

NGO Releases Incorrect Data on HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, Newspaper Reports
In related news, the nongovernmental organization Save the Children Australia recently released some inaccurate data about HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, the Cambodia Daily newspaper said Thursday, Xinhua/People's Daily reports. According to the newspaper, the group cited HIV/AIDS prevalence in Cambodia as being the highest in Southeast Asia and estimated that 140,000 Cambodian children would be orphaned due to AIDS-related causes by 2010. SCA also incorrectly estimated that there are 164,000 HIV-positive Cambodians and that an estimated 51,000 AIDS orphans in the country are under age 15.

SCA Country Director Nigel Tricks on Tuesday apologized for the inaccurate data, saying they came from his organization's main office in Melbourne, Australia, and had not been updated. "Cambodia is one of the world's few success stories," Tricks said. SCA estimates there are 65,000 HIV-positive people in Cambodia and 6,000 AIDS orphans under age 15, he added. According Teng Kunthy, secretary-general of Cambodia's National AIDS Authority, there are an estimated 67,200 people older than age 15 living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, and it is unclear how many children have been orphaned as a result of the disease (Xinhua/People's Daily, 9/20).

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''Economic Brief: Oil and Gas Dynamics in the Gulf of Thailand''

A recent report from the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) has stated that in a moderate scenario oil revenue income for Cambodia would start at US$174 million by 2011 and peak at $1.7 billion per year by 2021. These predictions are based on the current project led by Chevron off the coast of southern Cambodia that looks set to begin production in 2008. The project holds an estimated reserve of 700 million barrels of oil in a technologically challenging arrangement. The I.M.F. predictions do not include the potentially larger basin that is currently in a disputed Overlapping Claims Area (O.C.A.) on the maritime border between Thailand and Cambodia. The Cambodian Ministry of National Defense has recently announced plans for a tripling in the size of the navy in order to provide security for the oil production facilities. According to Cambodian Minister of Defense Tea Banh, the recent expansion plans cite anti-terrorism and anti-piracy as the underlying justification for the expansion.

The implications for Cambodia are significant. The economic benefits of the resource revenue generated by the oil projects have the potential to make considerable improvements to Cambodian society. However, factors are already in place which suggest that the impact may not be positive. The income based on resource rents would in effect double the country's G.D.P. in the initial stages of the project. If this massive input is managed poorly, it could lead to severe inflation and have a considerable impact on the garment sector that currently makes up 80 percent of Cambodia's export economy.

Significant governance issues, chronic rates of corruption, a significant population bubble of young adult males, a reported high rate of availability of small arms due to 30 years of internal conflict, weak economic institutions, a recent history of civil war and a predilection toward political violence suggest that Cambodia has a strong possibility to face other and more considerable obstacles on the path to economic benefits. The pattern to date of resource extraction benefit in the forestry and fishing sectors is one of collusion between the political and military elite for self-enrichment at the expense of traditional stakeholders. According to some observers, the diversion of benefits from social investment to self-enrichment has meant that the social cleavages within the society have had little opportunity to heal. If this pattern is extended to the oil and gas sector, then the potential for systemic abuse is strong as is the potential for social unrest.

The tripling of the size of the Cambodian navy will likely make Cambodia's neighbors nervous. The O.C.A. with Thailand in particular is a sensitive area due to the considerable resources represented under the claim. Border disputes with Thailand in the past have been a cause for nationalist displays of violence, producing an alarming opportunity for nationalist political expression especially in the face of domestic social unrest due to the previously mentioned impact of resource revenue. Instruments are in place for the resolution of the disputed area, but there has been no movement since the memorandum of understanding was signed in 2001. Despite a diplomatic breakdown in 2003, the two sides continue to meet annually in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

In regard to China, the post-coup (1997) relationship with the country continues to strengthen. Economic, strategic, diplomatic and cultural ties have filled the void left by the international community, which generally withdrew from Cambodia after 1997. China continues to be the major donor for the Cambodian armed forces and is likely to remain so in the near future. The diplomatic benefit of the relationship for China accrues from the anti-Taiwanese stance of the Cambodians, along with an important ally in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.) community. The discovery and production of oil in the immediate vicinity of China will only strengthen Beijing's efforts to cultivate and promote a regional ally.

In regard to the United States, for the first time in three decades the U.S. Navy paid a visit to Cambodia early in 2007. The United States has had poor relations with Cambodia since the coup in 1997, but it is now making strong overtures to the present leadership. In February, the ten year ban on aid to the country was lifted and a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement was signed in 2006 to promote better trade relations. The benefits for the United States include economic interests in the oil and gas sector, governance and democracy promotion in the region and an attempt to counter Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. The strongest opportunity for Washington to influence Cambodian policy in the short term lies in the garment sector, which faces an end to favorable trade status at the end of this year. Cambodian officials have been lobbying Washington to provide some reprieve from the anticipated sharp impact that the cessation of quotas will generate.

The bottom line is that the sudden and considerable flow of resource revenue may have a serious impact on the Cambodian state. The O.C.A. between Thailand and Cambodia offers a strong potential for revenue sharing and bilateral cooperation but requires a concerted effort to avoid nationalist sentiment and a problematic precedent of conflict over border issues. Chinese influence may continue to deflect and dilute international efforts to establish the strong governance and economic institutions required to properly manage the inflationary impact of the large revenue increase. The seemingly positive news of an oil and gas discovery must be tempered in light of the complex issues surrounding revenue generation and its impact in Cambodia.

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of PINR reprints do not qualify under Fair-Use Statute Section 107 of the Copyright Act. All comments should be directed to

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Britney's antics fuel swing back to Asian music in Cambodia

Phnom Penh - Britney Spears was once every Cambodian's girl next door, her face adorning millions of T-shirts, school bags and businesses ranging from beauty parlours to souvenir shops. But recent scandals in the life of Britney and other young American starlets have horrified even the youth of culturally conservative Cambodia and fuelled a stampede toward stars closer to home.

As well as a boom in locally produced Cambodian music, South Korean, Indonesian and Indian artists have taken over the airwaves, according to music sellers, and at least some of that trend can be directly credited to Britney and company.

Sok Leng, the proprietor of Empire Disc music shop in the capital, said 25-year-old Britney's latest album, due for release in November, has received virtually no interest, and offerings later than her 2000 studio album 'Oops I did it Again' no longer move.

"There are still requests for her work, but it is almost always for her old hits. We don't sell Korean music yet, but there is not a day that goes by when someone doesn't ask for it," Leng said.

"Television now shows a lot of Korean music clips, and people want to buy it."

Wholesome Korean pop sensation Rain is a huge star in Cambodia. Britney, by comparison, has lost significant appeal.

"She is a mother of two but she dances with few clothes. We don't want to follow our parents' ideals exactly, but we don't want to follow this example either," says Srey Mom, a 23-year-old music fan. "For me, I am embarrassed to watch this."

Newspaper proprietors have taken notice. Once pictured demurely, Britney was featured disapprovingly in Khmer-language daily Koh Santepheap last week wearing nothing but underwear.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he had noted fashions and hair styles increasingly following trends set by Korean artists, and that may be reflected in Cambodian youth's musical choices.

But, he said, it was not only Britney's doing. Paris Hilton was another who had dismayed the majority Buddhist Cambodian public.

"It's no matter for the new generation who inspires their hair or their dress, such as, say, the Korean stars, if they remember they are still Cambodian," he said. "Cambodian young people prefer their own stars and other Asians to those Europeans."

But in a country where a Christmas television special once had the plug pulled by Prime Minister Hun Sen himself when a female performer was deemed to be dancing and dressing too immodestly, young Cambodians may find it more comfortable to follow local examples and those from countries such as Korea and Indonesia.

Still, Kanharith said, music is a fickle industry and Britney and friends may yet recover. "Everybody makes mistakes. The important thing is that they adjust themselves following those mistakes."
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